I started gardening in 2010. The most I had ever done before was the lonely tomato plant that died due to lack of watering. I decided to start small with a container garden on my front porch where I would be forced to see them every day as I came and went. I found it to be rewarding and yet frustrating much like the job that I do. Plants grew at their own pace with some spurting up and others dying. A lot of work goes into planting, weeding and watering just for the moment that they bloom with great beauty or bountiful food harvest. The same can be said for projects that I try to do to improve analysis in both my agency and the community. As I looked back over my very short gardening journey, I have realized there were some lessons learned from gardening that were relevant to the workplace. I’m sure that there are more lessons to come but these are the initial lessons I have found in reflections about gardening.

I planted a number of marigolds and some bulbs (lilies, dahlias) along with many herbs and other perennials that caught my fancy. Since it is a container garden, my first lesson learned was that I could not go beyond certain boundaries. So just as I had to limit what I could grow, I need to think about the same thing at work. What limits are realistic (constrained by the environment) and what limits should I ignore (small minded thinking or lack of resources).

At one point I had marigolds in three separate areas that were growing very differently. In one area the leaves were being stripped from the plants. All that seemed to be untouched were the flowers. In another area, they were growing strongly and reblooming time and again.  What could I do to fix the problem?  The following lessons concern mostly this incident but there were some following this.

1. Don’t hesitate to ask questions from many places: I found that I would ask the same question of Google, my Facebook and Twitter networks, and gardening shops. Google was generally the fastest but it didn’t comfort me when my gardening went awry. Gardening shops were not much help; perhaps I need to spend more time building a relationship with one of them.

2. As I investigated the possible reason for the demise of my marigolds, I was directed to take a flashlight out after 10:00pm to see what might be wondering around. As I investigated my garden, I found new insights by changing my point of view to a different time of day. Something that is very key in the workforce – it is too easy to get locked into one point of view especially if you have expertise in that area. {Garden note: I did indeed find slugs and went in search of ways to get rid of them. Again I turned to Google and my networks and got directed to SLUGGO and Beer bath. I tried them both and seemed to have resolved the problem. I don’t know which worked best but at least they died happy.}

3. A key lesson learned came from pondering why marigolds in one part of the garden were doing so well while in the other part they were being systematically decimated in another area. The place in the garden where I have the most problems is the area that I didn’t properly clean out. I decided to use the old leaf debris as ground cover/mulch. I liked the look but it is filled with old debris and therefore those things that are harmful to growth. So in order to nurture new growth and create a healthy environment for long term growth it is essential to get rid of those things that have served their purpose in the past. That is definitely the case with our workplace. While there are many good things that need to be kept and cared for, there is also old debris – old ways of thinking and doing and old technologies – that need to be cleaned out.

4. As time went on, I found that another plant near the dead marigolds was now being eaten. The slugs seemed to be back eating my plants again. This led to a little reflection on how fighting slugs in the garden compares to fighting sluggardly thinking in the workplace. Only temporary successes with current methods; you must be constantly vigilant or tender shoots (aka projects) get eaten alive. But SLUGGO and beer baths did not seem to help so I took another evening trip to the garden to find a new threat – some kind of brown bug. I tried to find out what it was but it remains a mystery although I did try Neem Oil. Not sure whether it worked but the plants seem to be a little better. Just as in the garden, you need to be vigilant and try new methods to combat what seems to be each new threat –prepare a defense in depth in order to nurture growth.

5. Today a very large branch crashed down across my driveway near the front door. Fortunately it didn’t hit any of my garden or power lines or the house. I’m truly thankful I was not parking in that spot today (I often do). The branch seems in good condition but it is so large that I cannot move it. But looking at that branch, I realized that sometimes conditions occur over which you have no control. Perhaps the branch was weakened from past storms; whatever the reason it came down. The same thing often happens in the workplace where events occur that cause people to fail and offices to close. The best thing that can be done is to be thankful for what didn’t occur (e.g. damage to my house, garden, or car) and to consider if anything could have been done to prevent the damage that did occur.

Two good comments came from folks reading a few of my thoughts. They gave me a laugh so I’ll repeat them here.They’ll remain anonymous because I truly forgot who wrote them.

*Heh heh! Had I known that a can of Sluggo on my desk (when applied judiciously) would have helped nurture projects……

*Management sprays RoundUp and calls it MiracleGro……