systems_thinking

Systems Thinking: Connecting Self to Society

About Systems Thinking

A particularly interesting theory has emerged over time, which takes a deeper look into the interactivity of different levels of systems, whether in nature or in society.  Using a systems-thinking approach (von Bertalanffy, 2003 revised), an individual or a group considers the whole system and how different parts of that system interact with, or are affected by, other parts.  Instead of looking at an isolated situation (or problem), and then trying to fix or change that singular challenge in isolation, a systems-thinker looks for connections to other parts of the system.

In an attempt to understand why the situation is as it is, a systems-thinker attempts to uncover what is influencing this situation and what impact a change on the situation (or an outside influencer) could have to move towards the desired outcome

Here’s a hypothetical example: An individual in the marketing department begins using a new tool to streamline her communications with customers.  Because she is able to react–let’s say 10%–faster to requests, there is an effect on other parts of the system.  The 50-person manufacturing department now receives information about customer needs faster, which in turn allows them to improve quality by 25%.  A small change by one person had a larger effect on the rest of the organization, and improved customers’ experiences.  Had the organization looked to improve quality by focusing only on the testing division, perhaps a more complex “fix” to the situation would have resulted, and the costs could have been higher than the benefits.

Practicing Systems Thinking in Human Systems

systems_thinking

Levels of System

First, take a look at the image to the left.  Notice how there are different levels with “self” at the center, and increasingly broader levels of system outside each concentric circle.  At the core of engaging in systems thinking, the individual (in this case, you) should review how their personal actions influence a particular situation, and how other levels of the system are affecting them in relation to the situation.  Then, the analysis moves to each concentric circle outwards.  Peter Senge’s top-seller, The Fifth Discipline (Senge, 2010 revised), explains this process in more detail.

Questions for thought include:

  • How do I influence my team (or family) in this situation?
  • How do they influence me?
  • How does my team/family influence our community?
  • How does our community influence our society?

After understanding these relationships of influence, the individual (you!) can begin to look for opportunities to take advantage of your influence to make change to improve your life as well as the lives of others.  It might sound daunting to make drastic changes in society, such as how to end poverty.  It likely is not in your sphere of influence or authority to be able to make sweeping socio-economic changes (or so you think).  This is where systems-thinking is so critical.  You have influence on someone—whether it is a friend, co-worker, or your Facebook readers.  Talking about the situation, sharing ideas, and taking action towards your end goal can begin to influence others to join in the change and transform the community.  As momentum grows, pressure is put on society to make these changes.

Recall the civil rights movements we have witnessed across the globe and in different eras.  There has usually been one person who decided to make a difference (think Martin Luther King, Jr. or Mother Theresa).  They began influencing their friends and family, and then reached out to their communities, and eventually began to influence society to change laws and behavior (equality for people of color in the USA for Dr. King and care of the poor–who are treated as outcasts without rights–for Mother Theresa, respectively).

Putting this into action, pull out a piece of paper and place your name in the middle along with a change you would like to make (no matter how big or small).  Next, write down what strengths or skills you have that you can use to make this change.   If there is anything about your self (behaviors/actions, beliefs, etc.) that you want to change, jot those down, too, and label them “aspirations.”  Draw a circle around this—it is your “self” sphere of influence.

Now, draw another circle around this one (leave some space to write down more ideas!) and label it “team” if you are doing this for work, or “family & friends” if it is a personal situation.  Now, write down on the left side how your team or family are impacting you in this situation, with an arrow pointing towards “self”.  On the other side, write down the ways you can begin to impact your team or family to help you make this change, with an arrow coming out of “self” towards “family & friends”.

Continue this exercise with increasingly larger parts of your system.  Next, consider what steps you will take today, tomorrow, next week, and beyond.  Consider some quick-win activities to help you see some accomplishment early on and feel confidence and accomplishment on your journey.  Avoid goals that you know are too lofty for yourself, which you are certain you would not achieve – keep them aspirational enough to help you change the situation, but realistic enough that you will feel motivated to continue through the process.  As you gain more practice and realize what you are capable of doing, adding increasingly more challenging goals will help you do even more and more.

