What is Transformation, and Why Is It So Hard to Manage?


Back to all Free Resources          View PDF Version

What is Transformation, and Why Is It So Hard to Manage?

Dean Anderson
Linda Ackerman Anderson

Knowing which type of change your organization is undergoing is critical to your success. Three types exist, and each requires different change strategies, plans and degrees of employee engagement. A very common reason for failure in change is leaders inadvertently using approaches that do not fit the type of change they are leading. Is this happening in your organization?

The three types of change occurring in organizations today are: (1) developmental,(2) transitional, and (3) transformational. Traditional project management and what is commonly called, “change management” effectively support developmental and transitional change, but they are woefully insufficient for transformational change. You will need to understand the type of change you are in to know whether typical project or change management approaches can work for you.

Developmental Change

Developmental change is the simplest type of change: it improves what you are currently doing rather than creates something new. Improving existing skills, processes, methods, performance standards, or conditions can all be developmental changes. Specific examples include increasing sales or quality, interpersonal communication training, simple work process improvements, team development, and problem-solving efforts.

Transitional Change

Transitional change replaces “what is” with something completely new. This requires designing and implementing a “new state.” The organization simultaneously must dismantle and emotionally let go of the old way of operating while the new state is being put into place. This “transitional” phase can be project managed and effectively supported with traditional change management tools. Examples include reorganizations, simple mergers or acquisitions, creation of new products or services that replace old ones, and IT implementations that do not radically impact people’s work or require a significant shift in culture or behavior to be effective.

Two variables define transitional change: (1) you can determine your destination in detail before you begin, and can, therefore, “manage” your transition, and (2) people are largely impacted only at the levels of skills and actions, not the more personal levels of mindset, behavior and culture.

Transformational Change

Transformation, however, is far more challenging for two distinct reasons. First, the future state is unknown when you begin, and is determined through trial and error as new information is gathered. This makes it impossible to “manage” transformation with pre-determined, time-bound and linear project plans. You can have an over-arching change strategy, but the actual change process literally must “emerge” as you go. This means that your executives, managers and frontline workers alike must operate in the unknown—that scary, unpredictable place where stress skyrockets and emotions run high.

Second, the future state is so radically different than the current state that the people and culture must change to implement it successfully. New mindsets and behaviors are required. In fact, often leaders and workers must shift their worldviews to even invent the required new future, let alone operate it effectively.

Without these “inner” shifts of mindset and culture, the “external” implementation of new structures, systems, processes or technology do not produce their intended ROI. For example, many large IT implementations fail because they require a mindset and culture change that does not occur, i.e., the new systems require people to share information across strongly held boundaries or put the needs of the enterprise over their own turf agendas. Without these changes in attitude and behavior, people do not use the technology as designed and the change fails to deliver its ROI.

Implications for the Workforce

Because transformation impacts people so personally, you must get them involved in it to garner their support; and the earlier the better! Employee resistance is always in direct proportion to the degree to which people are kept in the dark and out of the change process. Here are some options for employee engagement.

Get staff engaged in building your case for change and determining the vision for the new state. Consider using large group meeting technologies, which can involve hundreds of people simultaneously in short periods of time.

Consider putting a wider representation of people on your change leadership team. Provide mindset, behavior, and change skill development to all employees. Use employee groups to identify your customers’ requirements for your transformation, and to benchmark what “best-in-class” organizations are doing in your industry. Ask employee groups to input to enterprise-wide changes that impact them, and give them the authority to design the local changes for improving their work (they know it best.) Then before implementation, get them involved in doing an impact analysis of your design to ensure that it is feasible and won’t overwhelm your organization beyond what it can handle.

When you engage your employees in these ways before implementation, you minimize resistance. Use such strategies to support your change efforts, especially if they are transformational.

Share This Page…

Change Leader’s Network News

Get the latest industry research, updates and resources on personal and organizational change sent to your inbox with "Change Leader's Network News." It's free!

Search

Endorsements

With this extensively upgraded second edition, Dean Anderson and Linda Ackerman Anderson solidify their status as the leading authorities on change leadership and organizational transformation. This is without question the most comprehensive approach for leaders who are serious about making change a strategic discipline. Beyond Change Management is an intelligent book by two of the most knowledgeable and accomplished masters of their craft, and it’s one that every conscious change leader should adopt as their guide to creating more meaningful organizations.

