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As Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower famously said, “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

The process of daily or weekly planning is always challenging when conditions in the field are constantly changing. Scheduling, assigning and communicating activities is time-consuming enough, but when unexpected adjustments need to be made, the original to-do list is often left unchanged — despite the fact that it is often no longer an accurate representation of what actually happened on the farm.
In building Granular, we’ve spent time researching what makes teams (in farming and in other industries), regardless of external factors, be able to communicate and work effectively.  We’ve found that increasingly mobile-centric and lightweight task management tools seem to best accommodate a daily team collaboration process that needs to be flexible and quick. A couple of takeaways:
1. Mobile is the platform for team collaboration. Once the team disperses from the central office and moves onto the field, there is a need for them to communicate efficiently and quickly make updates to the plan as people run late, materials are not available, or conditions are not what they were expected to be. It is not uncommon to see entire teams being managed from mobile – most individuals on a team work remotely and in isolation from each other, but they all have access to a mobile device. Additionally, mobile also helps automate and geo-tag the collection of data through sensors and GPS, leading to more accuracy, easier data organization, and faster adoption.
2. Specialized to-do apps matter in sophisticated operations.While general “to-do list” apps can be lightweight, simple and provide the ability to create a prioritized list of tasks, industry-specific apps add more value to sophisticated operations because of the ability to capture industry-specific data.
While traditional lists written on the board, morning meetings or paper work orders can be difficult to manage, technology can automate and replace a lot of this. And we believe that the process of creating and communicating plans and tasks on a daily basis is well worth the effort:
1. It allows you to prioritize your efforts. Spending a few minutes up front identifying and communicating priorities ensures your team is working on the most important tasks that will get you closer to your larger goals.
2. It helps you maximize efficiency and improve outcomes. Unclear direction for your staff can result in information overload and costly mistakes. While creating and communicating a concrete plan may appear too formal at first, it provides your staff with the comfort of knowing what’s next.” It also shows them what success looks like, leading to improved job satisfaction, better outcomes and lower staff churn.
3. It helps you identify what you’re good at and what you need to improve upon. Are your operators performing their tasks as well as you would expect? How much are deviations from your plan costing you? Unless you know what you were supposed to achieve, you won’t know how far you are from achieving it or how to get there.
I encourage you to start your 2016 planning now, but be ready to regularly examine, react to, and update the plan constantly during the next crop year.

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Last week, Adam (our Business Development lead) and I attended the Forbes Agtech Summit in Salinas, CA. In a beautiful outdoor downtown setting, a collection of entrepreneurs, investors, media and farmers discussed their industry views and the role they want to play in advancing the future of agriculture. An industry event sponsored and organized by a mainstream business publication indicates that agriculture is finally receiving the mainstream attention it deserves. That’s a nice reassurance for me and for others who work in the industry. But beyond that, it was encouraging to see that agriculture was being discussed as the center of big business challenges and opportunities, not as a separate, slow and removed industry like it was perceived to be just a couple of years ago.

At Granular, in fact, we strongly believe that successful farmers need to supplement their deep agronomic knowledge and passion for the land with managerial strategies and behaviors that are more characteristic of corporate CEO’s. We believe that they need to think and act as such because they deal with the same challenges: increased volatility, proliferation of technology, more competition, etc. Yes, they are dedicated farmers first and foremost, but they are also leaders of complex entities with a broad network of stakeholders they are accountable to.
So what are the observable characteristics of a Farmer CEO, the kind of farmer who we believe will lead agriculture into a new age? We look at our customers, and this is what we see:
1. They have a plan. Farmer CEO’s think of their farm as a business that needs to grow, and there is a plan in place that outlines where that growth is going to come from. Having short- and long-term goals, both agronomic (yields) and financial (margins), is what differentiates a farming enterprise from a farming lifestyle.
2. They know their numbers. Farmer CEO’s sweat the small stuff – and they invest in the tools and spend the time required to know what drives profit at a field and enterprise level. They think of both crop yield and dollar yield. They know their data well enough to apply Danny Klinefelter’s five percent rule to their farm.
3. They cultivate and grow their network. They build relationships with all the members of their operation, with their peers, and with business partners. It’s no surprise that most of our customers are active in peer group organizations, participate in conferences and attend industry events. They are perceived as leaders in their community, but this leadership is a result of not only commercial success, but of a lot of time spent both learning and teaching.
4. They are proactive. They don’t wait for innovation to come to them, they seek it out. They study, compare, and research to understand what will work for their particular operation and why. They chose Granular because it addressed a challenge that they had already identified. They have strong beliefs about what it will take for them to reach their goals (see #1) and they prioritize the tools that are aligned with those beliefs.
5. They stay nimble even as they scale. Our Farmer CEO’s have built a foundation of data, processes and tools on their farm that enables them to make unplanned, responsive decisions. From unexpected weather to potential new traceability regulations, they are more ready to respond to new market incentives and meet rising customer expectations.
The Forbes Agtech Summit is only a small recent example of mainstream business and agriculture communities coming together to address issues that affect us all. We meet and work with Farmer CEO’s every day who proudly belong to both, farmers who want their operation to become stronger and more efficient. And everyone benefits from that.

Latest

How a Potato Grower Found 11% More Profit Using Granular

Learn how Granular helped a real farm discover that their variety choice was costing them $800 per acre

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  |  
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  |  
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  |  
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Karl Wozniak, Role
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Three Ways to Run a Successful Harvest

Three Ways to Run a Successful Harvest

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Events

Grow 2018

Granular's Annual Customer CEO Summit

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California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, CA

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Industry Insights (6)
Granular Suite (12)
AcreValue (12)
Company News (1)
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Three Ways to Run a Successful Harvest

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