Be Like an Aspen Grove

It’s good to get back to nature–it’s a change of pace; it’s generally relax­ing; and sometimes you can learn a few valuable lessons by just paying attention.

That Tree Sure Is Pretty...
I like aspen trees. We used to have one in our yard at our first house in New Hampshire. The trunk has a unique white bark, and the leaves turn a brilliant yellow color in the Fall.

But there was something I never realized about these trees until some­one brought it to my attention: all of the trees in an aspen grove share a common root system–essentially, they’re all the same tree!

Now this may not be of much interest to you unless you’re in the tree-care profession (as are some of our members), but the concept is both interesting and relevant on several levels.

Everything Affects Everything
Because they’re all interconnect­ed, all aspen trees in the same grove share the exact same DNA,

So, for starters, it’s quite possible that a large aspen grove could quite possibly be among the largest living organisms we know of.

And because each tree is an inte­gral part of a larger community of trees, what happens to one affects all the others, whether mildly or signifi­cantly.

Compare this, then, with what happens in the large-scale systems of your own organizations and commu­nities.

Know Your Role
Each part of the tree has a specif­ic purpose–the leaves are part of the photosynthesis process that nurtures the tree and helps to produce oxygen in the environment.

The trunk functions as a spine, providing the structure and the pas­sageway to transport nutrients and water from the roots through to the branches and leaves.

Finally, the root system keeps the trees firmly anchored to the ground, and, in this case, to each other.

In a work group, people also have different roles, and the extent to which they succeed in these roles ultimately determines the success of the group.

Sales and customer-service em­ployees are like the leaves–they open up and face out, providing the sur­face contact with customers, clients, and members.

There are internal support groups like finance, HR, and IT, that provide the structure for the organization.

And there are people who work in marketing and business-development groups who act like the roots–seek­ing out opportunities to nourish the group and deliver “nutrients” in the form of new products, new services, and new opportunities.

Understand Your Interactions
In the aspen grove, all the trees are interconnected, as are all the groups, components, and parts of your organization.

Wedding Seating Plan - cropped

That’s why it’s absolutely essential that everyone understands how the work they do contributes to the over­all success of the company–even if they don’t have direct contact with the external customer.

The finance group that delays paying invoices risks having ven­dors that withhold deliveries to field personnel.

A customer-service team that’s unaware of a major promotion risks alienating end customers and de­stroying a perfectly good marketing campaign.

The actions of employees in one part of the organization–whether positive or negative–can and do impact the performance of other groups.

Cross-Functional Representation
If communication and cooperation between various groups are essential, then you have to make a deliberate effort to encourage and facilitate ef­fective and productive interaction.

In our Business-Assessment Work­shops, for example, the participants work in teams of 7 or 8 people, sit­ting at round tables.

The seating arrangement, how­ever, is far from random. Rather than allowing people to sit where they want to, our preparation for these programs is kind of like creating the seating chart for a wedding...with a few notable exceptions.

For example, at a wedding, you would tend to have members of the same family sitting together. In our sessions, you would do the equiva­lent of having the table composed of people from different families.

This is done so that there is repre­sentation at each table, when pos­sible, from all functional groups that are participating.

At a wedding, if Aunt Martha can’t stand Uncle Bill, you seat them at opposite ends of the reception hall. In our session, we would have Aunt Martha sitting practically in Uncle Bill’s lap!

That’s because when you’re working together on issues of critical importance to an organization, petty grievances and differences will usu­ally get pushed off to the side.

Your organization is a dynamic, organic, interconnected entity. Get all of the parts working together, and you’ll see great results!