No rain, no gain

Begonias along Comm Ave

Here in my part of Massachusetts, we are in a drought watch. It’s not like the West Coast (what is?), but it’s dry enough that it has me thinking a lot about rain and water.

While starting my business, I took a part-time job at one of the big box hardware stores. My position? Watering flowers, bushes and trees from 5:00AM to 10:00AM.

I enjoyed it because it gave me time to think. Mostly, I would count to 10. For a 1-gallon potted plant, you are supposed to water for 10 seconds; for a 2-gallon plant, 20 seconds; and so on. At least that’s what the video training said. (I watched numerous videos; the training impressed me). What I soon realized was that regardless of how consistently I tried to water the plants, there were many variables that impacted whether or not a plant was watered properly. Who would have thought that water pressure, prior watering, and my ability to count to 10 could determine the life or death of plants?

One day, it rained. I asked the manager if he wanted me to help stock shelves inside. He told me to keep watering. For possibly the first time in my life, my brain controlled my mouth, and I didn’t ask “Why do I need to water while it’s raining?” I found a yellow rain slicker, grabbed the hose, and started watering the plants. Caddyshack briefly flashed through my mind.

Then it hit me like a Category 4 hurricane — the rain will help, but it won’t get to all the plants.

The exposed plants on the top racks will be fine when it rains. The plants on the lower shelves need TLC. That’s the metaphor for your company and your employees. It’s great if everyone at the top understands your strategy and gets visibility with senior executives,

but what are you doing for everyone below the surface? Ask these three questions:

  1. Do your employees understand how their jobs enable the company to achieve its strategic goals?
  2. Are your leaders visible, and do they listen to your employees?
  3. As a manager, do you encourage and nurture (water) the team that works with you?

If you can consistently answer ‘yes’ to each of these questions, you are on the path to a higher performing organization that is focused, appreciates its employees, and likely sees benefit through to its customers.

If you aren’t sure, or you can’t answer ‘yes’ consistently, then start thinking about how your company can improve and have a positive downstream impact to the bottom line. Additional training may help leaders and employees. Better and more open communication channels often overcome roadblocks and reveal poor processes. Listen. Plan, Do. Check. Act. (I added “Listen” to this well-known change cycle; click on the link for more info).

All companies can improve. Water deeply. You will reach the roots and keep your plants healthy.

Photo courtesy of Gary Lerude through the Creative Commons License

Discussion Questions (leave answers in the Response section below):

  1. Do you like rain or sun better?
  2. What was your most interesting job?
  3. What management programs (like PDCA) do you use in your company?

Performegy is a consulting firm that specializes in strategic planning for business and information technology. Our services include: strategy consulting, IT consulting, technology assessments, developing metrics and identifying operational risks and gaps.

Its founder and president, Harold Waisel, has over 25 years of experience building strategies and roadmaps, delivering technology solutions, improving service levels, integrating companies, and developing key performance measures. You can contact Harold here. Thank you for reading.