Call it change or transformation?

Friday, September 27th, 2013

My friend Greta asks a good question. Pls respond. Thanks.

Greta writes: Hi Rick, A question occupying my mind at the moment is the use of the word transformation rather than change. Some of my clients have recently started using that word partly because they feel that the word change has suffered inflation, plus the fact that they see that what lies ahead of them requires a really big shift in the way they think about and go about their business. I’m not sure where I stand, thinking it can scare some people off – that the word is just too big, and that it can also be just the push people need to feel invited into truly questioning what is. Any thoughts, anyone?

My reply: I would use the term that your clients are most comfortable with. I was taught that there are two types of organizational change: transactional and transformational. Transactional includes continuous improvement efforts like Kaizan, etc. Transformational suggests upheaval. Perhaps entering a change without knowing where you are headed – or how to get there. And that does scare (and excite) many of us. . . I think the term change is losing its luster here in the US and other words might help, but transformational seems too provocative if the changes are more modest.

Now, its your turn. What you suggest?