Business Execution is Like Building a Puzzle

We have a popular puzzle table at our family cottage, where it seems people just can’t walk by a partially completed puzzle without stopping. Centrally located, our puzzle table always has a puzzle “under construction”, where family and visitors alike seem compulsively drawn to pause, observe and then place at least one or two pieces before they move on.   Others may get totally absorbed and sit for hours.  It always develops into a communal build, and no matter what the picture is, how many pieces it has, or who is working on it, we’ve observed that everyone seems to use the same systematic approach to building the puzzle.

“Building your business is like building a puzzle, only, you get to decide its size, shape and image.”

Let’s walk through the steps and you’ll see what I mean.

The Universal Steps to Building a Puzzle

Step 1 –  Pour out all the pieces onto the table, then stand the lid of the box up so you can regularly check your build against the final picture.

Step 2 – Turn over all the pieces so you can see all the pieces you have to work with. (I’ve even seen multiple surfaces used by passionate puzzlers for the larger/more complex puzzles!)

Step 3 – Look for corner pieces and straight-edges required to form the outer border, then start placing them in their approximate location (referring to the picture).  Join pieces as able.

Step 4 – Organize or group similar pieces by colour, pattern, image, etc. Try fitting matching pieces together and begin seeing defined areas emerge.  Place completed sections of puzzle in the general area of where they belong.  Some people rotate the sections they work on for variety or based on a ‘run’ of connected pieces.

Step 5 – As large sections come together, invariably you will need to search for the elusive 1 or 2 missing pieces needed to complete each section.  If others are watching, they will start placing or handing you individual pieces that have eluded your own eyes. With a final communal effort, the puzzle is completed!

Now let’s compare the critical steps of building a puzzle with effective and sustained business execution:

The Universal Steps to Business Execution

Step 1 – Define a clear and measurable goal for your business so everyone is aligned (picture of the puzzle on the box).

Step 2 – Understand and organize everything mission-critical needed to achieve your goal (turn the puzzle pieces over).

Step 3 – Focus resources on highest-impact priorities with sustained action and weekly accountability (organize the puzzle pieces into similar groupings, test adjoining pieces for fit).

Step 4 – Regularly monitor what’s working, and what’s not; adjust actions if needed; leverage outside resources if needed (move to other puzzle sections if stuck, solicit help from others if needed).

Step 5 – Monitor and communicate progress, celebrate achievements.

And just like building a puzzle, business execution is the same process no matter the type, size or complexity of your business.

No more excuses – let’s get building!


Be Bold, Think Big, Be Curious, Keep Focused


About Doug Osborne

Doug Osborne is creator of The Success Dashboard Execution Platform© - a simple, practical and visual subscription-based online execution platform that is proven to accelerate business execution and performance for business owners and leaders, literally within hours. With over 35 years business success, Doug is an experienced business coach, speaker, writer, and strategy facilitator working primarily with small and medium-sized family businesses on improved & sustained business execution for accelerated growth, improved performance, successful transition or higher-value sale.