Potential Benefits

Have you noticed crowds of people going in the same direction, but no one can explain exactly where they are going or why?  Have you seen societies or cultures act together, but most people cannot explain why they are behaving that way, except to say “because everyone else is doing it!”?  Following a herd is easy to do, and it is easy to believe that your actions have no consequences, because the whole group or crowd or society is acting that way… so it must be acceptable.  However, your actions do have consequences and you are responsible for your own behavior – even if only to answer to your own conscience.  Using systems thinking empowers you to take only those actions you want to take, not the ones others force or compel you to do.

In addition, by assessing situations from a systems perspective, you are likely to understand how you impact systems, and how systems impact you.  This way, you can navigate better the situation, and either influence the system or ask others for what you want or need in a way that is more likely to result in a positive outcome.  Ben Stein has said, “The first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: Decide what you want.”  If you do not yet know exactly what you want in the context of the system, expect an uphill climb to getting what you want.  Knowing the consequences or reactions to changes in the system that bring you what you want out of life will make it easier to carve a path that navigates you to your goal.

Good luck on your journey to understanding your self and the systems in which you operate.  Post your goals, or the journey you have taken.

References

Senge, P. (2010 revised). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. Crown Publishing Group.

von Bertalanffy, L. (2003 revised). General System theory: Foundations, Development, Applications. Penguin University Books.

Crow

Why it’s not so bad to be “bird-brained”

 

At Corvis Group, we draw our inspiration from the crow–a fascinating, intelligent animal that learns, uses tools, and shares knowledge with others.  To learn more about these incredibly adaptive birds, check out the Public Television episode: Inside Animal Minds: Bird Genius.

After watching the show, consider these questions:

  1. What skills have you learned at work over the span of your career?
  2. In your last training (formal or informal), what new knowledge did you learn, and how can you apply it to your career or your life?
  3. In what ways can you aid your colleagues, neighbors, friends, or family by teaching them the skills and knowledge that you have learned?

Feel free to share your answers in the comment section below.  We’d love to hear from you!

Photo source: PBS.  Retrieved from http://video.pbs.org/video/2365218674/.

Build a Vision, Change Reality: Four Steps to Dream Big and Deliver

I recently led the design and delivery of a one-hour, high-impact training session on how to engineer ideas to a room full of my colleagues: consultants, technical gurus, designers, and senior managers at a global consulting and marketing agency.  Prior sessions that my coworkers had designed–each on diverse topics–included 50 minutes of lecture, a few minutes of Q&A with the audience, and then a few minutes of feedback.  Thinking to myself, different designs could have more impact, especially for a room full of intelligent adult learners, I wanted to create a session that was more interactive.

A vision began to form in my mind as I designed the course, and it was basically this: provide a lot of research-backed information about how to be a more effective strategy consultant, centered on adult-learning methods, that engages energy, while going deep into the topic.  It seemed unrealistic…almost.  As I began to recruit a team of fellow organization development peers (a rare breed in the firm!), I realized that our collective minds would be able to bring this vision into reality.

What Is a Vision?

A vision, as Daft (2011) defines it, is “a picture of an ambitious, desirable future for the organization or team.”  Let’s break that into manageable chunks:  The first part of this definition is to design or paint a picture–perhaps not so literally as creating a piece of art when it comes to organizations and teams, but rather this aspect is more about crafting an image of what the future will look like for the organization.  Next, Daft describes visions with the word ambitious.  This means that visions require a sort of stretching of the imagination.  A new future will take effort to achieve; it will not be simple to accomplish greatness!  The term “desirable future” refers to what the organization imagines will serve its stakeholders in a beneficial way.  Lastly, Daft’s definition is geared towards organization- and team leaders, who have the responsibility to craft and implement visions.  Find out how to develop a vision that fits your organization and how to move towards it.

How to Build a Vision and Deliver It in Four Steps

Based on research from Cooperrider & Whitney (1990), and the subsequent writings by Watkins & Mohr (2001), there are four stages to build a vision and make it happen.  These four steps come from the Four-D Model, which has roots in Appreciative Inquiry (AI).  Outlined below, anyone can use the Four Ds (discover, dream, design, deliver) for practically any sort of visioning and change work.  Whether an individual looking to make a personal life-altering decision; or a team seeking a better way of operating together; or British Airways, a multi-national corporation exploring a new competitive strategy, this model has proved to be impactful (Watkins & Mohr, 2011).

Discover

During this introductory stage, it is important to analyze and explore the organization’s or team’s past successes and accomplishments.  The point is to focus creative energy on the positive (Watkins & Mohr, 2011); in this case, what has already worked.  At the crux of AI is the attention to possibilities. 

