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Save Your Own Rain Forest

Botanical_center_3A recent end-of-year second-grade field trip to the Des Moines Botanical Center yielded some interesting facts about rain forests I'd never thought about before.  (By the way, taking time to engage the volunteers at places like this can be very educational, as they are a vastly untapped wealth of knowledge.)

Each rain forest has four major layers:

  • Emergent layer - a few trees exceeding 125 feet (40 meters) in height serve as an overstory home to some winged creatures and a few monkeys.  Must be able to withstand heat and wind
  • Canopy layer - continuous foliage of trees in the in 90-125 feet (30-40 meter) range serve as home to as much as 50 percent of the species that can be found on earth (plants and animals)
  • Understory - all life between the canopy and the forest floor receiving only about 5% of sunlight but serving as home to many more types of animals
  • Forest floor - receiving only 2% of sunlight, this area serves as a sort of compost heap to feed the rest of the rain forest.

Botanical_center_1What amazed me is the amount of interdependency among the layers and among the different species within each layer.  There's so much diversity that no one species can dominate the others; in fact, they depend on each other for survival.

What about your organization?  Are you valuing those in other departments?  Are you recognizing how your outputs provide their inputs (and vice versa)?  Are your executives forming a symbiotic relationship with front-line staff?  Are support functions like IT really helping the organization or are they trying to take it over?  We give a lot of lip service to "adding value" but do we spend much time really defining what adding value looks like as the life blood of those who use our organizational outputs?

Botanical_center_2Ask yourself this:

  1. Who are YOUR customers?  What do they NEED from you to survive?  How can you provide it better?
  2. Who are YOUR suppliers (internal and external)?  What do you NEED from them?  Have you communicated this to them and helped them be successful?
  3. What relationships with other "species" and "layers" haven't you identified yet?  Who is paying attention to your processes and your outputs?

By all means, let's save the rain forests in our own companies as well... before they become an endangered species.


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