On plants, offices, Corona, LEAN – find the connection

Dead or Alive? As long as we understand why... LEAN Thinking

Israeli hi-tech companies are competing on how to attract employees and are trying to look their very best “in the eyes of the employees”. The workplaces have to be pleasant, pampering, and well designed. And when something goes wrong. It stands out!


I sat at a meeting with a client at one of the most prestigious towers in Tel Aviv. An entire floor, on the higher floors, with a magnificent panoramic view. Luxurious work areas, lots of meeting rooms, and game rooms, sweet design. but… I suddenly realized, all the plants were dead, or on the brink of death. Dried up.

I raised my head and saw that it was not just one plant, but about 20 giant potted plants: palms, ferns, etc., and a dozen or more medium and small potted plants. All dead without any of the tens of workers stopping to notice and ask: “Why?”, nor any of the workers trying to rectify the situation.

In a world where the culture is LEAN you would expect that at least one of the 200 or so employees in the office would notice the problem…. and then try to figure out why this is happening.

Ok… there is/was Corona, however we’re now in the office, the plants survived these two years, but need first aid… I immediately went to water them.

But then you have to ask what’s going on. Why? The company invested thousands of shekels in these plants! What about its image? What about the sorrow of the plants themselves?

Allegedly – this is not one of the wastes LEAN talks about

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I went to find out…. Why? Why? Why? (And if necessary – 7 times):

Me: Why are the plants dying?
Answer: there was no one to take care of them.
Me: But why? Now we’re here.
Answer: ask the office manager. I really didn’t notice.
Me (after a day when the office manager is back at work): but why?
The office manager: because there was a cleaner who was in charge, and she left…
Me: But there’s another cleaner, so why?
Office manager: because there were two – and they watered the plants too much.
Me: but now the plants have dried up. So why?
Office manager: it’s a painful issue. I’ll take care of it.

If you are sensitive to waste, even if it is a waste in the process of running an office, then you expect everyone to develop a sensitivity to waste.

For the sake of perfection, it’s also worth talking about the eighth waste – the biggest of them all: not trusting your team.

The biggest waste? Not trusting your team/employees.

In the words of Steve Jobs:

It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so THEY can tell us what to do.

And let’s go back to ‘waste’: maybe lessons learned?

  1. Is it possible that plants in the office are a waste, and, therefore, no one cares when they die?
  2. Maybe hi-tech workers aren’t sensitive to plants and the environment? And the plants are only for the visitors’ benefit?
  3. Is it possible that we weren’t taught to lift our heads and look and fix what’s bothering us? The opposite of Be Proactive?
  4. Is it possible that someone decided to take care only of the plant next to him.her but did not see the big picture – that it is all around him.her?
  5. Is it possible that the office has become redundant? So we don’t care?… Anyway, shall we be proactive?

In the meantime, a month later, there is already another gardening contractor that has replaced the plants and is taking care of the new plants.

But still: there’s an important lesson here. Do we really know how to create a culture of waste awareness among employees, as well as create comfortable workplaces?