Sympodium: New growth during pandemic

Published December 24, 2020, 6:00 AM

by Flor G. Tarriela

The lockdown was declared mid-March and have stayed home practically all the time. 

I’m really thankful that I was able to adjust immediately to the “staycation”. I wasn’t bored staying at home with my husband Ed. And the wonder of technology as all my meetings were held virtually, one after each other (sometimes even simultaneously) possible given that I don’t have to venture into EDSA traffic.Of course, it helped that our son Edmin and family are in the same compound with our 3 grandchildren. 

At the Organization Development Practitioners Network (ODPN) webinar headed by President Milalin Javellana with the theme SympODium: “Propagating Creative OD”. Bong Austero asked me lessons I learned in gardening that can be applied to organizations. 

Right Foundation

In life, very basic is having the right foundation, in gardening it is having good soil, quality seeds and right location. And in organizations, it is having the right culture. We can’t prosper the right attitudes and values if we don’t nurture the culture that will sustain it.  A building is only as strong as its foundation. 

Years back, I wanted to buy a gardening book for kids, but cannot find any so why not write one. And that’s how “The Secret is in the Soil”book was born in collaboration with award winning children’s author Gidget Jimenez. 

Customer focus

 “I have a brown thumb. Everything I plant die after some time.”There is no such thing as a brown thumb. All of us can develop green thumbs.What is important is to know what each plant need.Plants are just like people.Some need direct sun, while others shade. Some love water while others can live with little water such as the cactus.  In banking, Know Your Customer (KYC) is very,very important.  In gardening it’s Know Your Plant (KYP).

When plants look sad (leaves curl up), check if its lacking anything such as watering, sunlight or fertilization. In an organization, if staff are not performing at par, communicate and give feedback. Evaluate fitness for the job.Is there a match of talent/skills for the position or is additional training needed?

Weeding Out

In the garden, especially during rainy season, insects, pest and weeds appear.In the organization, are there staff not carrying their weight or contributing to the overall goal? Or worse, slowing progress and even pulling the organization down.  If so, they are like pestsin the garden and need to be removed.

I’m an advocate that weeds are useful. There are edible weeds and in Flor’s Garden, we call them “weedibles” such as takipkuhol, wild pipino, etc). There also weeds that are medicinal and we call them ‘weedicines or weedibles ” such as damongmaria, tawatawa, etc. Together with friends Maur Lichauco, Carmen Florento and the walking encyclopedia on plants Noni Dolera, we wrote the book “Ooops..Don’t Throw Those Weeds Away!” However, weeds distract or compete for nutrients with the plants so while they are useful, they are better off in another place or other organizations.

Purpose and Role

All of us have specific roles and purpose in life.In the organization, each person performs a specific function/role. Plants also have its own purpose. To give us flowers such as the rose, bougainvillea etc., give out fruits like the mango, grapes etc., or just to be beautiful with its leaves foliage such as the monsteradeliciosa,sansevieria etc.  Now if the grape vine grows many leaves, it is pruned so it will give out grapes which is its purpose. There is need to review processes, procedures as there may be unnecessary steps creepingin over time. We need to cut off fats to be more efficient to ensure streamlined operations and avoid unnecessary costs. 


In organizations, we use technology to improve operations and be more efficient. With the lockdown, digitalization, online ordering, banking and payments werefast accelerated. Even I, now do online transfers comfortably from my mobile phone.Same in gardening, many online sales developed this pandemic with the plantitos and plantitas. Technology, tools and equipmenthelp protect from elements andmake work more efficient such as greenhouses, drip system, shredders etc.   

Propagation / New Growth

During this pandemic, I did a lot of gardening and propagating in our home. I realized that in propagating such as marcotting, grafting, you remove part of the skin, thus hurting the plant. Yet, this actually induces the plant to spur new growth. Let us learnfrom this crisis. Let this “hurt”, this lockdownlead us to new growth, new propagation in our lives. In addition, I also learned patience as plants don’t grow overnight. And as Joyce Kilmer said only God can make a tree.

Let’s not waste this crisis. My hope and prayer is that we learn valuable lessons inlife at this time.Live simply. Do the right thing right.Gratefulness in everything.  And most of all let’s not forget the reason for the season. Christ is the Answer. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.  Merry Christmas and let’s look forward to the New Year!


Ms. Flor Gozon Tarriela is chairman of the Philippine National Bank and PNB Capital. She is a former Undersecretary of Finance and the first Filipina vice-president of Citibank N.A. She is a trustee of FINEX Foundation, FINEX Academy and an Institute of Corporate Directors fellow. [email protected]