Corporate Jenga

Jenga is a balancing game played with 54 slender wooden blocks. It challenges the players mental skills and agility. To begin, all the wooden blocks are stacked on top of each other (this is not the challenging part) three to a tier until it is 18 levels tall. Once the tower is built, the game begins and each player takes a turn choosing a block to remove. The goal is to remove a block from the guts of the tower without it toppling over. After that, the player is then required to place the block they removed on the top of the stack, again, without the tower falling down. As the game progresses the tower becomes less and less stable, when eventually it falls over.

I’ve talked with clients in corporate America who feel like their jobs are becoming an endless game of Jenga. As people are “tapped out” of their jobs and not replaced, workloads become increasingly hard to balance. The remaining workers must deal with the overwhelming instability, as it takes a toll on their ability to do their jobs well. Although the tower hasn’t fallen for most of corporate America, the precariousness is felt throughout the company as job duties grow beyond a fair balance.

But, what about those Jenga blocks that are added to the top of the wooden pile? What are they representative of?

Early Discovery ~

When Ty was about four years old he did something that every parent fears.

He was watching TV in the living room while I was nearby in the kitchen making dinner. Earlier I had lit a candle, and without thinking about it, left it burning when I went to the other room. So Ty, being the inquisitive child, found a piece of paper and laid it across the flame. As the paper began to burn he realized he needed my help and flew into the kitchen. I took one look at his face and his urgent cry and wasted no time running into the next room where I picked up the burning piece of paper by a tiny edge that wasn’t on fire and carried it to the sink.

When everything (including me) was under control I turned to face my son. It was obvious from the terrified look on his face that he knew he made a mistake and I was confident he would not make that particular one again. So, I didn’t scold him or punish him, instead I pulled him towards me and gave him a big hug and told him he did the right thing. I thanked him over and over again for coming to get me and not trying to hide what he did. My goal was to reinforce the part he did do right, that was, alerting me to the situation.

There are many situations in life and work, where, if you can identify a problem early in the process, that the damage could be minimized. The piece of paper could have turned into the sofa being on fire, which could have turned into the house being on fire. If that had happened, I can’t imagine the emotional toll Ty and I would have faced.

If you do anything at all in your job, you will occasionally be required to identify or admit problems with your work. But the damage could be negated by admitting the problem sooner than later.

Stamp Control ~

I received a notice that health insurance premiums were increasing yet again, so we decided to get a new policy for Tyler. I made inquiries, chose a provider and after a drawn-out application process, that involved telephone conversations with Ty and lots of faxing back and forth, we finally had a policy in force. Of course the broker said from the beginning, oh no, don’t drop your current policy until we know for sure the new provider has the new policy in-force. Of course the new provider charged us from the initial application date, even though the process took nearly 45 days. sigh… It’s too difficult and time-consuming to get anybody on the telephone these days to make it right.

After getting approved we were then prompted to go on-line to set up payments. I was a bit surprised that paper billing wasn’t even an option. My choices were to allow them to charge my credit card; and for that privilege they would only charge me $10.00 per month. Or, I could allow them to automatically draft my bank account, and there wasn’t an up-charge for that.

I’m not sure why I feel insecure with an insurance company having access to my bank account, but I do. I fret that somewhere in the depths of their detailed paperwork, they’ll somehow create access for my doctors and dentists to reach in and grab their portion. That’s the cynic in me.

Of course I allow my mortgage company and utilities to draft my account. I’m okay with that because they’re fairly constant…I know what to expect from them. But, insurance providers? Their premiums are increasing every time I turn around and it concerns me that I might miss something and there you go…they get to draft my account every month.

Obviously I signed up for the automatic draft since I’m watching my money and the only other option would cost me and additional $10.00 a month for nothing. I sure wish I had the option of the 44 cent stamp.

Old Rules ~

Old rules just don’t work sometimes.

I’d like to think that I have a modern point of view, and what I mean is, that I don’t believe what “we’ve always done” in the past should dictate what we do now. I think we can all agree that the world has changed and is changing so fast that we can’t possibly keep up. But what can we do to keep from falling behind?

Whether it’s our children, our work, or even our marriages, there are modern approaches to the challenges we encounter today. My parents worry about how much our children have in comparison to what they provided for us. This is true I tell my mom, and it is a result of our current culture. I can’t compare my childhood to my parents, and my parents have a difficult time relating to the challenges our children must contend with. So, if culture has changed for our families, what about our work culture? What rules, goals, policies and practices do we hold onto that we might be better off without because it doesn’t fit the needs of the employees or better yet, our customers.

Now more than ever, a companies’ culture is being evaluated by a younger generation of buyers who expect different attitudes, values, goals, and practices. The truth that buyers are getting younger and our industry is getting older makes me think we should re-evaluate how we are meeting the demands of the future.

Maybe we should consider “Young Rules” ~