Tapping into positive energy from past accomplishments aids the organization or team to catapult itself into a creative mindset.  This then transcends into behaviors that enable the organization or team to make strides towards its ambitious vision.  When designing the course for my colleagues, I first recognized prior research on AI that I had conducted during graduate school, as well as the previous experiences using an Appreciative Inquiry approach on consulting projects.  This, along with the realization that I could build a team to deliver the course, helped me to build confidence that I have knowledge and skills to deliver the ambitious vision.

Dream

In this second phase of the Four-D model, the goal is to tap into the team’s creativity.  Brainstorm, ideate, design.  Whatever term or concept of dreaming ideas of possible future states (visions!) supports your understanding of this phase will work.  No idea is too crazy, stupid, or ridiculous during this step.  Encourage teammates with diverse experiences and thinking styles to participate.  Research shows that groups with diverse thinking styles come up with better solutions than groups of experts of a singular subject matter (Page, 2007).

Perhaps your mind is getting stuck in negativity: Our budget is too small.  We don’t have enough time.  Last time we tried this, we failed.  Take a deep breath and think about what would be the ideal future state if you had millions of dollars, or 5 more months of time, or if you had succeeded last time.  Break free of the negative thinking; be creative.  During the course planning, once I had formed a team of co-facilitators, we came up with 4 or 5 designs on how to deliver the course material, not to mention the 20 or 30 iterations of decisions on what that material would be!  Every idea was put on the table for consideration, which is part of the next step.

Design

Your creative ideas are beginning to flow by now, and you have at least 5 different ideas, right?  Now what?  In the Design stage, it is important to begin to make decisions on what your future state should look like.  In the Dream phase, you came up with multiple options, ignoring roadblocks, tapping into potential visions of a better future.  

Perhaps you have begun to prioritize these ideas into which is most important, or which option best suits the needs of your stakeholders.  During the Design phase, you can begin to design an action plan, or map the elements of the decided vision.  

Back to the course planning, our committee met one or two times each week to iterate our ideas.  We began to capture designs of the slides that would support our lecture points, as well as refine the interactive components.  We analyzed each section of the plan, comparing our objectives and desired vision to ensure we kept ourselves on track.  By the last planning session, we had created a clear plan for the speaking points, activities, and handouts.  We were ready to practice and then deliver.  

Each decision you make in this phase to clarify what the organization or team will do to reach its vision will enable successful implementation in the final phase.  

This is where the hard work creating a vision pays off.  As you begin to roll out the vision and take steps towards reaching it, your team or organization can benefit from a constant reminder of past accomplishments, current skills and abilities, and the desired future state (vision).  Perhaps a roadblock pops up during the implementation.  Reframing your perspective of “roadblock” to “opportunity to innovate” will allow the organization to maintain a positive outlook and continue to practice using the Four-D model to modify the vision or its delivery.

In the case of the course planning, we delivered the vision on the day of the session.  Using the framework of our session plan, our team had confidence that our design would have a positive impact on the participants.  At one point, participants were very energetic on a particular part of the session, and so we modified our design live with a mini committee meeting as participants did some small-group work.  Our iteration on the design in the moment allowed us to maintain a balanced flow while also covering all the materials.  Therefore, it is important to remain flexible as those opportunities for innovation are certain to arise.

Take Action

Now that you have learned the basics of Appreciative Inquiry’s Four-D Model, try it out.  This article focused on organization and team, however the model is applicable to individual and community levels as well.  Practice the model on your own with a personal vision.  Take yourself through some personal discover, dreaming of the future, designing your own action plan, and then making a personal life change.  Remember to be ambitions and look for possibilities!

By the way, the course described in this article went well.  We met our own objectives and received positive feedback from participants even a week after the session.  It was rewarding to try something new, work hard to deliver an ambitious vision, and learn what worked well as well as what we could innovate for the next time.

References

Appreciative Inquiry Commons (n.d.).  Cleveland, OH: Case Western Reserve University.  Retrieved from: http://appreciativeinquiry.case.edu/default.cfm.

Cooperrider, D.L. & Whitney, D (2001) A positive revolution in change. In Cooperrider, D. L. Sorenson, P., Whitney, D. & Yeager, T. (eds.) Appreciative Inquiry: An Emerging Direction for Organization Development (9-29). Champaign, IL: Stipes.

