A few years ago, during a renovation of our backyard, we established a garden area that contains four raised-bed planter boxes. Those beds, with our care and feeding, have yielded beautiful lettuces, bucketfuls of cherry tomatoes and a variety of peppers, carrots and peas. It’s a garden that, once started, tends to take on a life of its own. Such are the favorable growing conditions of southern California!
This year, for so many very good reasons, the beds are empty. Optimistically, we replenished them with potent new soil but then simply didn’t follow through and get them planted.
The image of those empty beds came to mind yesterday as I was thinking about what happens in too many organizations; mission, vision and values statements are decided upon, videos are made and posters are placed without any clear plan for activation.
Just like my empty planters, those high-minded statements and principles contain essential nutrients. They have the potential to sustain the growth of something quite powerful but only if thoughtfully activated and carefully tended.
You would never assume that just creating the space for a garden and filling it with fresh soil would lead to a bumper crop.
So why is it repeatedly assumed that videos and posters are sufficient means for helping thoughtful people act upon something as important as what your organization stands for and who you aspire to be?
Culture is the sum total of the conversations you have about the things that matter most. It has the potential for vigorous growth – in precisely the ways you would like it to – but only after it is properly seeded, watered, picked and pruned. In other words, paid attention to.
You can build those planters in a day or two. But you will never be done with the gardening.
DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.