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Your Weekly Leadership HVA (High Value Activity)

Hello Lifelong Learner ...

Here's the next in our series of weekly managerial TIPS (Techniques, Insights, and Practical Solutions) to help you better engage your team in the activities that lead to higher performance.

CORE Bites #11: While managing all of the 'pieces' to achieve your organizational goals is suitably analogous to putting together a complex jigsaw puzzle, today I'm going to focus on one major piece of that puzzle — helping your employees plan more effectively when approaching their work. As a manager/coach, one of your main roles is to help employees get their work done in the most efficient manner — and effective planning is a big part of that. Employees who are effective planners invariably get better results! I've frequently used a 'jigsaw puzzle' metaphor to help those who struggle when attempting to manage a complex task or assignment. Use the HVA listed below as a memorable way to communicate the appropriate steps of the planning process.

High Value Activity (HVA) Action Step: To achieve repeatable success with effective planning, each employee needs to work within a common framework. This framework is comparable to that of putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Ask the question, “How can we relate planning and project management to putting a jigsaw puzzle together?”

  • Have a Vision (know what you want to accomplish). Ask, “When you put together a jigsaw puzzle, what's the first thing you should do?” Some employees will answer that they start with the edges; some start with the colors; for others, the first step they take is to sort by shape. The message you want to convey at this point is before doing any of these activities, they need to look at the jigsaw puzzle box top. Why? Because it gives a clear picture of what they're trying to create. To get the right results, someone should start with the end in mind — the picture of what you want to build. The box top is what allows a person (or a team) to decide where a particular piece belongs. The clearer the picture (vision), the more easily and quickly someone can work the puzzle. It's extremely difficult, if not impossible, to put a puzzle together if you do not know what the picture looks like.
  • Identify the Components. Sort the puzzle pieces by turning them right side up and arranging them by corners, straight edges, similar colors, etc. Like the myriad components within every assignment/task, a jigsaw puzzle consists of pieces with uneven shapes and sizes, that all fit together to complete the picture. Each 'piece' is unique and each brings a different value to the overall result. And — worth stating — each piece fits in with the other pieces in very unique ways that leverage the strength of the individual component.
  • Establish the Boundaries. Single out the corner and edge pieces. The corner pieces are important because they help define the puzzle. They are the starting and ending points of a puzzle; the cornerstones. The puzzle edges come next. They form the outline of the puzzle. Like the parameters that need to be established for any assignment, the corners and edges of the puzzle establish the appropriate boundaries and help “keep it all together.”
  • Assemble the Final Pieces. Take all of the puzzle pieces and fit them within the puzzle borders. Like the elements of an assignment/task, there will be large ones, small ones, plain ones, multi colored ones, but they all fit together. Don't force a fit. If something is meant to be, it will come together naturally.

Some puzzles are easy to put together, while others are more complicated and take more time. The important thing to remember is that no matter how long it takes to complete a puzzle, eventually all of the pieces fit together and create a beautiful picture.

I'd love to hear how this HVA works for you!

Have a brilliant day ... and enjoy the journey!


Neil Dempster, PhD, MBA

RESULTant and Behavioral Engineer


"When you are studying from a book, lots of people go straight to the end to look for the answers. But that's not my style. For me, the most enjoyable part is the puzzle, the process of solving, not the solution itself." — Erno Rubik (Inventor of the Rubik's Cube)  


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