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A Good Manager Is Like a Gardener

teamcoder profile image Robert Ecker Originally published at team-coder.com Updated on ・1 min read

Since I attended a Management 3.0 workshop a couple of weeks ago there is one thing that I cannot get out of my mind. It was a simple metaphor: A good manager is like a gardener. Imagine a garden full of vegetables, fruits and other plants. The gardener’s job is to create as much value as possible out of the garden. Value might be the fruits that the plants create. The more tomatoes, strawberries and potatoes grow the more value comes out of the garden.

What can the gardener do to create more value? Would it be helpful to go to the tomato plant and tell it to grow faster? To create more tomatoes? Definitely not. Are there any benefits the gardener should offer the tomato plant for growing faster? I don’t think so. But what can the gardener do? He can change the environment. He can create an optimal environment for the tomato plant and all the other plants to grow and create fruits. The gardener can give them water, maybe also a little bit of fertilizer. He can rearrange the plants if he realises that two of them have a bad influence on each other. Maybe one of them is too dominant and represses the other one. He can also protect the plants from too much direct sun light by creating some shadow areas.

In my opinion, a good manager should do what a gardener would do: Not telling his people what to do but helping them to grow. Creating an environment where everybody is save and where everybody can improve, be productive and be happy.


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Ben Halpern

I think gardening and similar biologically-inclined metaphors are better suited for our industry than "architecture" sort of stuff. It takes a bit of humbleness to acknowledge the way things we do can grow in ways we didn't intend.

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Cosima Laube

I do like your abstraction to "biologically-inclined metaphors" Ben.

Thank you Robert for that article referring to our Management 3.0 workshop. That gardener metaphor also sticked to my mind since then. One thing I would add as a word and as a trait is 'patience' - with the plants and with oneself being a gardener.

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Robert Ecker Author

Yes and, like a gardener would do it with a bonsai tree, we should also cut down our code base regularly :)

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David Herrera

It is a great metaphor! I'm reading "How to Change the World: Management 3.0 " and it's a really exciting.

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Robert Ecker Author

Thanks for the hint, I will put it on my reading list :)