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Five Things I Learned From the Tomato Plant in My Closet

I have a tomato plant in my closet. Weird, but true. Last fall I found some volunteer tomato plants in a flower pot that I think came from a squirrel eating a tomato in the pot. The seeds fell in the pot and grew. So, I took the plant inside and put it under a grow light in my closet where it has been for the last 9 months.

After a while, the plant started looking a little sickly and I began giving it a special nutrient concoction that gave it some super plant powers and I now have a five-foot, mutant tomato plant that has outgrown the closet. But, the interesting part is that while it has dozens of tomatoes, they are all itty-bitty – the size of marbles. Interesting.

Believe it or not, there are some things I have learned from this plant that I have applied to regulatory compliance:

  1. Don’t automatically discount an idea as “crazy”. Sure, putting a plant in the closet seemed a little crazy, but it turned out pretty well! There is often more than one way to reach the goal as long as you sufficiently consider the risks.
  2. When you come up with a new way of doing things, you need to keep an eye on it. Are things going the way you anticipated? Do you need to do some testing or make adjustments in order to keep moving toward the goal in a compliant manner? Maybe you need to add a procedure here or increase some training there for a robust result.
  3. The size of the project does not indicate the size of the results. Just as my mutant plant only produces baby tomatoes, sometimes the expected result is less than anticipated. That’s where a root cause (pun intended) analysis comes into play. Is there something about the controls that is affecting the outcome? Would additional monitoring help identify weaknesses?
  4. Sometimes, the processes you put into place allow the product to grow at a faster rate than you anticipated or are prepared to manage. This can be critical when introducing a new product to the closet. You need to make sure you can control what happens so it doesn’t exceed the compliance parameters that have been established. Be on the lookout for growth that is too fast.
  5. And, finally, you will feel a sense of accomplishment when you “think inside the closet” and your baby takes off and grows. As long as you keep those compliance requirements as part of the growth process, you can have a healthy, robust product that will yield great rewards.

Here’s to many tomatoes in your future!

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