Saturday, October 10, 2015

Change vs. Transformation

Transformation is robust and sustainable - it requires a lasting mind shift.

Change is defined in the Oxford dictionary as "substitution of one for another," and transformation is defined as "to CHANGE the character or form." Transformation....., the word itself is the first indicator, transform...The definition of transformation in the dictionary is, "to change (something) completely," so it’s much more than renewal, its rebirth. The dictionary adds..." and usually in a good way," which suggests it’s co-productive, rather than counter-productive, and implicit too, is enjoyable. Hence, it includes the affective realm of experience. It makes sense to use the complexity of the shift required to differentiate between change and transformation. The biggest challenge with any large-scale transformation program is – do the senior leaders truly understand the time and impact on the organization and do they have the intestinal fortitude to hold up to corrections in the face of quarterly earnings report pressure? In that light, isn't the point of the discussion here to clarify something about management? What is difficult about the concept of managing one or more changes as a means of accomplishing a managed transformation?

Transformation is robust and sustainable - it requires a lasting mind shift. The work is to make the change transformative. Transformational leaders have two jobs: to manage their functional role and to be accountable for the cross-functional initiatives that drive transformation. Getting this concept across and then getting acceptance of this two-part role by individuals and by their team members who will be impacted is very challenging and requires ongoing focus and accountability checks. Understanding why the success rate upon change initiatives would be higher than transformations. It’s important to work on a fairly comprehensive model that views change and transformation as different points along a continuum with very different tools and competencies needed along the way. Understanding the difference can avoid the pitfalls of jumping to "managing change" too soon at the expense of preparing for transformation.

Change is the 'Now.' Transformation is a journey and requires a larger strategic investment. One could also look at change (things happening now) as the consequence of a transformation journey. Transformation is the change, but on a grand level, at the level of the system, differentiate in terms of the end result on a systemic level. Change is fragile and often temporary - it usually occurs at the behavior level without a shift in the underlying belief system - this is true individually and organizationally. Sustainable change is rather achieved by true internal shifts, which is more related to transformation than to "managing" change. Maybe the synergy between change and coaching could lead to a better understanding of the difference between change and transformation. Transformation means doing something proactive that takes you from the past to the present to the future. Change is like the four seasons, it is something that happens every so often and not always in one’s' control. So change is something that happens, the transformation is something you take initiatives.

There is a distinction between types of organizational change - incremental and transformative. An organization can be observed to have a predominant change culture that is inherent in their approaches, tools, and resourcing. At the bottom of the pyramid is simply fixing it, followed by prevention (which adds some level of thought and action beyond "fix and forget"); the third level is problem-driven improvement, still focused on correcting a deficit, but tends to be much more process-oriented and future-directed,; the fourth is goal-driven improvement, which flows from an understanding that proactive change must occur for a particular goal or objective to be achieved. The top of the pile is strategy-driven transformation. So for a company to move from one level to another requires step-function changes in tools, culture, leadership, and capabilities. One reason that change initiatives fail so often is that companies attempt a level of change well beyond their predominant mindset and approach.

The improvement as a change takes place within a company's existing business model (its value proposition, product mix, processes, customers, sales channels, culture, technologies, etc.). Some of these improvement initiatives can be tremendously complex but still have relatively fewer moving parts. Transformation, on the other hand, is a change to the fundamental business model itself. Transformation is, "the company reinvented itself," although that phrase is too frequently used to describe relatively straightforward improvement efforts. As change agents, the most significant difference between the two main categories of change is that the tools and capabilities that work reasonably well for improvement have little success in transformational efforts, and, in fact, can be a waste of valuable resources and a source of frustration. The other significant difference is that transformation can require as much as 2 or 3 times dedicated resources as a similarly sized improvement initiative. Focus on psychoeducational work on what "change" is collectively for those working with it and affected by "transition," "transformation," and "breakthrough."

Transformation is structural. Change is functional. Both are manageable. Sometimes the transformation is necessary in order to cope with change. Sometimes it isn't. Sometimes, agility, versatility, and resilience are good enough choices short of a transformation. "Transformation" goes a step further, and involves internalization of the new values and conceptual model, so that the newly required behaviors don't require the same kind of effort and vigilance. Instead, the newly established behaviors will be in harmony with the internalized values.


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