Management in Full Bloom: What Gardening Taught Me About Management
My neighbor we’ll call Joe decided he wanted a garden in his yard. Joe loaded up on seeds and plantings at the garden store, choosing them based on fruits and vegetables he liked to eat. He planted them in a space he had chosen in his yard, without much consideration for how much sun and shade the area received or how much water each species required.
Within a few months, the plants grew and some began to produce fruit. Others, however, never produced a thing and failed to thrive. Over time:
- Some plants thrived and expanded, taking over smaller plants, resulting in a lopsided arrangement
- Some died off due to incorrect amounts of sun and watering
- Joe failed to anticipate and prepare for environmental changes out of his control — frost, hail and insects
Joe invested a lot of time and money into his garden, but he missed a few essentials and most plants eventually died. His garden failed to yield much in the way of edible food. Joe could have had a very successful garden with a few key changes.
What We Can Learn from Joe Applies to Operations Management
Operations, like gardens, constantly grow, evolve and react to their environments. In order to yield the best results, gardens — and operations — require thorough planning, forecasting and consistent monitoring.
The gardener is responsible for making decisions to ensure the garden grows, matures and avoids death. Above all else, the gardener must:
- Be knowledgeable about specific plant needs
- Create a customized care plan so that the plants flourish and produce the greatest results
- Prepare for environmental factors out of his control
Joe could have had a successful garden if he had learned more about his plants’ needs, planned where and how many to plant and prepared for influences such as weather and insect infestations.
Every experienced gardener understands before breaking the soil; there must be a crucial stage of planning.
- Which seeds will you plant?
- In which season will the plants receive the most favorable conditions?
- How much attention, water, sun, wind, etc. does each plant species need? Remember, they may differ.
- What kind of environmental factors could impact your garden?
The same principles apply to management. For example, as a manager, you know there are peak times for recruiting and hiring, which may influence your chances of finding ideal candidates.
Furthermore, your employees also have diverse needs. You must assess the different levels of communication, monitoring and reporting suitable for each person.
Where one employee may enjoy weekly updates and “check-ins,” another may feel claustrophobic under such conditions. The point is, an efficient manager must assess their “garden” and plan according to its specific needs.
Every year, I grow a tomato garden in my back yard. Ideally, my tomatoes will be ready for harvest by March or April, so I know I must sow my seeds 6-8 weeks prior.
If I’m too hasty in my planting, unexpected frost or cold spells could pose a threat to my crop and cause premature death. However, if I am patient and plant my seeds under favorable conditions, I will have a healthy and delicious crop just in time for spring!
- Understanding your market and its conditions are essential to yielding desirable results.
- An effective manager must understand when and how they should manage their team.
- Timing is essential when conveying an important message or training of employees.
- Be strategic in your communication and management tactics, so your message is well received and not masked by outside “noise.”
Trees and shrubs may require several years to reach their full height, where bulbs and some flowers require only a matter of weeks or a few short months.
- Understand that different actions and strategies require different timelines and monitoring. Where one project can begin and end all within a quarter, another may span across an entire calendar year.
- Be aware of the variances and adjust your monitoring tactics accordingly. It is also important to keep in mind — nothing happens overnight.
- Be patient and diligent in your monitoring patterns to maintain a clear perspective on exactly where your “garden” stands. Does it require more watering? Will it bloom in time?
- Get to know your “garden” and your unique strengths and downfalls as a “gardener.” Only then will you be able to sow your seeds and enjoy the “fruits” of your labor.