IPMA International Project Management Association
21 August 2018 / 3:37

´7 Lenses of Transformation´ published by British Government Agencies

The British Government is – like many Governments and Organisations all over the world – affected by the change imposed through digital technologies, increasing demands of their customers and the ever-increasing need for improvements in effectiveness and efficiency of their services.


The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, The Rt Hon Ben Gummer MP puts it as follows: “The imperative is to change, therefore – and to do so at pace and at scale. This is the meaning of transformation. It is in essence a change of working, of culture and of disposition – changes that are made possible by digital technology. That technology is not change itself; it enables the change that is so transformative.

The explicit vision of the British Government´s Transformation Strategy [https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/government-transformation-strategy-2017-to-2020/government-transformation-strategy] is to transform the relationship between citizens and the state – putting more power in the hands of citizens and being more responsive to their needs. Tools, techniques, technology and approaches of the internet age provide greater opportunities than ever before to help governments to better understand what citizens need, assemble services more quickly and at lower cost and continuously improve services, based on data and evidence. The British Government aspires to transform government services and make government itself a digital organization.

The government’s transformation portfolio includes over 50 major projects, spanning nearly all departments and agencies and representing more than a third of Government Major Projects Portfolio (GMPP). This portfolio is continually evolving but at present, it will realize nearly £50 billion in benefits and is scheduled to deliver well into the 2020s. All of these projects are intended to transform services for citizens, which often requires people and businesses to interact with government in new ways, make government more efficient, by reducing the costs of delivering services and improving our internal processes, and implement new policy, often to achieve a very long term outcome. These transformation projects are different in their nature from traditional major projects and invariably need multiple interdependent elements to be delivered concurrently.

In addition, many of the projects also feature the following characteristics:

  • implementation of new operating models, which means that new business processes need to be delivered in multiple phases while continuing to maintain legacy services
  • organization redesign and culture change, which results in new organizational structures and expectations around staff adapting to new ways of working
  • location change, through estates rationalization to deliver efficiencies or changing where services are delivered to improve the user experience by co-locating services and teams
  • highly digitally-enabled, designing and delivering new digital front-end services or improving the back-end systems services rely on

The 7 Lenses [https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/7-lenses-of-transformation/the-7-lenses-of-transformation#overview-of-the-7-lenses] emerged from discussions with change leaders across the British Government agencies to develop a common language about what successful transformation programmes have in common. All of these programmes are very different, but there were common themes identified that need to be done right. Using the 7 Lenses will provide users confidence and reassurance that they are focusing on the right priorities, and will help them to identify which areas need more attention.

The 7 Lenses are particularly useful to give teams a common language and consistent framework for talking about transformation. They are useful throughout the lifecycle of the transformation. In addition, they can help to structure your work and get started, to define success, to secure commitment and support from senior leaders, and to make sure you have considered all of the things you will need to do to be successful.

Lens 1: Vision

The vision gives clarity around the social outcomes of the transformation and sets out the key themes of how the organization will operate. It´s a compelling picture of the future that aligns stakeholders around the purpose of the transformation, the scale of the ambition and the nature of the benefits. It creates the case for change and describes the user needs, the social and policy outcomes of the transformation. It defines how the organization will operate.

Lens 2: Design

The design sets out how the different organizations and their component parts will be configured and integrated to deliver the vision. Having a coherent design is important because complex transformations need a view of how the whole picture fits together to deliver the vision – for example service design, technology architecture, people structures, processes and contracts – and how the transformation fits more broadly with other parts of the organisational context.

Lens 3: Plan

The plan needs to retain sufficient flexibility to be adapted as the transformation progresses while providing confidence of delivery. The plan provides a roadmap for identifying the sequencing and interdependencies between the different elements and responsibilities across the transformation programme or activity. This helps you to understand where you are heading and have a way to measure that the transformation is on track, while understanding how any critical services will be sustained during the change.

Lens 4: Transformation leadership

Delivering a transformation often means motivating into action a large network of people who are not under the direct management of the transformation leader. Whereas leadership of traditional projects tends to be about minimizing uncertainty, transformation leadership is about creating the right amount of uncertainty to generate productive organisational distress. This requires a higher appetite for risk and an understanding that transformation can take a significant amount of time. Alongside specific programme delivery, transformation leaders need to bring together multiple interrelated disciplines, which will typically include organization design, culture change and human resources (HR) activity.

Lens 5: Collaboration

Collaboration is key to transformation in a multidimensional environment that increasingly cuts across organisational boundaries. Citizens’ expectations are always increasing, and they often require services from different parts of government at the same time. It is critical that leaders from all of the organisations involved design shared outcomes and services together. This means the Vision and Plan increasingly need to be actively shared and joined up across multiple organisations.

Lens 6: Accountability

Having clear accountability for transformation within an organisation enables productivity and improved decision making, and leads to better outcomes. Accountability is about clearly defining the roles within the organisation and the transformation – knowing who is ultimately accountable for what, empowering people to deliver and holding them to account, internally and externally. As complexity goes up, the need for clearly defined governance becomes more important to deliver a successful outcome.

Lens 7: People

Transformation will require people in your organisation to be engaged and to change their ways of working – you need to communicate effectively with them at every stage of the transformation. Engagement starts with those people who are affected by the programme and those that are supporting the transformation. Planning and implementing a comprehensive communication campaign is essential to keep people engaged. It is important to have the right people with the appropriate skills and mindset to support your transformation. You will require skills from a number of government functions like policy, finance, project delivery, commercial and digital to work together on your transformation. Finding people with the right skills and experience is fundamental for success.

We found the 7 Lenses a valuable tool as we created the new Office for Statistics Regulation, focused on ensuring statistics serve the public. The Lenses prompted us to think through this organisational transformation from a variety of perspectives.” Ed Humpherson, Director General for Regulation, UK Statistics Authority


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Reinhard Wagner

Author of this post

Reinhard Wagner has been active for more than 30 years in the field of project- related leadership, in such diverse sectors as Air Defense, Automotive Engineering, and Machinery, as well as various not-for-profit organizations. As a Certified Projects Director (IPMA Level A), he has proven experience in managing projects, programmes and project portfolios in complex and dynamic contexts. He is also an IPMA Certified Programme and Portfolio Management Consultant, and as such supports senior executives in developing and improving their organizational competence in managing projects. For more than 15 years, he has been actively involved in the development of project, programme and portfolio management standards, for example as Convenor of the ISO 21500 “Guidance on Project Management” and the ISO 21503 “Guidance on Programme Management”. Reinhard Wagner is Past President of IPMA and Chairman of the Council, Honorary Chairman of GPM (the German Project Management Association), as well as Managing Director of Tiba Managementberatung GmbH.