A "bottom-lime" could be an expense not in the budget or an unexpected cancelled order. In fact it could be anything that could not have been forecast that reduces the number on the bottom line of a profit and loss statement.
Unlike its fruity namesake, it seems bottom-limes are always in season.
How bottom limes grow
The main source of bottom-limes is a failure to measure the right indicators. Too many business leaders will measure things that simply do not make sense. For example, measuring the effectiveness of a marketing campaign by the number of web hits being received is incorrect. The correct measurement is how many of those hits are being transformed into sales. Although web hits individually may be valuable, without a way to measure where the prospect is falling out or to know which pages the prospect is looking the web hits are worthless.
At formerly Troy, Mich.-based Kmart management began measuring on-time shipments from their suppliers. The goal of getting suppliers to deliver faster was quickly achieved. However without first developing a strategy to reduce safety-stock (extra inventory maintained to make up for forecast errors) inventory levels to offset the earlier receipts, inventories swelled.
This safety stock reduction strategy never was implemented, increasing the inventory carrying cost and making the original well-intentioned quicker shipment goal a bottom-lime.
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