Byron's Babbles

The Leadership Tower: A Classic Jenga Model

fileI recently got a very cool gift from a group of Hoosier Academies Network of School’s teachers. The teachers took Jenga® pieces, signed them, and then glued the tower together. This was such an appropriate and appreciated gift because of how much we use the Jenga® theme, and the fact that they built something to give to me. For those that know me well, know that I am a believer in creating models and building when do professional growth activities. In other words, I strive not to use technology and presentations. I was deeply moved by the gesture and have picked a special place in my office for this.

You all know what Jenga® is, right? That’s the game where you start with 54 wooden pieces stacked in 18 alternating rows creating a stable tower. Every move from that point on destabilizes the tower as pieces are removed from inside the structure to place them on top growing it taller and taller until it eventually topples. Many times when we play we just pull pieces till someone (the loser) makes the tower fall. As I looked at the tower I had been given, I thought about the powerful metaphor Jenga® is as a leadership model. I have blogged about it before in Jenga Masters Leadership. Click here to read the post. This time as I was viewing the tower I thought of a new aspect. I viewed the tower as a model of change and strategy decisions.

What does Jenga® have to do with leading change and strategy decisions? Many organizations evolve the same way that the majority of Jenga® towers are built: by happenstance. Many organizations don’t have strategic plans, visualized outcomes, or
even a deliberate strategy in place. Leaders in these organizations tend to ‘poke’ at their businesses undermining and even weakening the foundation. Actually, that’s how you play Jenga®. Why do I use the word ‘poke?’ Because the wood blocks that the tower is made of are supposed to be the same size and finish. But due to manufacturing, storage or just the amount of play, some of the blocks are slightly smaller than others so you ‘poke’

around and find the loose ones, push them through and put them on top.file-1
Many organizations just ‘poke’ around at different initiatives and ‘things’ instead of really having a clear vision, mission, and core values combined with a strategic plan for directing the work of the organization. This is why I am so glad that the Jenga® to were I was given is glued together. For me it represents that the teachers are the glue that holds us together and that we have a solid foundation that is solidified by our vision and plan. While I want us to be innovative, creative, risk-taking, ‘poke’ around at new things and experiment, I need for us to be very strategic about how that is done. Soon you have about twenty some stories of blocks swaying in the breeze about to become a pile of blocks on the table.
I like Jenga® as a metaphor to represent change because it is engaging and easy to understand as well as being easily changed and manipulated to fit an organization’s purpose. The change can fall at any time if any one piece fails. Size and attributes can be

similar, but there are pieces that need to be played or placed early in the game. A tower

is a good image, not always a stabilized structure; but one that is always evolving, changing, and taking a different shape. In the case of the glued model I was given, I consider it to represent that the teachers are the glue that holds an organizational structure together that has been built as a stabilized structure. Yes, I want there to be continuous improvement and evolution by innovative team members, but there must also  be the cohesiveness brought about by a strong vision, mission, and strategic plan.

As a leader, are you building towards a cohesive vision for the future of your organization? Or, are you just pulling blocks out and placing on top of the tower, hoping the structure does not topple over?


One Response

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  1. mindalcazar said, on August 3, 2016 at 12:35 pm

    Great game which can be very useful in terms of team building process


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