It’s fair to say I spend a lot of time writing about either my work OR about allotments. Today I’m converging the two. We all need a few more silly work-life examples and metaphors don’t we?!
In my allotment, due to a lack of time and mostly a lack of effort, I tend to be a bit ‘laissez-faire’ when it comes to weeds, and I plant straight into the ground. My neighbour, for their own reasons has seemingly deconstructed Noah’s Arc in and around her plot to make many raised beds. They’ve also added a membrane and bark chippings around paths. Good luck trying to deconstruct THAT lot.
A close-by plot has meticulous rows of ‘stuff’ (I don’t know what), tied with neat bits of string, and strange plastic picket fencing. Yet another has potato rows in the usual mounds which look like an Earth Mr Whippy and have been sculpted precisely. My potato rows by contrast have grass in, glass in, stones and weeds. This is partly to test my Dads assertion that potatoes will grow in/through anything (apart from frost). We’ll see.
The same raised-bed neighbour is a regular little Costa (or betting shop) and has sprung up with several other plots in and around her first. She’s expanded.
As I was breaking my back weeding the other day, I realised that an allotments productivity is not harmed by having such varied ways of operating. Things grow, things get eaten. What’s more the variance of that produce is high, with different types of potatoes, courgettes, pumpkins, fruit and so on, on each plot. The culture of people working on their allotments is one of individualism but of a team and communal spirit. It’s almost as if by allowing each plot owner to hone and grow in their own way, the culture of the whole remains distinct and intact.
I’ll take this thought with me to work – that an organisations culture does not have to be homogeneous. Separate parts can co-exist distinctly. What counts is a strong common goal. I have worked at an organisation facing calls to identify its culture and character, then homogenise all parts. It is a very disparate organisation, grown through acquisition (mostly). The ‘Allotment Method’ dictates that you find a high level common goal (which is genuinely present) and allow variability and difference whilst promoting the common goal. As it happens, the problem is perceived as so vacuous and so difficult that it ain’t been touched yet.
It’s nice to know allotments have a place in the world of business. As a bonus, see this rather attractive shed: