Gardening tips for organisational change

Know your plot: Are there parts that are in full sun and struggling to cope with the heat? Are there parts that are in heavy shade and struggling to reach for the light? Do you need to take the heat off some people to let them recover before they are able to thrive? Or do you need to seek out those who have been struggling in the shade and give them some extra light and attention so they can thrive?

Know your soil: Is the culture heavy and hard to work in like clay? Or is it too light and lacking nutrients like sand and new things can’t take root? Knowing this will let you know whether you need to find ways to add space and time to the change so people can breathe and flourish, or to find ways to help people feel more grounded and supported in their work.

Know your climate: Are the seasons of your business long or short? If they’re long then you can take more time to plan and implement the change. If the season is short then you need to be able to plant, grow and harvest your change quickly so an Agile approach may suit you better.

Draw a design outline: Sketch out your ideal end design.

  • Mark what features you really want to keep. Notice how this design works for those areas of your business that have been in full sun and those which have been in full shade and amend your design to help all areas of the business to thrive. A
  • Identify areas that you want to totally redesign. Consider what you want to put in this area instead. How long will it take to fill the space if you totally clear it before the new things have matured? Do you need to make the change more slowly so there are no bare patches in your business?

Look at the design from many angles: It’s cheaper to change a design than have to redo work once youve started. So before you begin the changes consider how the end design will work in good times and bad. How easy is it for people to build? How well does it meet the needs of all those who’ll use it? Can you afford to do it all at once or will you have to do it in phases as and when you can afford it. Considering everything else you’re doing right now do you have the energy and patience to see the change through the messy and frustrating times?

Many hands make light work: Any change requires hard work and encouragement. Who is around with the skills, energy and willingness to give you their time to help make the change happen? Some will help with the heavy lifting. Some will stand back and critique your work. Some will make sure people are fed and looked after. Some will tell others excitedly about the change. Some won’t like what you’re changing. Each one is offering you a gift to make the change the best it can be, it is up to you if you choose to accept those gifts.

Prepare the ground: Before you can plant new things you need to clear and feed the ground. To reinvigorate some areas you might need to prune others. Take time with people involved in the change to prepare. Listen to them, hear their needs and understand some may want to help clear away the old ways, some would rather move on and some you may want to ask to move on. This can be a difficult time with many emotions rising to the surface to be handled with care.

Begin planting and building: Once the ground is ready you can begin to plant and build your changes. Take the time to keep stepping back and looking at what is emerging. Is your design still working? Do you need to change things round now you see things in situ. Do you need to re-plan based on changing environmental conditions? Are things costing more than you expected? Do you have all the skills you need or do you need to find other people to help? How are people coping with the changes?

Change hygiene: Many gardeners will wash their tools each night to remove the mud and grit that’s stuck to them. If they’re left muddy the tools will rust and the blades will no longer be smooth so more mud sticks making the work even harder. The dirty tools may also spread disease from one area to another. The same is true in change. People need time to clear their heads and do other things when involved in change. It’s easy for change initiatives to begin to cause toxic behaviours or illness if we don’t look after people. Encourage people to spend time away from work both physically and mentally.

Take pride in your work: At the end of the change take pride in what’s been achieved. Although what you’ve achieved is unlikely to look exactly like the original plan it is the best that could be done on this plot, with this soil, in this climate, with this budget and with these people.

Now watch how it grows.