January 31, 2020 9:50 am

James W. BruceColleagues, fellow professionals and friends, “Shalom is not a utopian destination; it is a constant journey.”
      – Randy S. Woodley

The word “shalom” has many shades of meaning in addition to its primary meaning of peace.  Beyond peace, it includes the idea of wholeness. I wonder if you, like me, sometimes feel more fragmented than whole. Businesses can become fragmented as well.  Some fragmentation is inherent to business organizations and even necessary. People are divided into different teams to accomplish specific aspects of the business. This is certainly true in the financial institutions where you have some folks in the loan department, some in operations, some in compliance, some in customer service, some in marketing, some in information technology. Here at ABS, we have sales representatives, software developers, compliance specialists, customer care associates, trainers, administrative and accounting folks. That is not a complete list of all the different work that goes on here, but you get the point.

So, with all the necessary fragmentation to make a business run, how do
you foster a sense of business “shalom” or wholeness in the workplace? I think that part of the answer is to keep reminding each other how we fit together to make the whole and how important each person’s role and function is to the success of the business. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle – a whole picture made up of fragments. We can have a personal sense of wholeness at work when we know how we fit into the larger picture. There is, however, an additional challenge we must consider – people are not static puzzle pieces; they grow and change; they may leave the company or join the company. So, there can be movement of pieces and changing roles. Think how difficult it would be to put together a landscape puzzle if blue pieces could change color or shape while you’re putting it together. That is something of the challenge we have in organization puzzles.

I found the following suggestions from writer, Cat Matson, helpful in putting together the corporate puzzle*:

1. Recognize there are universal pieces to a business puzzle – a bit like placing the corners and edge pieces first in a 2,500-piece picture puzzle. For example, each business needs to have a strong marketing framework, a profitable business model, an informative scoreboard and financial management system and effective and efficient process – they create the ‘edges’ of your business puzzle…how you color it in will be different for each individual business.

2. Understand that even though all the pieces may look the same (e.g., I often found it hard to distinguish between the shades of blue in the sky), there are always subtle differences between each piece…

3. Recognize that not only is your business jigsaw not a static picture on a box, but a 3-dimensional inter-related system of pieces – a bit like cogs and wheels in a Swiss-watch. The pieces of your puzzle need to not only fit, but they need to inter-relate, integrate and synergize with each other…

4. Accept that sometimes the final picture will change before you’ve got all the pieces in place, so you need to be flexible in finding new pieces that complete the picture; the edges and the frameworks are likely to remain constant.

5. Remember, like jigsaw puzzles, building a business takes patience. Forcing a ‘fit’ might give you immediate gratification, but it will make the picture look weird in the end… so just keep moving pieces around until they all fit perfectly.

Lastly, and here is a word to fellow CEOs, we are also a piece of the puzzle, so our work is a bit like putting together a puzzle while at the same time being part of the puzzle. So, it’s good to think of “Shalom” at work as a constant journey and embrace the art of puzzle-making in your business.
I hope this edition of BankLine has many items of interest for you.


James W. Bruce, III
President/CEO and General Counsel
American Bank Systems


Jigsaw puzzle copied from playjigsawpuzzlesonline.com