Bonsai Management

I have started growing bonsai trees.  It is immensely satisfying and the results are beautiful.  It is not too difficult, this is how you do it…

  • Pick a plant species that responds well
  • Carefully trim back its roots and branches
  • Choose a small container to constrain growth
  • Plant in well-drained soil
  • Feed and water regularly
  • Prune back any unnecessary growth
  • Train with wires and weights to create the required shape

In a few years you can create a beautiful stunted tree.

Bonsai works on more than trees

You can achieve a very similar effect with your staff…

  • Select employees who will fit in and not rock the boat
  • Carefully discard any ideas they bring from previous employers
  • Create a rigid environment of rules and policies to constrain growth
  • Drain away all external influences
  • Regularly feed with corporate communications, slogans and values
  • Performance manage to trim away the dead wood
  • Impose targets and audits to create the required shape

After a few months you can create beautiful stunted employees.

The downside to bonsai management…

Once stunted, it is very difficult to get your employees to ever flourish again.  But then, why would you want them to do that?

Thanks to Annette Franz for the idea for this post.

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Bonsai Tree

Image by Kenneth F Andrade


  1. Hello James,
    Genius! Thank you, you made my day.


  2. James,

    This is similar to what happens to miniature turtles, as I wrote about in a recent post: Stunting growth is not a great experience for employees… probably not for turtles or trees, either.


  3. Kathryn Saunt says:


    Do you not think it could be a little dangerous to only hire moldable staff who are happy to accept ideas without question and fit with the norms?

    This would obviously be an ideal workforce for a factory but in most other environments it could create a stagnant business.


  4. That was the best, loved it!

  5. Hi James,
    My Dad has grown bonsai for twenty years and the thing that I learned from him is that bonsai trees always have the potential to grow to their true size if we take the constraints off them and plant them in well watered open ground.


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