According to Ron Ashkenas, we still don’t know the difference between change and transformation. He explains that change management is focused on execution of well-defined shifts. Transformation on the other hand is iterative and experimental. The overall goal is to reinvent the organization and discover new business models based on a vision for the future.

“Reinventing the organisation” sounds to me a very challenging task, particularly in the large corporations. As you know, the culture and processes are generally intended to retain the status quo. Nobody wants to kill the cash cow, even when the risk of disruption could actualize behind the corner.

In order to engineer a successful transformation, we need to learn a lot.

Whilst the leaders have adopted the ideas of engagement and crowdsourcing over the years, a transformation challenges us in whole new level. Transformation has a radical character.

  1. Power and responsibility for initiating change must be transferred on the lower levels of organisational hierarchy. Executives have to adopt a new mindset. They have to give up the control, cope with the uncertain, take risk and trust that the outcome will be fine – or won’t.
  2. Therefore we need more transformational leaders. PWC and Harthill Consulting have estimated that less than 10% of leaders have the appropriate combination of skills and experience for leading a successful transformation. We have to grow more of them.
  3. Traditional project models may not fit well with transformations. The roots of these models are in industries where the solutions are technical, logical and linear in nature, like constructing. In transformations the problems are often wicked and the outcome is unpredictable. An increasing shift to more agile change methods may occur, or maybe some new project methods will be created over time.
  4. Last but not least, the organisation culture must support the transformation and the new way of leading the change. You know what happens if there is a conflict between strategy and culture. Nevertheless, corporations are adopting new culture slowly, if at all. I think that the transformation itself may affect to culture, since the radical and engaging nature of it.



Ron Ashkenas: We Still Don’t Know the Difference Between Change and Transformation. HBR Jan 15, 2015.

Gary Hamel & Michele Zanini: Build a change platform, not a change program.

The hidden talent: 10 ways to identify and retain transformational leaders. 2015 PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.  


Photo by Vashishtha Jogi


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