Thursday, February 2, 2012

Of Bamboo Shoots and Growth

Sometime back, I read an article on the Web about bamboo shoots and grass. It mentioned how bamboo takes six years to grow and develop roots before it shoots up, and grass on the other hand grows almost instantly.  I never found the need to watch bamboo shoots grow, but, the central theme of this article stayed in my mind for a few days. Experience is a great teacher and lays the foundation of becoming a good professional. And experience takes time…

As far as I can remember, I have always been a man in a hurry. I wanted to get things done quickly and race to the top. Be it during my school days, or at the workplace. In fact, in one of my earlier organizations, my boss recognized this trait in me. He repeatedly told me that ‘everything takes time.’ I never really paid attention to his words. To me, it seemed unfair that a few of my batch mates had risen to the next-level, while I was where I began. I knew I deserved a promotion, but instead felt unappreciated and not valued.

In those days, it was not normal to go ask your boss, ‘why not me?’ My manager sensed the question but didn’t allow me to surface it. Today, I know why. He wanted me to understand the value of experience. The perfect opportunity came his way. As part of an employee engagement program, I made a recommendation to introduce a suggestion scheme for our 3000 factory employees. I had a plan - 50 suggestion boxes, placed in strategic areas across the buildings. My boss was apprehensive and told me, ‘Nathan, I don’t think this will work. We as an organization aren’t ready for this.’ But, I was eager to prove myself and quite insistent. The project involved an amount of Rs. 12,000 (equivalent to over a lakh rupees today), something my boss rightly questioned. It came down to being a case of my idea versus his ‘wisdom,’ and, finally my idea (read ego) prevailed. I got the go ahead!
The scheme was launched. I waited through the day with bated breath, expecting tons of suggestions. The first day, I had sambhar poured into one of the suggestion box that was kept in the cafeteria and chewing tobacco wrappers the next. Six months later, in spite of promotions and publicity, things were no different.

 I went for a review of the suggestion scheme with my boss, and accepted that it was a complete mess. Instead of saying ‘I told you so,’ he asked me why I thought it had failed. I reiterated his words; we were not ready for it. I spoke to various department heads to figure out a way to make it work. We concluded that the workers didn’t trust the management enough to come forward and offer suggestions. In order to get, we had to give and earn the trust of our people. We covered the necessary ground and launched the same suggestion boxes a year later. And this time, the suggestions poured in.

My boss asked me the same question, again. ‘Why has it been a success this time around?’  I finally understood what he meant by things take time. Sometimes, they just do take time.

Coming back to my position in the organization. I continued to do my work and never asked my boss why he hadn’t promoted me in almost seven years in spite of a high success rate. I finally understood that maybe it wasn’t yet the right time.

Then one day, he called me and told me about my new role. It was two rungs higher than my current position. He smiled and said, ‘I know it’s been a long time, but I hope it was worth your wait.’ It truly was.  As I look back and reflect on my career, I do believe that it is better to wait and work hard on operating on the next level. When you deserve, you will receive, but sometimes, these things just take some time. I wish I had read the bamboo shoots article early on in my career, to understand better, how the long-lasting bamboo takes longer – to shoot up – grass.


  1. Very Nice, somethings do take time.

  2. Thanks Sir for sharing your experience. A lot to learn.


  3. Dear Nathan! This is a great article suitable specially in the Indian context where people think they are due for a promotion every two years. I agree with you that our experience (in true sense and not by the number of years), depth of knowledge and patience will lead us to greater heights beyond our expectations. Thanks for reiterating the message.

  4. Starting my day at work with a very inspiring article, a very true one. Thanks for sharing, Nathan! I do believe that the right things, happen at the right time, in the right way - Everything has a reason, many times we realize it later.

  5. Very nice article. I agree somethings do take time.

  6. Thanks for sharing this story... We are lucky to have mentors like you who share the message in the best possible way.

  7. This message was truly "written on the wall" for me! Thank you for sharing your insights Nathan- you make complex things in life look simpler!

  8. Very insightful, to become a true leader you need to have experience !


  9. Good article as always boss and though I have heard it many a times before from you, this still inspires me and thanks for sharing it in the best possible way!! Thank you and have a pleasant evening ahead.

  10. Thanks for sharing this information.
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