The Orchard and the Orchardist

In an attempt to offer some simple guidelines —

This was originally written as a metaphor about being a good team-mate and steward of Agile practices, but it applies to pretty much every group in which a person might find him or herself a member—a family, a town, a company, a fellowship, heck, even a coven I guess.

There is always work to be done, but it is work that not only sustains the team, but it is work that sustains you. Teams can grow and expand and contract.  Teams can have political in-fighting. Teams can struggle, and teams can thrive. There are countless forces affecting a team’s cohesion. As a member of that group, you have a part to play.

“But I’m just one team member.  What difference can I make?” Well, you don’t have to do it all, but you can roll up your sleeves and try to do a few small things.  You have choices; make them.



And the metaphor begins . . .

Think of the team and yourself as the ongoing balance that must be struck between an orchardist and an orchard. Every day you should be looking for way to–


  • Cultivate the soil to make it fertile
  •  or plant saplings to start new growth
  •  or water the plants that they may grow
  •  or pull the weeds that choke your crop
  •  or prune the branches for the best production.

If you can’t do any of those things, it may be your turn to be the orchard–

  • Be the soil and allow yourself to be cultivated
  • or be the sapling and seek to grow
  • or drink the water and bloom
  • or be the healthy tree and overshadow the weeds
  • or be open to being pruned to grow stronger branches and better fruit.

finally, if you just can’t do any of those things, at the very least–


  • Don’t trample the ground so nothing can grow.
  • Don’t break the saplings before they grow.
  • Don’t waste the water.
  • Don’t be a weed and strangle trees that are trying to grow.
  • Don’t tangle the other branches with wild growth that produces no fruit.Ask yourself which of the above you have been doing.  Which of them can you do more of? Are there any that you feel you should not be doing?postscript:Those who know me know that I love to use metaphors to get my point across. Teachers, coaches, Priests and Rabbis, for millennia, have all offered metaphors to provide a deeper, more personal understanding of the ideas they are trying to convey. For those familiar with the New Testament, there are obvious parallels here (John 15; Luke 8; Mat.13:23). Since Jesus taught in parables, and because he was calling his disciples to be good people in a community, I find it nearly impossible not to overlap when coaching teams to be self organizing AND respectful of a framework. (Notice I did not say “closely adherent to …;” I said “respectful of …” because there is aways room for change and improvement in Agile). Now, whether you find yourself uncomfortable with this parallel to religious teachings in general, or you find yourself offended by this call to “teamwork” because you fear it diminishes Jesus’ teachings, I ask that you try to remain open-minded. Try to acknowledge that, no matter where it is coming from, the standard to which we are all striving is good “teamwork” among members who equally respect one another as much as the goal of the team.
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