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Is Your Organisation Growing Fruit or Vegetables?

April 22, 2013

The great Charles Handy made a rare public appearance earlier this week, not speaking to a group of executives but at a fundraising lecture for the family support network Relate.

Is Your Organisation Growing Fruit or Vegetables?

His lecture highlighted the fact that the ‘always on’ culture, combined with less people doing more work in organisations, is threatening family life.  Interviewed ahead of the speech by Andrew Hill in the Financial Times, Handy says:  “I am seriously worried that the rather frenetic atmosphere in some organisations. . . . is really damaging relationships at home.”  No surprises there, it’s a reality many of us live with day in and day out.

What’s interesting is the root cause of this conflict.  Observing the long awaited arrival of spring this year it’s more apparent that alongside blossoming fruit trees, the green shoots of vegetables are beginning to appear. The earliest form of enterprise was agriculture and perhaps we should reflect on the farmers’ approach to asset management.

If people are your organisation’s most precious asset then is your employer cultivating an orchard that will last, or a crop that will grow fast then burn out in the heat of the sun?

Twenty years ago Charles Handy predicted a rise in what he termed the “shamrock organisation” employing a combination of core staff, contractors and part-timers.  His prophesy has come about but he fears that “the fragmentation of the workplace and, to a degree, of family life is. . . creating worse standards of living for most people”.

Ultimately of course this isn’t a choice our employers have to make at all.  It’s our choice whether we want to be a tree that bears a little fruit year after a year or a high yielding profitable crop that needs reseeding each year but could still be considered a vegetable.

What’s your crop? Lasting fruit or lucrative vegetable?

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