Machine Design
The Dandelion Theory of Management

The Dandelion Theory of Management

Over the years I’ve come across many books on management theory. A recent search of Amazon using “management theory” as the subject yielded 7,276 responses. Some of them have very eye-catching titles such as Who Moved My Cheese? by Dr. Spencer Johnson. Although I’ll never write my own, over the years I’ve come up with a great new perspective, one that’s been reinforced every spring when the dandelions start to emerge. And what could be simpler? I think of it as “The Dandelion Theory of Management: Everything You Need to Know about Managing an Organization Can Be Learned in Your Own Backyard.” Maybe someone else can take this cue and write a 200-page bestseller.

Some of this theory’s principles are:
• Problems, like dandelions, never truly go away. You keep things under control through constant vigilance and immediate action whenever they raise their heads.

• Some problems are easy to spot from a distance, but it works best if you regularly get out into the field and walk around, looking for those that are hidden or camouflaged, just waiting to emerge when you stop paying attention for a few days.


• Subordinates (like young children) sometimes think they are helping by running ahead of you and pulling the tops off. They are really only making the problems worse.


• The corollary, if you want to seriously address the problem, you can’t just remove the obvious blossom, you need to get to the root.


• Problems tend to cluster. And if you fail to address them in a timely way before they go to seed, you’re in for a lot more work several weeks down the road.


• You can take shortcuts—chemical treatments, for example—but there are always unwanted side effects. Nothing substitutes for a hands-on, personal approach and it is an excellent way to show and teach others what you expect.


• When times are hard, and the rains don’t come, dandelions seem to thrive, soaking up much needed moisture and other resources from outcomes (plants) you would rather see. It’s in those times, especially, when the rewards for your efforts become more obvious.

I could go on and on, but instead I invite you to add a comment, building on the theme. What does it take, from your experience, to create a nice green, productive yard?

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