Ode to a Tree
Ode to a Tree
I spent the weekend out in the garden, planting apple trees.
It made me think about how alike trees and businesses are.
When they are young they grow deep roots to tap into water, just as a young business focusses on developing a cash flow. In the first years both businesses and trees focus on growth. As the tree matures, we see branch structures developing, just as businesses diversify and modify their product and service offerings. The trunk of the tree remains solid, like a business’s purpose and mission.
Trees are constantly changing – budding in spring, flowering in early summer, fruiting in autumn and shedding leaves in winter. Businesses follow similar cycles, developing new products and services, growing them, reaping the rewards through sales, and preparing for tough business conditions by downsizing.
Trees don’t grow randomly, they follow patterns laid down in their DNA, just as businesses follow processes that are at the core of what they do. Trees also hold a detailed and complete record of themselves and their surroundings through the rings in the tree trunk – just as businesses should control complete records of their activities.
And if businesses are like trees, are we like the animals that live in and around trees? If so, what type of animal are you?
A mole lives underground and has very specific skills, they are workers. They are at the front line – they see the tree trunk – they don’t see the complex branch structures or the surrounding countryside. So like the mole, workers do not necessarily see the complex systems and processes that control and effect their work, and do not see the strategy , they follow the processes that enable them to complete their work and leave the complexity of management to the managers.
In the trees hopping from branch to branch are the squirrels. They understand the complex branch systems and regularly run up and down the tree. Imagine the squirrel as a line manager , who must deal with other departments, use intricate computer systems, arrange for materials and deliveries and coordinate staff.
Sitting on the top of the tree is the eagle. Now the eagle doesn’t have the skills to carry out the work that the mole does, and doesn’t necessarily have the hands on knowledge of the squirrel, but the eagle has something the others don’t have – vision. The eagle can see the tree in the context of the countryside, can see changes on the horizon, and knows how the tree compares to others. The eagle is the CEO, responsible for vision, whose expertise lies in developing strategy for changing environments and conditions, and understanding competitors, customers and the economy.
So next time you are in the garden, give the trees a nod. They deserve our respect.