The biggest challenge organisations, teams, people face is the so called “failure” of change management. The vast majority of my clients report of having too much opposition and people who aren’t bought in. They’ve invested to introduce change and isn’t working: “ Why?” is the question I am asked the most. My answer is always the same: “Because there’s a big difference between change and transformation.”
Understanding whether you are pursuing CHANGE VS. TRANSFORMATION – and ensuring that everyone who will be impacted by it agrees on your goal - will dictate your success.
CHANGE requires working to make things better, faster, cheaper and the past is the fundamental reference point; the desire to improve the past directs what we do.
TRANSFORMATION is instead something NEW. The future directs our actions. It causes new systems to emerge. It’s much more unpredictable, iterative, and experimental. It entails much higher risk. Transformation is a process of discovery and experimentation not execution.
Sometimes the biggest challenge is defining what our aim is. If we are aiming for transformation, we need to start with a clear Vision in mind. A vision of something that currently doesn’t exist. We do not know if we can transform it into a reality and we have to be willing to risk that it might not. The first step towards transformation is allowing the freedom to imagine with no promises. The limits of transformation are imagination and the courage to act on the imagined possibilities. Stop trying to control it, stop trying to understand it or intellectualise it. Let your vision guide you.
While change happens around us, transformation happens inside us. A butterfly is a transformation, not a better caterpillar.
Change always starts as a new set of behaviours. Transformation instead modifies values and desires. It occurs when you no longer want to do what you used to do, behave how you use to behave or have what you used to have.
It’s easy to beat ourselves up over the various studies and assessments that show we’re not getting better at it. The point is that we have learnt how to execute change management and struggle instead at how to engineer a transformation. A “simple” way to seek transformation and get the buy in of others is to CONTINUALLY EXPLAIN THE WHY BEHIND THE WHAT. What you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it are of course important but they are always divisive because we all have different ways of doing things. Why reminds us instead why we’re in this in the first place. Leaders who continually explain the why behind the what are much more effective at leading change in behaviours that support the new values and desires.
The skills required to lead a transformation are substantially different than those required to execute a change management. Transformational leadership capabilities are:
Flexibility and a dynamic capacity of integrating the inner world of values and desires with the observation of the outer world’s demands.
Being comfortable around risk and willing to step into uncharted territory with no promises.
Honest communication and strong collaboration.
Now that we have a better idea of the differences between change and transformation let me ask you a simple question; it’s something you can ask both for your work/projects and for any particular situation in your life: “Do you want a better version of now or something new?”
Answer honestly and then take your first step. Without this clarity you won’t be able to succeed neither at changing nor at transforming.
If you’re interested to learn more about our knowledge and experience and discuss how we could help through our consultancy, workshops, and talks, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.