This quote has always touched me. Perhaps it is because I’ve often been affected by it, and also witnessed my colleagues & business organizations be impacted by it. I thought I’d try to shed a little light on its importance in the hopes of making the business / corporate world a better place, and to help businesses see what they seldom cannot see.
“When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.”
But when it comes to business organizations and people, what do we mean by “environment”?
If we think about it, it’s everything around us – whether outside or inside our organization/business. Sometimes we have control over just the “internal” environment, and we also need to prepare for the “external” environmental winds.
So “environment” is that nurturing, ever-evolving, and surrounding source that needs continuous cultivation. It’s similar to our land, the climate, the winds, the soil, the nutrients we put in it, pollutants, threats to it, etc.. etc.. It is internal and external.
Our “environment” feeds everything within the business – corporate culture, organizational structure, our behaviors / interactions, performance, policies- starting with leadership first and foremost, as they set the behavioral examples for employees and others. Environment also covers interactions between stakeholders, customers, the company, and more.
We must monitor the environment, continually inspect it, and adapt it.
Understanding the organizational environment, and continuously changing it is necessary to achieve the organization’s desired strategic business outcomes. We can try to eliminate staff-level employees all day long so we can move forward, but rehiring new employees, and putting them in the SAME environment is not going to give us much forward growth.
CEO’s and CIO’s have become so focused on only the big hairy audacious business and financial goals, that it’s easy for them to become overwhelmed and forget about the organizational environment.
The business environment is getting more dynamic. Technology changes among other changes are changing the corporate world we live in. What once gave companies the competitive advantage is now giving them the competitive disadvantage. It’s forcing companies to re-think their competitive strategies.
Remembering to continuously monitor your internal and external organizational environment is KEY to your organization’s survival. It is at the very root – much like a tree’s roots. If you don’t pay attention to them, continuously cultivate the roots, and nurture them, the tree will eventually rot or die.
This is one area that Agile coaches focus on, and can help surface awareness and forward motion for organizations to improve upon.
We know that organizational culture can make or break a company. Culture is one key factor of the environment.
So you can bring in Scrum, Kanban, SAFe, etc… or try to fix just your engineering or technology departmental ways of working, but you will only go so far.
Maybe that’s all that needs attention for your organization, but in my experience in and out of organizations, it is sometimes much much bigger than that. The issues can be deeply rooted in the culture which is part of the environment.
I have learned that the easy-to-ignore “environment” is usually the one place that needs attention and focus before anything else can truly take root from and grow. Sadly, it is often looked at lastly if it’s even focused on at all. Experienced Agile Coaches know that without focusing on the culture first, everything else – scrum training, scrum, implementations of Kanban, and other frameworks or processes may only go so far depending on the state of the organizational environment.
Here are a few starting questions you can ask to help you decide if people can blossom and grow in your organization’s environment. If the answer to any of these is “no”, then there is an opportunity to fix the environment so people can grow and your business will blossom.
Does leadership create psychological safety where people can feel safe to surface or admit failures?
- Does leadership open the space and invite its employees to bring solutions by asking them OR do the leaders come up with the solutions and enforce them?
- Does leadership enable its people to be autonomous and take ownership of the work they do?
- Do they have to ask for permission OR can they just do it, then discuss it with their boss?