Change Vs Transformation : Which is more important ? ..with real examples included




The word change and transformation has been interchangeably and it ends up as the same word used in multiple contexts. Do organizations need change or transformation? Or do we need to change before transformation can occur? Transformation first then change happens? Can there be changes that do help with transformation?




This is all so confusing !!!




Change has seen many versions of definitions :


1) replace (something) with something else, especially something of the same kind that is newer or better; substitute one thing for (another).
2) an act or process through which something becomes different.
3) to exchange one thing for another thing, especially of a similar type:

From the different dictionary, the word "Transformation" can be defined as follows


a marked change in form, nature, or appearance.
the act of changing in form or shape or appearance
a complete change in someone or something

The interesting part is that transformation and change can be presented as synonyms, however, the context gets lost when we decided to apply it to an organizational context. In the organizational context, not many organization can truly say that they have been through transformation but we can dare say that majority of organization have gone through changes.




Let me give you real examples of changes and transformation that we have observed and witnessed in our projects Example #1


In this project to inculcate values in action, our change consultant had to change the behaviours and attitudes towards the new values that we given from the corporate head office. This meant that the values were not co-created from a ground-up approach but that of a top-down approach. Many changes were implemented in the project :

1) New co-created definitions of values and its accompanying behaviours through the use of site observation, focus group discussions, individual interviews, surveys etc

2) Full translation to different languages of Values Guide to cater to different nationalities 3) Values were included as part of performance appraisals to change the focus to values -based performance

4) Values based hiring practices were included to supplement the current way of hiring (attitudinal and technical)

5) Values Culture Sessions were implemented with a target of 80% of entire workforce


With the 5 major changes that were implemented, it would seem that there would have been major transformation. However, it is important to determine what was the transformation. Looking back into the objective which was to change or shift behaviours and attitudes towards the new values.


There was indeed transformation!





What was the real transformation?

When employees had values as part of their daily conversations in/out of work. Supervisors shifted their daily safety conversations to include values as the main focus of why employees do what they do. Leaders would review the values and use it as a decision matrix before making executive decisions.


The organization had definitely transformed from a less-value focused organization to a conscious-value organization where the values are in the foreground of the organization.


Example #2 This project was centred on leadership development for their hi potential leaders which needed a change in their behaviour and actions which is aligned to 6 guiding principles that were outlined by the organization. These hi-potential leaders were handpicked rather than nominated which meant that there was a rigorous selection process before they embarked on the journey.


Likewise, there were many changes implemented to modify behaviours and actions :

1) Shift in decision making process to increase team morale and success

2) Implemented S.O.P by adopting team charters instead of just relying on relationship 3) Reduced confirmation bias about customers through variety of methods

4) Increased leadership competencies through real application of tools back to the business.


Were there changes ? Yes, definitely! Was there a transformation? No , if there was no shift in behavior and attitudes.


The real transformation was the continued application and evolving of what was learnt to enable the hi potential leaders to grow their teams and solve the real business challenges.


CONCLUSION : Most would say that they have changed a lot, but few would say they have really transformed. Implementing changes with no intention of transformation can be considered as WOT (waste of time) or WOR (waste of resources). Because not all changes are transformative but necessary, for example, reducing headcount due to declining business. Is it transformative? It is more of a change that is implemented out of necessity.


Focus on the transforming your organization through implementing gradual changes to the people, processes and policies to enable leaders to lead the change.



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