Daft, R. (2011). The Leadership Experience (5th ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.

Page, S. (2007). The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies. Princeton, NJ: Princetone University Press.

Watkins, J., & Mohr, B. (2001). Appreciative Inquiry: Change at the Speed of Imagination. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer.

Is a Positive Attitude the Cure for Global Problems?

Today’s Oppressive Negativity

Watching the news, reading the newspaper, or tracking social-media trends, it becomes evident that there is an air of negativity in today’s world.  Specific examples of this supposition include the economic crises in nearly all markets, riots and wars in the Middle East, political smear campaigns, religious contentions inside of and between many faiths.  This negativity feels burdensome and oppresses progress and growth.  Is there a cure for this malaise and depressing state of affairs?

Contagious Emotions

Lewis, Amini, and Lannon (2000) posit that emotions are contagious due to limbic resonance.  The basis of this theory is that individuals and groups (as well as societies and cultures) transmit emotions through subtle cues and expressions.  This in turn impacts our behavior as individuals and as a collective.  In a case study, McKee and Johnston (2006) describe how top leadership of a global sporting goods organization faced poor performance, organizational restructuring, and market downturns.  The leadership team’s attitude was full of negativity and a general lack of confidence.  A loss of hope and organizational depression emerged as the negativity fed on itself and spread to other leaders.

Once the organization’s leaders addressed the negativity and began to focus on positive energy, they began to turn the situation around by deepening their commitment to pull through the tough times.  Bushe and Coetzer (1995) attribute this result with the theory that “the more positive [the energy] used to guide the group process or organization change effort, the more long-lasting and effective the change effort (in Watkins & Mohr, 2001, p. 39).  It is important to note that those who approach challenges with a positive attitude have a faster recovery rate after handling the stressful situation (Watkins & Mohr, 2001).

Action for Healing

While hope and a positive attitude alone likely will not bring monumental changes or a cure for global problems immediately, they are the cornerstone of making this shift.  Our attitudes of framing the situation (how we perceive the situation, collect and analyze data, and make judgments about our next steps) “start a snowball of inquiries, dialogues, and …images of the future” (Watkins & Mohr, 2001, p. 33).  Since human beings are social creatures, and our emotions–as noted above–are contagious, one could suppose that injecting positive attitudes into a chaotic world of negativity would unleash creativity to approaching, and ultimately solving, the toughest global problems.

Instead of viewing, for example, the credit crisis as a slippery slope into international financial collapse, a positive reframing of the issue could unveil plausible solutions.  Rather than view this as a credit crisis without end in sight, I propose a new question: How have societies/governments/cultures resolved financial challenges in a way that benefited the greater good?  What did they do that was so successful and from which we can learn and apply to today?  What ideas have people proposed that could solve the issue, which we should consider?

The key to making lasting change, therefore, is to begin by shifting our understanding/perception of the situation into a positive (albeit realistic) one.  Then, by analyzing the situation from this new perspective, we can unleash creative solutions and take action towards a positive future.  Standing our ground to maintain the positive perspective will begin to make small shifts in others, which in turn will cause an increasingly larger positive, contagious effect throughout global society over the long run.

References

Bushe, G. & Coetzer, G. (1995).  Appreciative inquiry as a team development intervention: A controlled experiment.  Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 31:1, 19-31.  Washington, DC: NTL Institute of Applied Behavioral Science.

Lewis, T., Amini, F. & Lannon, R. (2000).  A general theory of love.  New York: Random House.

McKee, A. & Johnston, F. (2006).  The impact and opportunity of emotion in organizations.  In B. Jones & M. Brazzel (Eds.) The NTL Handbook of Organization Development and Change: Principles, Practices, and Perspectives.  San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

Watkins, J. & Mohr, B. (2001).  Appreciative inquiry: Change at the speed of imagination.  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer.

Courage to Raise Conflict Outweighs Remaining Silent out of Fear

Video Overview

When was the last time you disagreed with something or someone?  Did you talk about your concern directly with them?  Likely, the fear of raising the conflict won and the issue remained hidden.  Margaret Heffernan (2012) discusses why having the courage to disagree and openly discuss conflict far outweighs the risks of remaining silent in this TED Talk.  Watch the video here:

One of Heffernan’s (2012) recommendations is to seek someone whose personality, point of view, or thinking style is drastically different.  By so doing, this partner can offer a different perspective or challenge your assumptions, allowing you to refine the project, research paper, argument, design, or other work.  This takes energy and patience, because dealing with conflict goes against the natural human tendency.  But, Heffernan argues that the end result is worth the investment, because diverse perspectives build a better outcome than like-mindedness.

