Digging and filling in holes or planting seeds?

I just read a funny story that I want to share with you.

It’s about a woman who was strolling through her local park one day.

She encountered two men working very industriously. Both had spades in their hands. The first man was digging plant size holes in a large garden bed and the second man was following behind him and immediately filling in the holes the first man had made.

The woman looked at them for a while, perplexed at the apparent futility of their task. They were both clearly working hard as their sweaty brows showed but she just couldn’t understand the purpose of their actions.

Eventually she summoned up the courage to ask them.

“What are you doing?” she said

The first man said “I’m digging holes in the flower bed”

“And I’m filling those holes in” said The second man

“But what’s the point?” She continued

“Well you see” said The first man, “We usually work as a team of 3 with a lady who puts seeds in the hole I dig”

“And then I cover the seeds when I fill in the hole” said The second man. “She’s ill today so we are working without her!”

Now this story, whilst being quite amusing, clearly demonstrates the difference between commitment and accountability. Both men were clearly committed to doing their job (digging and filling holes) but neither felt accountable for making sure the main objective (planting seeds) – was being done.

Take this story, stupid as it may seem, and ask yourself if there are any analogies in your business?

I’ll bet there are! Many times in my career I have encountered teams who were happy to meet their department’s goals but contribute no further – even when they could clearly see other things they could do or influence that would help the business as a whole to benefit.

So ask yourself – are your teams digging and filling in holes or planting seeds?

Are they just committed to doing their job or do they hold their peers accountable for achieving your business goals?

I know which one I prefer!

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