On a trip to Asia, I had the opportunity of exploring a densely populated Bamboo forest – a surreal experience, where the wind causes the bamboo to creak and groan as the tall plants rub against each other. In the Asian humidity and with the right soil conditions, these monsters grow into giants alongside each other, forming an impenetrable fortress, a barrier to the world beyond. At first, I thought that they were trees and named them as such, but was quickly corrected by my guide – they are the largest evergreen plants in the grass family and some of the fastest growing plants in the world. Apparently, you plant the Chinese Bamboo bulb in well-prepared soil, nurture, fertilise and water the ground. In the first year, you see no visible signs of growth. The same is true of the second, third and fourth years. In the fifth year, Chinese Bamboo grows close to 30 metres (80 – 90 feet) tall, within the space of three to four months. This equates to a growth rate of just less than a metre (3 feet) per day! During the first four years, the bamboo is preparing the root structure (all the growing taking place beneath the surface) in order to be able to feed the quick growth in the fifth year.

Perhaps in our personal lives and maybe even in your organisation’s life, growth and change may not yet be visible in the ways we would like it to be. This does not necessarily mean that nothing is changing, however, as work is being done “below the surface” that will have impact in time to come. We must not lose hope (as in the planting of the Chinese Bamboo bulb and seeing nothing happen for four years), but continue to find ways of encouraging and stimulating development, finding key areas of high leverage that will strengthen the inner core of the company or institution – trust, quality of relationships, accountability and creativity.

Personal and organisational growth is dependent on this nurturing and caring process – focused energy being applied to factors that stimulate development, stability and sustainability. Employee engagement needs to be a high priority – managers developing the environment where employees feel valued and where their respective contribution efforts are noticed and appropriately recognised. Over time, organisational roots will become fully developed, values will be established and practised and the stage will be set for the organisation to realise desired exponential growth.

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