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September 13, 2008

Growing Great Gardens

Very happy day! - I had the chance to start creating the landscaping around my new house.  It was lots of fun - a team effort with my daughter and her husband, my friend Gjoko and his friend Kelvin - and as always, I saw the parallels between gardening and business.

Today, the lesson was about flexibility in how to achieve a vision.  I was very clear on my hoped-for garden: I wanted a front yard of mixed perennials, vs. a lawn. Natural, low maintenance, long-blooming, deer-resistant.  It would need to be mostly sun-lovers, with a few areas for part-shade plants. Mostly yellows, purples and whites, with lots of great foliage. A small sitting area, surrounded by fragrant plants. The whole thing anchored by a few specimen trees and shrubs.

That was the vision - quite clear.  Before we went out to the garden centers, I made a list: all the specific plants I needed to achieve the vision.

Here's where the lesson comes in. Although fall is a great time to plant perennials, both because it's easier for them to settle in and because they're often on sale, I forgot something important -- nurseries' stocks tend to be low in autumn. Many of the plants I wanted simply weren't available.

This is where I got flexible and stayed strategic, according to my own definition ("Consistently making those core directional choices that will best move you toward your hoped-for future"). I let go of my list; my new directional choice was to pick from what was available.

And it worked beautifully.  I had to use a flowering cherry instead of a dogwood; asters instead of rudbeckia; a kind of primula instead of oenothera...but the overall feeling and look are just what I wanted.

What I notice all too often in business is that people let go of their hoped-for future when confronted by obstacles, and default to something they don't really want -- instead of simply figuring out another way to achieve that future. 

Sometimes you have to let go of your specific list, without letting go of the dream garden.



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Great post, Erika, and another fine gardening metaphor. You note that often business people let go of their hoped for future when confronted by obstacles. This is certainly true. Part of the reason, methinks, is that they define "hoped-for-future" in too much detail and they fallen victim to the idea that having a great strategy is the answer to all things. Then, when the inevitable difficulties hit, they abandon that strategy because it doesn't look so great. It seems far better to keep a general outcome in mind and choose the best available means to get there.


As usual, I agree. People get welded to "a strategy" rather than being strategic in their approach. Ant that level of inflexibility just doesn't work in real life!


Strategy often fills a set of binders and winds up propping open doors. "Strategic" is a way of acting, making choices, setting course.

Yes, yes, yes - a thousand times yes!



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