Change vs transformation

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Today, I notice that the terms “Change” and “Transformation” are used randomly to name any given process of becoming different. To me, the process of becoming different from an “As-Is” to a “To-Be” through change is very different from that of transformation. So, what is to me the difference?

Change requires a good understanding of the current situation and is all about working to make that situation bigger, leaner, better, faster, cheaper … The past is the point of reference and all actions are meant to “correct” what happened in the past. Success of change is evaluated by realized efficiencies and economies at the end of the effort in comparison with the initial situation. When you choose change, your future is an improved version of that past. slang kopie The desire to improve the past directs what we do, it sets boundaries and constrains possibilities. Changes improves an existing system, and is managed by managers.

A snake that sheds, changes skin. At the end, it is still a snake, but with a better skin (that will need to be improved again. And again).

On the other hand, one can assert that today’s actions are creating the future. That future can be described as “vision” and is realizable when one is freed from the past’s constraints. Transforming, is designing the future and inventing ways to realize it. A transformation isn’t about describing a future by referencing the past but about giving birth to a future that is entirely new, detached from the past. As with change, transformation starts with the As-Is, since without an in depth understanding of that As-Is, we are delusional about the future. Through transformation, it becomes easier to let go that past and to allow yourselves to envision the future freely. The future directs one’s actions and only the limits of imagination and courage constrain possibilities. A transformation causes a new system to emerge, and is lead by leaders.

A transformed caterpillar is not a better caterpillar, but a butterfly.

Posted by Olivier Swyngedouw

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