The manager as gardener. This image sticks with me from the book Manager Redefined by Thomas Davenport and Stephen Harding. They see effective middle managers as creating an ecosystem which allows employees to flourish. So taking this analogy further (and probably further that Davenport and Harding intended) what gardening tasks do managers do?

Pruning is determining what not to do. It’s so easy to keep adding new projects and tasks without deciding that some activities are no longer useful. Even though we do them well, we need to stop. Judicious pruning also encourages new growth.

Weeding removes obstacles. Dealing with small issues early before they can grow and take over . Removing unnecessary policy, procedures or structures that get in the way or take up resources at the expense of desired plants. Removing the weeds gives people the freedom they need to do their jobs.

Fertilising is not dumping manure! It is providing what is needed to support healthy growth: resources, information, and encouragement.

Protection finally, supervisors might need to provide protection from harsh organisational sun and wind (or careful exposure when weaker plants need to toughen up).

The gardener’s work is constant. Small interventions made regularly rather than a bulldozer when the plot is overgrown and weeds have got out of control (although occasional remodelling will be necessary). Wise gardeners know that the garden alters day by day. A garden where nothing changes is either plastic or dead.