HANDS-ON interim management

The Mangrove Connection. What's in the name?

The name Mangrove Connection wasn’t just randomly chosen. During my travels, and especially living and working in Sri Lanka, I became fascinated by this remarkable vegetation that is mainly found around coastal areas close to the equator. Most mangroves are found on muddy ground, but they can also thrive on sand, peat or coral rocks. After a few conversations with experts on the subject, it quickly became clear to me that mangroves are one of the most underrated ecosystems in the world. These remarkable forests are of great importance to coastal communities as they are not only a source of food, but they also protect the coastline by preventing erosion and regulating our climate.

Another thing that really appealed to me is the fact that mangroves are very resistant and adapt easily to harsh conditions. They can survive where much other vegetation cannot, where the land meets the sea. The extreme fluctuations in salt levels and tides coupled with a suffocating mud substrate makes this area undesirable for most plants, but proves to be the perfect match for mangroves to bloom undisturbed. To survive in this constantly changing environment, mangroves have some unique adaptations, such as their exposed roots. The thick mud under the plants does not contain much oxygen, so the roots are obliged to break above the mud like a snorkel, and thus absorb oxygen directly from the air. The roots, which grow above ground, are covered with tiny lenticels (a type of pore) that help the plant to breathe in the mud and water. The complex root system anchors in the soft mud and also attaches to other mangrove plants nearby. By intertwining its roots to create a flexible anchor mat, the plants protect themselves from the tides and also protect the coastline from erosion due to the waves. In many cases, beaches also form behind the mangroves, as the waves become slow and leave sand sediment behind. I like to compare this tangling of roots with the connection we find in organizations and companies; a strong team that works well together, towards a clear common goal, with defined roles and full of confidence in each other, can achieve great things.

The link to interim management, change management and crisis management was obvious to me. Here, too, it is about the roots and tackling problems at the root. Organizations and companies often have to survive in the mud, with little oxygen. The way in which the proverbial roots are connected determines whether a company merely survives or actually thrives extremely well, gaining strength and growing.

It’s also important to draw attention to mangroves as unfortunately they are being cut at a rapid pace worldwide for new homes, buildings, golf courses, agriculture, timber, etc. Many countries are beginning to recognize the importance of mangroves and have introduced strict laws to protect them. I am therefore delighted that Sri Lanka was the first country to protect its mangroves. Unesco also recognized this and therefore proclaimed the 26th of July as "International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem" (https://en.unesco.org/commemorations/mangroveday).

The figurative trademark of the Mangrove Connection shows the roots and branches of the mangroves, but in the shape of a lotus flower. The latter is the pre-eminent symbol for transformation. Most companies fear problems, change, crisis and conflict, but all these elements are needed to grow. After all, it takes darkness to see the light, and a lotus needs mud to grow. No mud, no lotus!

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