Expert Coaching. Practical Resources.

November 27, 2018


Jannice Moore

Don’t Be Satisfied with Low-Hanging Fruit

We have an apple tree in our backyard.  This fall it was so loaded with apples we had to prop up the lower branches to keep them from breaking.  When it was time to harvest them, we picked all the apples we could reach without a ladder – the low-hanging fruit – and filled several boxes.  They were tasty and crunchy.  Enjoying what we had collected, we left the remaining fruit on the tree for some time.  It was just too much work to haul out the ladder and climb it!  We were feeling lazy, and anyway, we had enough apples, didn’t we?  So we told ourselves.

Eventually, however, we decided that if we didn’t get that ladder out we were going to let a lot of apples go to waste.  So we put out the effort to climb to the top and pick the hard-to-reach fruit.  When we tasted those apples, we realized that they were significantly better than the low-hanging fruit.  They had been more exposed to the sun, were bigger, rosier and all around tastier. It would have been a shame to have missed out on the best part of the harvest.

What do apples have to do with boards?  Like our initial apple-picking, many boards that start to use Policy Governance® are satisfied with just picking the low-hanging fruit.  It’s good fruit.  Board meetings become more focused; role clarity between board and CEO jobs is defined; the CEO has clarity about expected results, and limits around the means that can be used to achieve them.  The board monitors regularly to ensure those results are achieved.

However, the best fruit, the longer-term leadership that the board could provide, is often left untouched.  I am referring to the board learning to design its annual agenda cycle and meeting plans in a way that frees significant time for future-oriented education, long-term strategic thinking, and setting direction to ensure the organization will remain relevant in the future, given the rapidly changing environment in which it finds itself.  It means digging into topics that require more research and in depth reflection. This kind of work is harder, and takes more effort.  It requires commitment on the part of the board.  It requires climbing the ladder to reach the fruit at the top.  The results will be worth it.

I challenge your board to climb that ladder.  And if you need some help, contact us at here.



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