With Spring underway and flowers are beginning to bloom again, my mind is drawn to lessons learned from the garden. During the Winter months, what have my trees been doing? Have they been growing at all?
Thus is also true for leadership behaviors.
Then, I’m reminded that not all growth is visible – that’s true for trees, plants, and flowers. But, it’s also true for people, cultures, and organizations.
Let’s take the bamboo tree as an example. In its initial years, the bamboo tree devotes most of its energy developing the rhizome system of roots. In general, the first four years are devoted to developing its root system and then, in its fifth year, it grows like mad. It’s estimated that some bamboo species can grow 90 feet per year after the rhizome system of roots are developed.
- What if the gardener grew impatient in the third year? Perhaps he was expecting more growth by that time, not understanding that most of the growth was happening beneath the surface. Suppose his impatience caused him to rip out the bamboo trees because they weren’t “developing fast enough”.
- What if the gardener were patient and understood that some growth is not visible; but, beneath the surface, there’s a lot going on.
Organizational Growth and Culture
Organizations and cultures are the same way. Growth is sometimes happening, but we do not see it. Indeed, there might be a lot of work going on, but they are happening in minds, hearts, and in micro-interactions hundreds of times, daily. There’s no big bang. But, a lot of little, seemingly small acts.
When you think about it, that’s how a culture is created. Not through some big program or some big push top-down. Instead, true, long-term cultural change happens over a long period through many, many, small micro-interactions.
A Top Heavy Tree with Shallow Roots
We all know what can happen when a tree is top-heavy and the root system is shallow. Yes, it will topple over. Strong organizational cultures can only happen when its roots are planted deep. And, those roots develop over time, usually through unseen acts, many of them, under-hyped, with little or no fanfare.
It’s Your Turn
Do you agree? What are your thoughts on trees, roots, organizational design, culture, and growth? Share your thoughts. I’m interested in hearing from you.