When I was a kid, I used to slip out the back door in the mornings, whisk across the dewy yard, and sit in our tomato patch as the birds woke up across the neighborhood. It wasn’t a big garden - but it was big enough for a little girl to rest and smell the spring. If there’s one scent I associate with my childhood home in Virginia, it’s the tangy scent of blossoming tomato plants.
This year, for the first time in my adult life, I have my own yard. As the winter sky began to lighten and the woods behind my house turned from brown to green seemingly overnight, I couldn’t help but remember that childhood tomato patch. I ordered some heirloom seeds from the internet, dreaming of lemon-colored cucumbers, rainbows of tomatoes, and trailing vines of purple beans.
Now, to be frank, I have to say that my experience with gardening is limited to smelling my mom’s tomatoes. But how hard can growing seeds really be?
Turns out, it’s hard, you guys.
After tons of research, I decided on the plastic baggie method to sprout my little seeds. I laid them out with great precision, carefully spacing them and labeling the bags. I made large envelopes to keep them in the dark on a specially ordered heat mat.
And then I waited.
Listen to this Post and Subscribe to the Podcast:
A few days later, no progress.
A week later, a couple of sprouts!
A few days after that… a white, fuzzy, horrible mold smelling distinctly like death had overcome my would-be garden.
You see, I knew the basics of what a seed needs to grow. Moisture and warmth, and later, sunlight. Pretty basic stuff, right? We learned this in elementary school.
What I didn’t realize was that they also need airflow. I did EVERYTHING else correctly, down to a T, but my seeds were still a total loss. You see, if you’re missing any one of the critical elements to growing plants, nothing will grow.
The same is true for an improvement culture.
It looks simple at first, and a quick Google search will tell you what you need to get started - a way to capture ideas, a way to collaborate, leadership behaviors - there’s so much content out there on this topic, it’s easy to feel like an expert. Then, when you struggle to spread your improvement culture, you’re left with a bag of moldy seeds wondering what went wrong.
Me? I was missing airflow. Your problems are much more difficult to solve, but as with my plants, the first step is figuring out exactly what you need for a sustainable improvement culture.