Jim Kouzes
Coauthor of the bestselling The Leadership Challenge and The Truth About Leadership


Read this great book by Dean Anderson and Linda Ackerman Anderson and learn how to use their multi-dimensional approach to lead transformation masterfully and consciously!

Marshall Goldsmith
World-renowned executive coach
Author of the New York Times best-sellers, MOJO and What Got You Here Won’t Get You There


An important move toward a more integral business consulting approach, very much recommended for those interested in the topic and ways to actually apply it. 

Ken Wilber
Author, The Integral Vision, A Brief History of Everything, and over a dozen other best-sellers


Dean and Linda are core to the field of conscious change leadership, and continue to stretch and push its boundaries in this rich and deep compendium. This is a must read from two consummate thought leaders who have devoted their careers to developing highly successful change leaders. Read it and immediately improve your change leadership or consulting success.

Bev Kaye
CEO, Career Systems International
Author of Love 'em or Lose 'em: Getting Good People to Stay


This book is about mastery of leading the transformational change process written by masters of the craft.  For corporate leaders and consultants who consider themselves committed students of the process of organizational change.

Daryl Conner
Chairman, Conner Partners
Author of Managing at the Speed of Change and Leading at the Edge of Chaos


Beyond Change Management is a timely how-to guide for leading change in the 21st century. It provides both a conceptual roadmap, and practical tools and techniques for successfully transforming organizations.

Noel Tichy
Professor, University of Michigan
Co-author with Warren Bennis of JUDGMENT: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls


Once again, Dean and Linda have nailed it! Beyond Change Management is an extraordinary book examining the shifts in change management that have occurred over the years. This book offers real, practical solutions for change practitioners to become extraordinary conscious change leaders.

Darlene Meister
Director, Unified Change Management
United States House of Representatives


Powerful business solutions to the current chaos facing many organizations today. Dean Anderson and Linda Ackerman Anderson get to the heart of change, the human touch, by using timeless techniques and tools.
Ken Blanchard
Co-Author of The One Minute Manager and Leading at a Higher Level


Having applied this methodology for two years to manage change inside Microsoft, it has been instrumental in our ability to land change effectively, engage employees and deliver results quickly. The Change Leader’s Roadmap allows us to lead change with precision and minimal outside consulting, while at the same time growing change leadership capability internally. This is the most complete change methodology we have found anywhere.

Pete Fox
General Manager, Corporate Accounts
Microsoft US


This newest edition of The Change of Leader’s Roadmap is an invaluable, comprehensive and practical guide for envisioning an organization’s desired future, designing the structures and practices necessary to make it happen, and implementing them effectively. The book describes the change process in nine distinct phases and outlines the activities and tasks that need to occur in each phase. It provides change leaders with an essential map for successfully traversing the complex and uncertain terrain of transformational change.   

Thomas G. Cummings
Professor and Chair, Department of Management & Organization
Marshall School of Business
University of Southern California


This is the next best thing to having Dean, Linda and the Being First team riding alongside your complex change initiative. The Change Leader’s Roadmap breeds confidence in senior executive “Champions” to guide not just a successful transformational change, but most importantly, to develop the mission critical organizational CULTURE that will ensure unparalleled return on investment. Nothing I have seen in my 32 years of leading change comes close.

Jeff Mulligan
Former CEO, Common Wealth Credit Union
Mayor, City of Lloydminster


After implementing more than 2000 business strategy and operational excellence initiatives, we set out to find the best change methodology and toolbox in the world. The methodology this book describes is it! Study it thoroughly, because the thinking, process approach and pragmatic tools really work!

Thomas Fischer
Director COO
Valcon Management Consultants A/S
Copenhagen


A practical, step-by-step guide for change leaders, managers and consultants. The book provides conceptually grounded, real world, time tested tools and guidance that will prove invaluable to those faced with navigating the challenges of leading organizational change in today's turbulent times.

Robert J. Marshak, Ph.D.
Senior Scholar in Residence
MSOD Program, American University
Organizational Change Consultant