One example Heffernan (2012) offers comes from Alice, who researched why a certain segment of children had higher rates of cancer.  She found that the reason was because the mother had an X-ray during pregnancy, and so Alice published her findings.  Yet, X-ray exams remained common for women during certain stages of pregnancy, and the cancer rate for children remained steady.  While Alice’s findings were available, it took considerable time and her challenging the thinking of the day to convince the medical community to change its practices in order to save lives.  She took courage to disagree with the status quo in order to have a positive impact.

Take Action

After watching the video, what problems will you solve or risks will you mitigate by voicing your opinions, worries, or ideas?

References

Heffernan, M. (2012).  Margaret Heffernan: Dare to disagree.  TED.  Retrieved August 24, 2012, from http://www.ted.com/talks/margaret_heffernan_dare_to_disagree.html.

Boosting Your Processing Power: Using Technology as a Business Tool

Inboxes are clogging with unread emails.  Voice-mailboxes and text are messaging tones causing tinnitus.  Thumbs are cramping from pecking emails on mobile phones.  No wonder it is so easy to become frustrated when the person on the other end sets off our fuses with a confusing message!  By the way, are you reading this on your mobile phone at 2 a.m.?

When technology came along, business leaders saw the time-saving potential of number-crunching computers and near-human intelligence of supercomputers.  What took months to calculate now takes milliseconds for a computer to analyze.  So why do our lives seem to be busier, faster, and more stressful than before?  How do we take control back from technology and enjoy the time between work?  The answer is to reframe how we look at and use technology.

Rather than seeing technology as a 24/7 must-have part of our lives, it can be healthier and more beneficial to view it as a means to helping improve quality of life.  In other words, instead of tying ourselves to the computer monitor or smart-phone screen all day long, it is necessary to draw boundaries around technology use.  There are many tools available, and I have outlined the most common ones that I use to keep organized and connected.

Email and Phone Calls 

As a business leader, it is easy to become tethered to smart-phones and be accessible all day and all night.  But, is it worth it to wake up to read emails immediately, regardless of the urgency?  Aside from the health concerns of not getting enough sleep and the effects on performance from fatigue, it also builds an organizational culture that inhibits proper use of delegation of authority.  Staff become overly reliant on the leader who is always accessible, when it is possible to come up with a solution for medium- or low-priority issues in your absence.

With email inbox rules and smart-phone alert settings (some phones now come with “VIP Alerts”), it is now possible to set up a process where emails with certain urgency levels or subject lines get forwarded to you during your personal time, while others auto-reply with a message that you are away.  Of course, this also requires discussing your boundaries with teammates and staff, so that they are aware of when you will respond and when it is up to them to take initiative.  Also, remember to call people or meet them directly when discussing complicated or personal matters.  Email is a great follow-up tool to confirm what was discussed verbally, but it lacks the tactfulness and quick richness of vocal dialogue.

To-Do Lists

Aside from personal boundary-setting, technology can help you to track your to-do lists, and even share them with others so that they know what is still in queue.  Lists can be therapeutic in a sense as well, because crossing off completed items allows you to see how much you have already finished.  This is especially rewarding when the number of action items seems unending: As you progress, you will see that you are making progress.  Need to generate a status report?  Refer back to your action item list to see what you have accomplished and what is yet to be done.  My personal preference is for Apple’s Reminders app, because it syncs with my phone, home computer, and the iCloud.  That way I receive reminders of all my action items’ due dates on my devices and can check them off wherever I am.

Document Sharing

While I prefer reading printed copies over on-screen documents, it is generally faster (and more environmentally friendly) to view docs on a computer or smart phone.  Sharing documents with teams can cause confusion when emailing different versions back and forth for editing: “Did I include Sally’s changes in that version?  Wait, she sent two.  Ok, now is this the final draft, or is that?  Oops – I forgot that Jack’s email was saved in another folder, and I had not yet incorporated his changes.”

