Jigsaw puzzle : Consulting?

By | May 24, 2017

It rained last Sunday in Atlanta. Spent a few hours working on a jigsaw puzzle in the kitchen while drinking coffee and eating chocolate. The good life.

Get a good puzzle.  Sometimes, you want to do something mindless besides binge-watching Netflix. Yes, yard work is good. A 4 mile run is good. So are old-school, jigsaw puzzles.

Easy ones. Attractive enough to frame, and yet easy. Yes, some like the challenge of super-hard impressionist or double-sided black / black and white puzzles – but trust me, that is painful.

This is the puzzle I recommend for 5-6 hours of easy puzzling fun.  Lots of colors, shapes, writing and graphics. List of 50+ literary classics. Recommended by my brother-in-law, the best. Order here (affiliate link).

Yes, of course I am going to try and make analogies to consulting. . .

Start with the edges. We all know this. Same is true with project scoping – gotta know where the edges are.  What is in scope, and not in scope.

Put things in buckets. We all know this too.  Group the colored pieces together.  Not too different from getting the right data for the analysis. This is mis-en-place, prep work, for the main puzzling. Getting things ready.

Look for patterns.  This is what consultants excel at. Uncover patterns among the mess of pieces (client data), and find the links (correlation). Clearly, puzzles are easier than putting together a margin-leakage waterfall chart – after all, you have the picture on the box; you know what it looks like.

Search for specific pieces. This puzzle had very distinct lines (pictures of rectangular books) which made it easier to identify each piece. It also had book titles – Invisible Man, Little Women, Animal Farm – which made the “searching” for pieces more pleasurable than frustrating. Perhaps this is where experience comes in. When you have done 10 post-merger integration projects in Finance, you will know what to look for, right?  As a Minder, you know what you are looking for. As a Grinder, your sample size (n) is not large enough to know, yet.

Be open-minded. When searching for pieces A, you can scoop up other pieces B, C, and D that go into other parts of the puzzle. Serendipity?

Tip to new consultants: When interviewing clients – definitely have your list of well thought-out questions – but also be smart and flexible enough to pivot to new, useful topics.  Don’t walk past a gold mine.

Dopamine. I’ve only done 4-5 puzzles in my adult life, but it’s great for a dopamine fix. This happiness chemical seriously starts to kick-in, when you see some of the progress you are making. One more piece. Pride in your work. We all feel great after a client presentation that goes well.

Work in teams. This may be the most important point (hat tip: Ulysses in comments). The hardest puzzles – the ones that are the most challenges, most fun, and most engaging – are more than one person’s burden. Clients hire us to tackle their hard stuff – not the easy stuff they can do themselves with a memo. Find, retain, and take care of those people you like to team with.

Related posts: None really.

7 thoughts on “Jigsaw puzzle : Consulting?

    1. consultantsmindadmin Post author

      Thanks. Also, sadly I have only read 20% of the books. Mostly in high school. Shame. Shame. Shame. Heh heh.

    1. consultantsmindadmin Post author

      I like that a lot. That may be the main point. Adding that into the blog thanks.

  1. VS

    Thank you for this article with an apt analogy. Exactly what I needed today.

    1. consultantsmindadmin Post author

      Thanks for reading.

  2. Steven Taylor

    Very interesting puzzle and a distinct way of explaining consulting in a very organized way. Business strategy consulting services helps to keep the marketing plan in place. The projects are on scope and on budget. For small business strategy consulting is extremely helpful to develop a successful business plan. I was able to do it concisely with http://www.introviz.com as they have experienced team of consultants who helped me streamline my business activities as per my goals.

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