The Produce Aisle with Armand Lobato ( Photo by The Packer staff )

Analysis paralysis. That’s the term I often thought of last football season when the quarterback from “my” team attempted to pass. On (many) third-and-longs, he was so afraid of making a mistake, of throwing an interception, that he often checked off and passed to his safety valve out in the flat, who was lucky to make it to the line of scrimmage — only to set up (yet another) punt.

Many times, business people get caught in this trap. They overwhelm themselves with data, with obscure details. And as a result, decisions are made at the last minute, which means less time to properly execute a plan, which makes the “perfect” plan far from perfect.

In retail produce this isn’t a common occurrence on a day-to-day schedule. However, I’ve seen it fester when executives or supervisors make plans for a new or remodeled store. Or when building complex spreadsheets that track everything from pineapples to pricing with no obvious, valuable purpose. I’ve also seen produce managers so picky (and I usually like the particular ones with high standards) and fretting over schedules so long that their department standards slip.  

I have engineer and scientist buddies that talk about the same thing in their line of work. Fresh produce isn’t at the analytical level of medical topics or say, figuring the stress loads of mammoth construction projects. However, we have layers of vital decisions too: everything from formulas that dictate where to best build a store, what theme or which concept the marketing is within that follows, product lines, pricing philosophy, profitability forecasts — all the way to deciding what color aprons the employees should wear.

All retail details are important, but at some point, someone has to take charge and say, “OK, let’s run with this.” And move on.

Is “This will work” less effective than “Let’s work on this longer”? It depends. When setting up a new produce department merchandising scheme, many variables exist. Beyond the basics (ad setup, major destination sets, figuring which aisle is better for traffic, etc.) there is rarely any right or wrong. Besides, fresh produce is about frequent merchandising changes, and adjustments can be made quickly.

Even General George Patton once said, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” While supervisors aren’t in the throes of combat, I’ve seen too many wringing their hands over marketing plans too long, while they could be getting something done right away.

Habits are either our best friend or our worst enemy. It helps to recognize when a decision is reached, quit second-guessing every detail, and make prompt decisiveness a good habit. 

“The perfect is the enemy of the good.” — Voltaire

Armand Lobato works for the Idaho Potato Commission. His 40 years’ experience in the produce business span a range of foodservice and retail positions. E-mail him at [email protected].

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