Are You Changing or Transforming?

Change Vs Transformation

The global pandemic has been devastating worldwide and has adversely impacted almost every industry vertical. The overnight shift to a contactless, digital-first world has become a compelling event for organizations deciding to transform. Those that were already on their way had to pause and evaluate their current business transformation strategies and reflect on whether they are still relevant in this new world. Each imperative had to be scrutinized by the teams on whether they had to pivot or persevere, and this decision-making was complicated by accommodating a remote workforce. This shift in mindset, business models, and operating procedures has introduced considerable strain on organizations that must transform.

We are at a critical inflection point of organizational evolution. It is imperative for us to take some time and consider the following question: Is your organization changing or transforming?

Change is incremental. It takes the security and comfort of the existing state and slowly tries to improve upon it. The goal of introducing change is to reduce entropy that is hindering the flow of value within the organization, eliminate waste that organically was introduced either through process governance, manual oversight, or integration with newer technology. We can introduce change for culture, people, processes, and technologies to bring the organization to a state of equilibrium.

Some popular methods of introducing change within an organization are: 

  • Culture: Initiatives to Psychological Safety, Innovation, and organizational architecture
  • People: Retaining top talent, Enablement, Role, and culture fit events
  • Process: Value Stream Analysis, Flow Modernization, Process Automation, 
  • Technology: Lift and Migrate approaches, DevOps toolchains, Partial Refactoring

Change improves the past but does not relinquish it. When an organization faces an existential event (such as many are right now), making small incremental changes to processes to improve utilization and efficiency is necessary but not sufficient. The organization cannot build enough momentum to rise above the adversity that it is facing. Drastic measures are crucial in these situations.

Transformation, on the other hand, is radical and visceral. It is akin to a caterpillar metamorphosizing into a butterfly. But it cannot do so without going into a chrysalis stage. That is the same approach that organizations facing an existential crisis need to embrace. Organizational leaders need to take a step back, assess the existing market conditions, shift in customer expectations and behavior, competitors, and then develop strategies that will fundamentally transform their current approaches of value creation. Sometimes, that will even involve abandoning existing business transformation strategies and pivoting to a new aspirational state, or even as momentous as implementing a new business model. The goal of transformation is to create a new and better future for successful and sustained business value creation and delivery. Transformation reveres the past and treats it as validated learning. But it does not rely on or cling to the past. It sheds its past, similar to a butterfly emerging from the cocoon. 

Understanding the difference between change and transformation guides leaders to focus on starting initiatives successfully vs. starting initiatives that will drive success.

How to successfully transform and sustain it?

Transformations are bespoke and depend on an organization’s culture, heritage, industry vertical, and customer expectations. While there is no rigid transformation framework that leaders can operationalize for success, there are some predominant themes that strategic leaders should embrace for achieving not just a successful transformation but sustain that success and future-proof their organizations. In the subsequent articles, we will drill deep into each of these topics.

  • Value of a maturity model: Rectifying transformation by detecting the change 
  • Business architecture:  the foundation for value-oriented business transformation 
  • Cultural transformation with a cellular enterprise 
  • Tech (IT or Engineering) transformation: swapping out older legacy tech to newer tech. Addressing some tech debt

We will provide a 360o view of the transformation in the above series of articles and will help define the most appropriate model for your organization. However, a transformation cannot be successful without people. At Transformity, we firmly believe that people are the true value creators. We will share our experience and insights with people and empathy as the core tenet of a successful and sustainable transformation.

Dr. Gautham Pallapa

Dr. Gautham Pallapa is a Senior Executive Advisor for VMware. He works with C-Suite and executives at Global 2000 enterprise customers in transforming their strategy, processes, technologies, culture, and people to achieve their objectives and business outcomes. His mantra is "Transform with Empathy" and has successfully led several business transformations and cloud modernization efforts in various industry verticals. Gautham is an agile coach, a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, a SAFe Agilist, and an Ambassador for the DevOps Institute. He writes/talks/works on transformation, elevating humans, helping underprivileged people, and giving back to the community. Gautham was awarded the 2018 Tech leader of the year by AIM for his contributions. He has an upcoming book called "Leading with Empathy" which explores these topics in detail.