Ever heard of bamboo?
I once heard a great story about bamboo.
If you sow a bamboo seed in the ground and water it well all summer long you will get…nothing.
If you water it well and add some fertilizer the following summer you will get …nothing.
Add some love and care for a whole other summer and you will get…nothing.
Be patient for one more summer and you will get…nothing.
BUT…on the fifth summer, the very absent and much desired bamboo shoot will appear  and grow to its full height within a few weeks…as high as 30 m in one summer.
That is a reward worth waiting for!
Isn’t it?
A few factoids :
Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plant in the world.  it’s part of the grass family.
It can grow as high as 2.5 m in one day!
It is used as a material for building, writing but can also be used as a weapon or a musical instrument. Bamboo is used throughout the world but does not grow as fast everywhere. It needs a suitable climate.
And a suitable soil.
And, although it is almost like a weed, it still needs some nurturing.
You see, bamboo cannot grow until the rhyzome system that supports it is extensive and well maintained.
No roots, no shoot.
No shoot, no tree.
I cannot help but draw a parallel with the way we put some efforts into building a culture of quality in our organizations.
Do we water tenderly our future shoots for five years before expecting results?
Do we carefully monitor the growth of the rhizome system, the roots of our culture to ensure it will eventually produce this superb 30m-high trunk?
Do we believe we will succeed after years of efforts, do we have faith in our roots?
Do we want results?
Do we want them fast?
But, do we really think we can achieve this without a strong and efficient root systems?
Aw…we cannot really believe this….
I recently had a frank discussion with an executive of a huge manufacturing company. I have the highest esteem for this guy, by the way. I usually listen intensely and everything he says are pearls of wisdom.
And he left me dumbfounded this time.
“In order to get other executives’ attention, you MUST talk about CULTURE …”
I was right on target with him…so far….
“…and how to change it FAST…”
The image of a bamboo shooting towards the sky like a rocket appeared in my mind.
“…within six to 12 months.”
I tried to argue for a while but he kept at it :
As I was about to explode (politely), he continued : “ You do not have to make it happen completely in 12 months but show them observable results, lots of results in that time span.”
“And show them how to sustain them and increase them afterwards….”
And it got me thinking : We all know and understand that a profound culture change cannot happen overnight but can we confidently expect rapid results in a short time span ? But, of course!
For this we need :
  1. A clear vision of the expected “culture” we desire ;
  2. A clear signal on a continuous basis from the organizations leaders ;
  3. Congruent behaviours from aforementioned leaders ;
  4. Measurable outcomes, long term and short term ones ;

Goals and objectives that are :

  • meaningful
  • actionable
  • recognized once achieved

5. and, oh yes….real commitment from everyone (see the different level of commitment here)

Oh, but wait…I just wrote this spontaneously…but, but….These are part of Deming’s 14 points in some form or another!
In its 1982 book “Out of the Crisis”, Deming envisioned at least 30 years of efforts for America to go back to a level of excellence and quality equivalent to the standards of the 1950’s. Well….it looks as tough they were passed the expiry date on his expectations.
The 14 points are still valid today.
But we are still struggling.
At least some of us are.
Most of us?
I think we are heading in the right direction but, oh, soooo slowly.
Am I overly realistic or pessimistic ?
Or simply naive in my expectations ?
Or maybe I should think of a part time job in gardening…bamboo of course!
A final thought, apparently a native American saying,
“Oh supreme Manitou, please give me patience….and bring it FAST!!!”
As usual, your insight and comments are most welcome!
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