Planning ahead: 700 year old trees

There’s a story told during the early parts of Wood Badge for the 21st Century (a week-long leadership course for Scout leaders) about an old cathedral somewhere in the UK or Europe.

The story goes that the builders of this 700 year old building planned ahead for the maintenance of that building and a prime concern was replacing the beams in their building.

The beams in buildings of this period came from massive trees.

Presumably, the builders of the cathedral were concerned that future builders wouldn’t have the resources to maintain / repair the cathedral so they planted trees on the cathedral’s courtyard with the intent of using them in the future.

Or maybe they figured the cost would be beyond the budget of those doing the work.

Honestly, we don’t really know what drove their thought process, but it speaks well of them that they were thinking about it even during construction, despite it being so many years ago.

Naturally, the story continues with these massive trees on the property that are the only ones suitable for replacing beams in the building.

Similar stories can be found about the Tower of London’s trees, but no one is really sure if the trees were planted for this use or not.

Sharpen the chainsaw?

Now, we all know that you’d probably get strung up on one of those trees 700 years later if you proposed to cut them down to replace a failing beam in one of these structures, but that isn’t the point.

Nor is it the point that these days, engineered wood beams (made from laminated wood, resins and other products) would likely be the material of choice.

I hope it is obvious that the point of this discussion (and the reason it is used in the Wood Badge course) is the plan, the vision and the attention to detail in both.

Imagine if your business’ “What If” thought process didn’t end right after the New Year’s Eve party, but instead went 5, 10 or 25 years in advance?

If you’re thinking about your customers’ needs that far out, isn’t it more likely that your vision will be better than someone whose planning only considers what’s going on now – or maybe what might happen in the next year?


Are you strategic about something 5 years out? Or – like much of Wall Street – are you simply thinking 90-120 days in advance?

If you can see far into the future, obviously you would make better decisions now. Given that, how far forward are you looking?

Even if your vision of what your market will be and what your clients will need 10 years from now is inaccurate, that’s OK.

The process, research and examination of your market, your customers and your own business will yield much better short-term decision making than a short-term view would.

You’ll consider things you might never have considered, or you’ll do so far earlier than you would in an almost-reaction-driven (so-called) strategic mode that can’t even see over the next hill.