Puzzle - Completed-1I am admittedly a super nerd-girl when it comes to my wind-down routine. TV isn’t my answer, and I’m just not into yoga, so instead, I dive deep into jigsaw puzzles and let the world around me slide away.

What I know about myself is this; I don’t come up for air easily when I’m facing complex challenges or helping a client work through process improvement. I’ve been known to complete large puzzles in one sitting (minus periodic breaks to walk the dogs), but that’s a little obsessive and only happens once every year or so.

When I was on a puzzle-piecing-tear this winter, my husband asked me why I found this activity in particular so relaxing. He pointed out that it’s really a microcosm of the work L-12 Services performs, so it didn’t seem like a “break” from my day-to-day. Huh… The guy had a good point. Why do puzzles work so well for me?

After some thought, I was able to (wait for it…) connect the pieces – and link that insight to the benefits of internal communications at the process and systems level.

The short answer, small systematic wins made possible by pattern recognition.

Many of us see our systems after fast growth or scaling as broken, or worse, that our teams are broken, which is not the case in most circumstances. What is true about an outgrown or outdated system is, it’s an inaccurate picture of the current business ecosystem. The current state’s snapshot can look a lot like what you dump out of a 1,000 piece puzzle box.

 Puzzle pieces in an unorganized pile resting on a table

Looking at business and information systems in their entirety is confusing and overwhelming. But if you look at it in groupings and sections, you can begin to see order and, potentially, patterns. You can also identify where workflow is unorganized, see configurations that are working and processes that are not.

When you start a puzzle, you turn all of the pieces face up, and maybe you start by pulling aside the edge pieces. What you are doing is systematically reviewing each individual piece at a high level to find common features. It’s similar work when you create (or recreate) an internal communications plan. Look for the common denominators of “what is” working and “what is not” and hold them aside for later.

 Puzzle pieces face up on a table.

Next, you review the picture on the box, the ‘future state,’ and see what you can identify in your scattered pieces that align with parts of the image – colors, design, and other details. Similarly, with processes and systems, there may be examples you want to model your business after, and you can identify what you have in place that mimics or aligns with that workflow.

Sections in progress

Then, you get down to business. You start the hard work of finding which pieces belong in which groups, you organize and place them, and then build out from there. Your goal is to connect the disparate sections with the right pieces in the right order to complete the picture. The same work happens between your teams and departments – taking what works within those groups and carefully constructing how they communicate with their counterparts, and so on.

Each of these activities requires patience, the ability to work methodically, a high level of pattern recognition, and a willingness to test. Much like developing internal communications processes, solving a puzzle is an iterative exercise that requires discipline and attention to detail. They are both a labor of love.

What would happen if you gave your team the gift of a complete picture, the map to their success? Are you willing to invest resources to focus on one stage at a time to fit everything together so that your business becomes a model of efficiency?

A completed puzzle with a wide variety of dogs and their breeds, with the caption

DOGS The Best Things in Life are Furry

The top Two Questions Every Business Must Ask:

  • Where do you start? You can start by talking with your teams about “what is” working today and what could work better tomorrow.
  • How do you execute? One option would be to schedule a discovery call with a professional firm like L-12 Services. Another would be to become proficient in workflow mapping software, focus group moderation, survey distribution, process improvement… The first option is by far less time-consuming and resource-heavy, with the added benefit of experience and insight.

Whichever option you choose, taking the time to assess your team’s productivity and efficacy is never time wasted. And, it gives you a better understanding of where you have clarity or if pieces are missing.

About Lizabeth Wesely-Casella

Lizabeth Wesely-Casella is an internal communications corporate trainer and process improvement specialist. Her work has contributed to national health program restructuring, and she has helped businesses worldwide increase efficiency while improving staff experience. Lizabeth is an entertaining and informative speaker who shares actionable information with her audiences. To book Lizabeth for your event or podcast, visit her Speaking page.

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