When people leave an organization those left behind bear the burden of the departure, but except in rare instances, the organization carries on despite the vacancies. I liken this to a Jenga tower.

Even with pieces (people) missing, the essence of the structure remains. The tower is resilient and can handle a few holes, but when this occurs all actions require significantly more time and effort to be executed. The more pieces missing, the higher the stress level.

Some pieces can be removed without impact, but others are key pieces that create great instability for what remains. Neither Jenga or an organization has unlimited capacity to absorb departures, and at a given point, the tower will fall. It’s much easier in the game than in reality to pick up the pieces and rebuild, but some organizational leaders act as if there is no distinction.

If you have staff vacancies, Jenga can be a useful analogy to help the continuing staff to put the departures into perspective. With a piece or two missing, the situation isn’t as dire as it may first seem. But Jenga can also help you as a leader to remember that the overall situation becomes more precarious with each piece that is removed.


I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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