I once read about a very wise teacher who knew a great deal about the subject of teaching children in ways which kept them entertained as they grew wiser. Their valuable lessons were seldom forgotten as they so enjoyed their journey to wisdom. This simple exercise in learning could easily be adapted to today’s workplace and, in fact, should be.
The wise educator first divided the class into three groups, providing each group with an identical jigsaw puzzle and the same instructions: “This is a timing test. I want all of you to work together to finish the puzzle. You can talk, laugh, and have a great time. You just can’t look at the other teams. The first group finishing their puzzle correctly wins.”
Since the teacher is also teaching a valuable lesson, she does something she doesn’t share with the children.
The first group gets a puzzle in addition to the box cover which obviously has a beautiful color photo of the completed puzzle picture.
The second group gets only an identical puzzle … no box top, no picture. This group of students has no idea what the finished picture should look like.
The third group gets an identical puzzle as well. However, you’ve got to feel for this group as they do get a box cover with a beautiful color photo as well … but it’s a photo from a completely different puzzle, meaning the picture doesn’t match the puzzle at all!
Now, given what I’ve shared thus far, I’ll bet you can finish the story. The critical importance of having a clear vision is evident. Let’s see how the kids did.
All three groups are giddy and excited to jump into the project.
The first group completes the puzzle correctly in a mere three minutes … all done, perfectly correct.
At this point, the second group seems to be struggling but is making some progress. They’re about 60% complete.
The third group seems to be on another planet altogether. Total confusion, no progress, and growing frustration. In fact, you can see the stress on the face of each child. What began as fun was quickly growing into agitation.
When she congratulates the first group and asks how they completed the task so quickly, they simply respond by saying something like: “We just looked at the picture on the box, and it was easy from there. It just sorta came together.”
By this time, the second group is nearing completion. She asks them how they did and heard hesitation in their explanation: “Well, we started with the corners because that seemed to be the easiest way, but it was still pretty slow.” It obviously took them a lot longer than the first group.
The third group has made very little, if any, progress and the teacher could actually sense the frustration in the air. Several members of the team have actually given up and have started separate conversations with one another. At this point the teacher admits that their cover photo looks nothing like the finished puzzle of the other two groups.
She then provides the third group with the proper picture and they are pleased at how quickly they assemble the puzzle correctly. She then explains the lesson they had just learned.
Now consider how easy it is to apply this valuable lesson to the workplace.
Does your staff have a clear vision of what is expected of them?
Are they more like the second group of students who had no vision and had to cautiously feel their way along?
Maybe they’re like the third group who had the wrong vision … wondering why they were getting nowhere as they became more and more frustrated.
Wouldn’t it be rewarding if your entire staff had a crystal clear vision like the first group of students? This group with the clear vision is usually twice as fast as the group with no vision. Consider the third group which had the wrong vision … hopeless, frustrated, agitated and angry.
Again, visualize your current staff. Are they facing a pile of puzzle pieces scattered everywhere, while holding the wrong cover? Or do they have the correct puzzle photo, or worse, no puzzle photo at all?
The choice is yours. Many claim they simply don’t have the time to dedicate to creating and communicating a vision. Pause and rethink the results of our three student groups. Apply those results to your staff and you’ll quickly realize that you’d best make time to create and communicate that all-important vision.