July 01, 2019
Technology Solution Delivery

Puzzle Like an Expert

I love working puzzles. They are brain bending and rewarding, sometimes complex and sometimes downright chaotic.

During this past holiday season, my immediate and extended family worked a puzzle together for hours on end, and it really was an event grounded in team work and patience.  Then, in early May on the day when it snowed 10 inches (yeah, that’s right, it snowed 10 inches in May), my husband and two young sons worked on another puzzle and nailed it.  Our success, however, wasn’t without a little planning, focus and lots of communication.

Part of the reason why I love puzzles is because they remind me of managing a large program.  I have spent a substantial portion of my career managing large scale programs and portfolios, and the comparison to puzzles is uncanny.  At Kenway, one of the services we provide our clients is Program Management, and I think this service is just as intriguing as doing large puzzles (most of the time!).

How so, you ask? Following is a chart that compares the key steps involved in our Program Management and Delivery service to what’s needed to excel at puzzle making.

Setting up and Instantiating the Program

Program Management and DeliveryExcellent Puzzle Making Team
Create the Charter and Scope: Document the goals, functions, features and tasks that drive quality, cost and timelines — critical for product alignmentDiscuss your goals. Do you want this puzzle to be done before we eat the turkey dinner, or are we ok with getting as much done as possible? Lay this out so expectations are clear.
Define Roles and Responsibilities: This will provide clarity to enable lateral coordination efforts between functions and business units.Discuss who wants to take which part of the puzzle. Divide up the puzzle, so everyone can contribute in a meaningful way.
Communication and Cadence: Define knowledge sharing targets and channels to keep all stakeholders engaged and up to speed.Make sure that if Aunt Sally is pulling together the part of the puzzle with the sleigh, she is frequently talking with Uncle Joey about where his reindeer fit in.

Delivery and Execution

Program Management and DeliveryExcellent Puzzle Making Team
Project Plans / Roadmap: List key milestones and their associated timelines + program – and project-level tasks.At a minimum, communicate with each other on the goal of completing the puzzle, so everyone knows the end game. Do we have a goal of finishing the frame before beginning the interior?
Status: Provide a formal report on project scope, timeline and budget progress against the project plan.In our family, we provide status by singing a little song every time we get a set of pieces that make up a large part of the puzzle. “Got a piece, got a piece, yeah, yeah, yeah.” We consider this our status update for the group.
Risk and Issues: Track risks and issues by severity and probability to ensure transparency across the program.It is important for everyone to know if one of the pieces of the puzzle is lost, or if the dog may have run off with it, or if one of the babies running around is using it as a teething ring. Those could be the pieces that make or break completion of the puzzle! Be sure to make it known, raise the risk, and work to mitigate.


Program Readiness

Program Management and DeliveryExcellent Puzzle Making Team
Assess Program Readiness: Evaluate the ability of the program to operate effectively in a business-as-usual, post implementation state.You are counting down to the last 30 minutes until completion of the puzzle. Is everyone ready to bring their parts to the larger puzzle? Are we ready to call this complete so we can go eat that turkey dinner? Check in, make sure your last 30 minutes will be productive, and be ready to go live with that puzzle.
Playbook: Outline the steps needed to execute on various program initiatives (i.e. program integration or operational processes) to enable repeatable processes.Decide if you are going to break your puzzle up and start from scratch or go ahead and frame that puppy. Either way, you have a plan for how to execute the next time around.
Transition Planning: Think through the steps required to transfer knowledge from consulting organization to client, citing key personnel and logistics considerations.Like we had to do over the holiday, make sure that Grandma and Grandpa (or whoever) are ready and available to take over the puzzle to completion when you must leave or can no longer look at puzzle pieces.


If you are looking for help with a puzzle or need some assistance with managing your program, Kenway is here to help.  Reach out to us at

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