Managing the garden

David Wilson is editor of Engineeringtalk and Electronicstalk and associate editor of The Engineer

The managing director of the small to medium-sized enterprise (SME) had a rather large back garden. Sadly, though, it had become fairly neglected over the winter months and, as a result, the trees, shrubs and lawn all needed a lot of attention. So one bank-holiday weekend, he decided to do something about it.

Armed with a variety of electrically powered implements, he went at the task of mowing the lawn, trimming the hedges, weeding the flower beds and cutting back the shrubs that had died over the past winter like a man possessed. In the process, he amassed wheelbarrow loads of cuttings, which he piled onto a large heap.

Then, as the sun started to sink in the west, he took a copy of the local free Sunday newspaper, crumpled it under the 6ft-high pile of garden waste and set fire to it. Hours later, the fire had burnt out, leaving not a single trace of the massive mound of garden detritus he had stacked up during the day.

The next morning, before he left for work, the managing director took a stroll down the garden to re-examine his handiwork. Sadly, as pleased as he had been with his efforts the previous evening, in the dim grey light of morning the garden looked no different to the way that it had before winter.

Rather forlornly, he realised that he had only maintained the garden, as opposed to making any tangible difference to it. He also realised that to do that would require hours’ more effort and perhaps several more bank holidays.

Back at work several hours later, the managing director took a stroll through his engineering, sales and marketing departments, casually observing his employees, who were meticulously going about their jobs in a customary fashion.

But as he walked through each department, he asked himself whether many of the employees might be simply maintaining the status quo of his company, rather than making any transformative difference to it, much in the same way that his efforts in his back garden that past weekend had yielded few tangible results.

Upon returning to his office, the managing director telephoned a local gardening company, who duly descended upon his back yard like white on rice for a number of days. Thanks to their efforts, I’m pleased to say that his garden is now an eye-watering delight of new shrubs, flowers and plants beset in a neatly trimmed lawn.

With his garden now under the control of a competent third party, the managing director plans to transform his company in a similar fashion, and to examine the ways in which he might do so he recently hired a team of crack engineering consultants. They might cost him a few bob but, if the results he gets are as good as the ones from his gardening team, it will be well worth it.

David Wilson

The Wilson’s world blog also forms part of the Engineeringtalk, Electronicstalk and Manufacturingtalk newsletters. To subscribe, go here for Engineeringtalk, here for Electronicstalk and here for Manufacturingtalk