In 100 Words: Improvement and Tending a Garden

Improvement is never a destination, but a journey that is organic, constant and never-ending. Consider this story from Subroto Bagchi’s book “The High Performance Entrepreneur

A monk was tending to a Japanese garden and meticulously, for hours on end, he was removing dry twigs from the immaculately maintained flowering bushes.

A passer-by, who was fascinated by the complete concentration and care of the monk at work, could no longer hold himself. He asked the monk, “O holy one, when will your work be done?”

Without looking up, the monk replied, “When the last dry twig is removed from the garden.”

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Also Read: Other 100 Word Parables

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Don’t Miss: Nicholas Bate’s Life Tips 101

Great Story: Improvement and Tending the Garden

Improvement is not a product. It is process. On the journey to improve constantly, you can never announce that you have arrived because there isn’t a destination. If you get certified against an external standard, that is a milestone which can provide a framework to improve further. Organizations often fall in trap of thinking about external certifications like ISO as a destination beyond which they lose the motivation to travel further.

This reminds me of a very interesting story that I read in Subroto Bagchi’s book “The High Performance Entrepreneur”:

A monk was tending to a Japanese garden and meticulously, for hours on end, he was removing dry twigs from the immaculately maintained flowering bushes. A passer-by, who was fascinated by the complete concentration and care of the monk at work, could no longer hold himself. He asked the monk, “O holy one, when will your work be done?”

Without looking up, the monk replied, “When the last dry twig is removed from the garden”.

Bagchi adds,

“An organization, like a garden, is a living thing, and the process of removing dry twigs never ends. So, like the monk, the top management can never say, the job is done.”

Improvement was traditionally associated with growth, that if you constantly improve, you grow and prosper. As competition grew more global and fierce, constant and often dramatic improvements have become essential for mere survival.

For business leaders, it helps to adopt a mindset of Zen gardener and build a culture that strives to improve, before competition forces them to do so.

Related Reading at QAspire Blog

A Story on Importance of Processes: From Subroto Bagchi
Great Quotes: Gems from Subroto Bagchi on Leadership

Great Quotes: Gems from Subroto Bagchi on Leadership

I have always enjoyed reading thoughts of Subroto Bagchi, one of India’s most well known and respected leaders from the IT industry who operates as a “Gardener” and Vice Chairman at MindTree.

I have read both his books, “The High Performance Entrepreneur” and “Go, Kiss the World” with great interest. (Read the reviews here and here).

Mr. Bagchi recently gave an interview at Emploi Global Newsletter where he shared some very interesting (and profound) insights.

I would like to share some excerpts of that interview, and ideas that touched me the most:

On Servant Leadership

“Servant leadership is about the conviction that I am just a means to an end; I am not the purpose, I am the mode of conveyance; like a municipal water pipe, my job is to deliver the water and not quench my own thirst.”

On Receptivity as Leaders

“The Japanese say that the mind can be a mountain or a valley. However tall a mountain is, and however torrential the rain on it, it cannot hold water. To hold water, you need to make your mind a valley.”

On Being a Gardener

“The job of top leaders is to build leaders. That is a one-on-one thing like a gardener must tend to his or her plants in a one-on-one manner. Each plant has different needs at different times and the gardener must anticipate those and be proactive. The plants do not come to the gardener; the gardener must go to where the plants may be.”

Read the full interview here.

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