“If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.” ~ Stephen Covey

Jigsaw puzzle games come with an image of what the little pieces should form when put together correctly. If you play the game with a couple of friends, each of you keeps looking at the image as they try to look for where each piece fits. With a clear image of the end product before you, even without speaking, a group can complete the jigsaw puzzle because they have a common visual of the end product.

We learn essential teamwork lessons from playing the jigsaw puzzle.

Share the Vision

If you are embarking on a project with a team, consider applying the jigsaw puzzle principle. Start by painting a mental image of what you are trying to accomplish. Why is it important to complete this project? What will a completed project look like? You want team members to take ownership of the project. An easy way to do this is to get their buy in by sharing the vision of the project. Show them how their effort or talent fits in the puzzle.

Match Talent to Task

An efficient team matches individual capabilities to project tasks. The project leader should breakdown the project into tasks and have clarity on the resources she needs for each task. The critical element is to identify who has the right talent or skills for each of the tasks. A team works efficiently when each one plays from their point of strength. This clarity is important for identifying unnecessary resources for your project. Excess capacity can be assigned to other projects to keep your team lean and focused.

Celebrate Milestones

Build momentum by celebrating project milestones. When a section of the jigsaw puzzle is completed, you are motivated to continue putting together the rest of the pieces. Break the project into milestones and define what will indicate that the milestone is complete. When a milestone is achieved, come together as a team to celebrate progress. This is a good time to reiterate the vision and emphasise how each one’s effort is important in the project. Even those who doubted the project would work may get inspired to play their role with more enthusiasm!

Bring it all Together

Projects are completed by putting the little pieces together. A large project can be intimidating until you break it down into smaller tasks. You must remember that the pieces must fit into each other to bring the project to completion. Don’t get too caught up in the details of one task that you forget how it needs to fit into the other tasks. A project leader has the vital role of ensuring that they eventually bring the tasks together to complete the project. As each workstream completes their task, you must draw the connection to the other tasks. Before you know it, you will be celebrating the successful completion of the project.

A result-oriented person often finds it hard being part of a project with no clarity on the end product. They want to know from the onset what the vision is, the role they will play to make it happen and what the timelines are. A leader has to paint that big picture and communicate it to her team before embarking on any action. What are you targeting to achieve?

An African proverb states that if you want to walk fast, walk alone, but if you want to go far, go with a team. Teamwork is about leveraging on each member’s strength to achieve a seemingly impossible task. Working in a team provides comrade support when you are weary. How well you achieve your vision depends on how you get the team to work on their individual tasks. Can you organize them to put the project jigsaw puzzle together?

About The Author

Gakii Nkonge

Gakii Dominica is a vibrant risk and quality management practitioner in a professional services firm. She is committed to continuous performance improvement and driving organizational efficiency. She is passionate about her life purpose – developing young leaders and economically empowering women in Africa. She believes Africa needs better leaders to steer the continent into a developed economy. She envisions an Africa with focused leaders and women strengthened to be the backbone of its development and growth