Two of the available options solve this problem: Subversion and the Cloud.  Subversion allows users on the same network to share the same version of documents and includes version control (with locking and unlocking of files) to assist teams collaborating together.  Cloud services offer similar functionality, without requiring everyone to be on the same server.  I use Google Docs/Drive when collaborating with teams as well.  It allows anyone with a Google Account (which can be created from generally any email address) to share documents online.  It also lets you see who made which changes, and multiple users can edit the same document simultaneously.  Google Docs are also accessible via smart phones and tablets with Internet access.

Paper and Pencil

Sometimes good ol’ fashioned paper and pencil (or whiteboard and marker) make for the best technology.  This is especially the case when starting to draft an idea, diagram, or document from scratch.  Mind-mapping, brainstorming, and sketching symbols, words, or phrases help to pull innovative thoughts out of your mind and put them onto paper.  It is easy to edit using paper and pencil, shaping the idea until it looks just right.  Then it is possible to take a photo or recreate the draft electronically to share with others on the team.

When preparing to use technology to help you organize or connect with others, it is important to first understand why you need the tool: what issue or challenge is being addressed?  Then, analyze the different options available and select a medium that is optimal for the identified issue.  Also remember to set some boundaries regarding when, how, and why you will use that tool.  It is wise to use technology to your advantage so long as you remember to take breaks and recharge your own batteries.

What Can Gardening Teach Us about Leadership?

If you have ever gardened, you might notice some ways that enhancing your green-thumb abilities are similar to working with teams, groups, or organizations.  Gardening requires nurturing, providing needed resources, attention to dangerous environmental phenomena, and timing.  Let us explore these facets of gardening–specifically food crops–as a metaphor for effective leadership.

Before ever planting a seed, a gardener knows that the soil needs tending.  If the soil has the wrong consistency or pH level, then nutrients or compost must be added.  If the soil is too compact, then aerating it will allow the plants to spread roots.  In leadership, this translates to setting up a team for success through proper planning about what followers need in order to grow.  Without setting the stage for a healthy workplace, it will be very difficult for staff to do their job.  But with the proper forethought and attention to what their teams need, leaders set up the organization for success.

Plants, like people, need resources in order to thrive and produce their crops.  Sunlight, water, fertilizer, soil, pollinators, and carbon dioxide are a few of the resources plants need.  Without the right combination of resources (and at the right time), the plants will either produce scrawny food products, or they can die.  Likewise, people and work groups need the right resources in order to be effective.  Think about what resources people in your organization require.  Are they adequate to do the job?  If not, consider what more your organization will be able to produce if it were to have the needed resources to meet organizational goals.  Does this benefit outweigh the current output without these resources?

Mother nature* can provide and cause destruction with seemingly little effort.  One year can be a banner year producing record crop yields, while the next can experience flooding or drought and destroy most plants.  Pests can destroy a field of crops in a short time, if not kept in check (hopefully through natural means!).  In organizations, shifting environmental demands (such as new government regulations) and unexpected phenomena (i.e.: market crashes) can place exorbitant pressure on businesses, forcing them to either adapt or dissolve.  Being resilient enough to shift with the changing environment enables organizations to weather poor markets, or other such storms of doing business.  Effective leaders know when to shift and by how much in order to meet new demands or pressures.

Last in the metaphor is timing.  As eluded to earlier, providing water to plants is necessary; however, too much or too little of this precious life source can bring an early end to the garden.  Organizations, too, can suffer when resources are too excessive or limiting.  Stocking too much product than the market demands can place financial strain on the organization, while not holding enough can anger customers to the point that they become loyal the competition.  Work groups can also suffer when they do not receive the technical, personnel, financial, or other resources that they need to do their job at the right time.  Conducting a resources analysis (what resources are needed, how much, and to whom) is a way for leaders to improve the probability that the organization has the proper resources at the appropriate time.

Learning to lead is a difficult and iterative task, just like gardening.  The first year’s crop might experience hard times as the gardener learns through experience, just as the novice leader might experience difficulty gaining trust and followership from their team.  When all of the facets of effective gardening align–and sometimes with a little luck–the gardener will be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor.  The leader, too, must continue to develop knowledge, skills, and abilities in leadership through practice, feedback, and academic study/training/reading.

*The “forces of mother nature” in this analogy are akin to the forces of sociology.  Neither can be seen, but they have a strong influence on the outcome of a garden or an organization.