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What an old-style entertainment can teach us about transformational change

When did you last do a jigsaw puzzle? Like me, probably decades ago. Modern home entertainment has moved on. But it strikes me the jigsaw puzzle still has something to offer. Isn’t the approach we use to tackle a 5,000-piece monster, the perfect metaphor for a plan of action for delivering transformational change?

Establish your anchor points

With a jigsaw, finding the corners is the first step. When you plan a transformation, being clear on what you want to achieve is key. Whether you want to achieve a specific benefit, such as reducing cost by 30 per cent, or whether change is driven by external pressures, such as regulatory change. Either way, you need to be clear about your end goal.

We applied this approach when we helped the Bank of England establish the Prudential Regulation Authority. The objective was very clear – deliver a smooth transition. So, even though there were opportunities to extend the programme to include improvements to the regulatory regime, we delivered these separately. That way, we ensured a relentless focus on the core objective.

Define the boundaries

Too often, organisations embark on a transformation programme without a defined view of scope. The programme becomes a ‘catch all’ – growing beyond all expectations and never delivering its benefits.

Like the edges of a jigsaw, programmes need boundaries. That way, if you’re presented with a piece of the transformation that looks different, you don’t feel you have to squeeze it in. The piece may fit better in another programme or need a different owner. That’s not to say the scope of a transformation programme never changes. It frequently does. But you need to be able to manage changes effectively.

That’s how it worked when we helped the UK’s Security Industry Authority (SIA) launch a new digital licensing service. The organisations involved had broader change initiatives that they needed to carry out, but we realised these had to be managed separately to avoid blurring our focus and elongating timescales.

TRANSFORMATION. A new approach to business transformation


Differentiate between the familiar and unfamiliar

Some jigsaw pieces are instantly recognisable and easy to place. It’s the same with transformation programmes. Some parts will be very familiar – a similar issue may have come up before or it may be a technical challenge that you know how to address.

Other aspects are hard – like a vast expanse of sky in a jigsaw. In these cases, you may not have the internal capability or capacity to tackle them. This is where you need to bring in specialist help, such as technical skills or support for cultural change. Or you might simply need extra people to deal with a shortage of resources.

With expert help, you can also develop your own transformation capability. We helped a global pharmaceutical company up-skill their change team and set up flexible structures and processes so they could deliver current and future transformation following Agile principles.

Be tenacious

Jigsaw puzzles demand tenacity – and transformation programmes are the same. You need staying power to see them through to the end. But with clear objectives, the right scope and an understanding of where to get support, it’s achievable.

Contact the author

Contact the Transformation team

Rachael Brassey

Rachael Brassey

James Turnbull

James Turnbull

Samantha Walsh

Samantha Walsh

Alex Catlin

Alex Catlin


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