Organizational Essentials: Cultivate, Sow, Feed and Weed

May is usually the signal to get out in the garden and begin the process of connecting with the earth, cultivating the soil, considering what to grow–and everybody’s favorite pastime–pulling the weeds that have sprouted up over the winter and early spring.  It is sometimes backbreaking work as we reshape disorder back into a space that delights and intrigues us.

Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma said it best, “A garden should make you feel you’ve entered privileged space – a place not just set apart but reverberant – and it seems to me that, to achieve this, the gardener must put some kind of twist on the existing landscape, turn its prose into something nearer poetry.”

These musings bring to mind:  as we create structure and growth for our gardens, can we do so at work in our organizations?  Is it possible for our employees to feel as though they have entered “privileged space,” an innovative, “set apart” workplace that is vibrant with energy and life?  Might there be a “twist” that we can introduce into our organizational that could re-energize and feed our workplaces?  When gardening, we first focus on cultivating the soil and planning the rows, then sowing and fertilizing the seed, and finally, weeding to ensure that plants stay happy and healthy in their environments.

Cultivation and Structural Planning

For a healthy organization to grow, cultivating the soil and defining the parameters means looking at organizational structure and giving employees the chance to stretch their abilities and skills.  If the company has grown or declined, it might be a good time to consider restructuring and job realignment.  While this activity sometimes results in stressed workers, having clearly defined goals and consistent communication about the benefits can sometimes give employees the boost they need to become even more adaptive and innovative.  “Sharon” recently explained that she was looking for a new job because after 12 years, her company refused to promote her no matter how hard she worked to prove herself.  Their reasoning was that she was too critical in the job for which she was hired, and they could not afford to move her.  As a result, this company will lose a good employee because Sharon feels unappreciated and uninspired.  This company is also missing an opportunity to allow someone else to shine in this position.  Cultivating your people means giving them opportunity to grow and setting them up for success by occasionally realigning to increase opportunities for others.

Sowing and Fertilizing

Selecting the right people for the right positions and then helping them to develop and grow is key.  Companies such as Whole Foods, Google, and Apple, seek out people who get excited about the products and the culture.  A great workplace culture incubates creativity, innovation, and a superior product or service development, without the distracting and often de-motivating focus on the bottom-line.  When employees love what they do, the soil is ripe for growth.  Nurturing a great workplace culture is as easy as workers being allowed to bring in a pet through the office on a rotational basis, or celebrating milestones and achievements regularly, perhaps conducting meetings outside or during a walk, or incorporating a pool or ping-pong table in a “brain storming room.”  Find some other fun ideas here.  Cultivate and fertilize employee satisfaction by ensuring opportunities for advancement, education, training, and personal leadership development, along with a fun and exciting workplace.


Finally, weed out those things out that might be preventing your company and culture from growing.  Is your organization too bureaucratic?  Does it take too long for decisions to be made?  Do you have non-performers who continually arrive late, offload their work to co-workers, or love to cause drama?  It may be time for some serious weeding.  If lagging performance, poor communication, and decision-making are issues, perhaps it is time to till out the silos and flatten the landscape.  Recommit to evaluating and streamlining your organizational structure.

As Michael Pollen suggests, every garden needs a “twist,” something that makes it truly unique.  Google incubates creativity with an uber-fun work environment—its “Googleplex.”  Whole Foods inspires health and wellness through its workplace events and benefits.  And Apple attracts next-generation designers who get inspiration through their discounted Apple products.  So why not do a little digging?  Ask your employees to tell you what inspires and excites them.  Then get to work cultivating a happy and productive workplace whose people love to come to work each day.