Allowing your team to cherry-pick tickets or tasks on their list hurts your clients, and you may not even realize this is going on. We know this kind of issue by experience, and that’s one of the reasons why we’ve created TopLeft.

What is cherry-picking?

Cherry-picking is picking the best cherries from the tree; we don’t want the ones with the worms and the bruises and the cuts. This, translated to the MSPs workflow, means picking jobs, whether it’s a ticket, a work order, or a task that seems easier or more enticing, and we think we can do it in less time and on the budget.

Why is cherry-picking bad?

When we pick the juicy cherries, the other ones get left behind, so they’re always sitting there. We look productive because we’re filling our bucket, but in the bigger picture, we’re leaving behind these other ones. These tickets will linger there, and they won’t finish on time. A client is waiting on this work to be completed, and eventually, they will ask for it.

Now that the customer has reached out to us, we have to rush, and we will probably drop the ball on security, monitoring, or quality. We have to bend over backward. The more difficult (but less urgent) tickets are often more valuable in the bigger picture; it could be a project, an enhancement, or something to make the client more effective and efficient.

When we decide what to do, considering what’s easy or what’s hard, we’re wasting time thinking. Our team has experienced the same; they wasted time between the tickets, deciding what to do, thinking of which one is the easiest. And these lingering tickets drive up our work in progress; the more work in progress we have, the longer everything takes in the flow. We want to be focusing on one thing at a time, finishing it, and moving on to the next thing. We don’t want to be going back to things we thought were finished, but they weren’t done.

Moreover, cherry-picking delays skill-building; we need to lean into the awkward conversation with these difficult tickets to see what’s missing. It could be technicians need to build skills or documentation needs to be improved. Maybe there’s knowledge required to be shared from other team members, or some mentoring is needed. These things need to happen right away and not wait until days or weeks later when it’s getting too late and now somebody more senior has to complete the ticket.

Nine things you can do to avoid cherry-picking in your team:

1. Create awareness on this topic

The what, why, and how. Our team must know what cherry-picking is, why it is a silent killer, and how to overcome its drawbacks.

2. Redefine what productivity means

It’s not things like the utilization, just working the eight to five and having nice timesheets. It needs to be about the flow and the team’s performance and making sure tickets are moving through quickly.

3. We must work from the same visual board

The team must be able to visualize the same data and make sure we’re all working for the same priorities. We need everyone on the same page on what should be worked on next. Furthermore, we must make sure the team is looking at the same metrics and ensure we’re not working from different to-do lists and individual lists of tickets in our PSA. So individually, we’re cherry-picking, and we have no idea the entire team is doing it.

4. Make it obvious what the next ticket should be

We must make the next ticket obvious and identify when somebody’s bypassing that next ticket and grabbing something lower down the list.

5. We need a way to visualize the cherry-picking

The team needs a way to see that cherry-picking is happening. It will be easier to detect when the work in progress (WIP) is low and when there is no neglected work.

6. Metrics

There are many metrics in the lean and agile world, such as the age of tickets, the average age, the max-age, the cycle times, and how long it’s taken to move through. These kind of metrics may be in your system, but perhaps they’re not granular enough. The idea is to optimize each metric. For instance, you can break it down based on how long it takes for a project, onboarding process, or implementation to go from one step in the process to the other.

7. We need good daily huddles

It is important to spotlight the difficult tickets that are getting bypassed and hold people accountable for their work. That’s how the team gets stronger and the flow improves.

8. Reduce work progress (WIP)

It can start with not releasing too much work to the team. You need a dispatcher or project manager who only releases enough work into the system that the team can handle over the next number of hours, days, or weeks. If you release too much work, it is easier for people to cherry-pick and hide from these important tickets.

9. Break down mental/emotional hindrances 

We need leadership skills, trust, and vulnerability so that the team can work together. It requires emotional and mental health to work through these. People have to dare to work together, ask for help, give help, and collaborate.

Cherry-picking ends up being a silent killer. You can appear to have high performance; the billable hours can be there and you’re getting tickets done every day, but the really important work isn’t getting done. In reality, the team was poorly prioritizing and doing the easy stuff before they got to the important things. TopLeft helps you understand your work instead of just recording your data in the PSA software and hoping you can make sense of it all. You can show the most important work for today in a single place.

Schedule a demo to learn more!