Change Management WalkMe TeamUpdated July 13, 2021

Change Vs Transformation – Understanding the Difference

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Change Vs Transformation – Understanding the Difference

Change VS transformation is a critical subject highlighted in most companies’ agenda. But without a clearly understanding of what these two words mean, it’s difficult for these companies to reap the full benefits of what these words can bring.

You see, if we talk about change, the question becomes — change to what? The word change is nebulous in both concept and practice. Some people would love to change while others never want to do so. This means that the status quo will remain where possible. We could compare it with someone trying to change their bad habits in their personal new year resolution. They will apply constant effort to keep their bad habit in check.

The other issue with change management is its historical ownership with the HR department in businesses. This alone, dooms it because change is both a people’s issue as well as a business issue.

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Change VS Transformation Defined

If you looked into the meaning of the word change in the dictionary, you’d see that it’s being referred to as the practice of substituting or replacing something. But on the other hand, transformation is defined as a complete change, mostly towards something that has an improved usefulness or appearance. Clearly it appears there are lots of similarities here, and the outside observer may not be able to distinguish the differences.

The Differences, Plus why Both Elements are Important in a Business


It can occur in smaller proportions yet incremental over time. But sometimes it can be large and very complex. The problem with change is that it is something that has to be continuously monitored or observed. So it needs maintenance.

A good example would be to think of all the change management efforts in the IT industry. You simply can’t put all the elements of change and then hope for the best. Well, some people try doing that, but this is a different ball game altogether.

And you see, each of these processes have ownership and metrics which require constant improvement. In other words, an external conscious effort is needed in order for the team involved to maintain action that will lead to the ultimate change.


Transformation is often large and significant. You see, before it takes place, one has to change their internal fundamental belief of why they are carrying out a particular action. The good thing about transformation is that it doesn’t depend on external efforts to maintain or keep it going. Because of this fundamental nature of transformation, the effects are likely to remain permanent.

Change demands that one uses external influences with the intent of modifying action to achieve a particular goal. But on the other hand, transformation is more focused towards modifying the beliefs of people so that their actions naturally gravitate towards doing the right thing, without feeling compelled to do so.

The following points will highlight why transformation is so important in a business:

Case Study

Let’s take an example of one company helping another IT firm in solving a service outage problem they’ve consistently experienced. It’s more than likely that the business units of this IT firm are unhappy. But the most important thing to note is the fact that crucial voices in this IT firm will have failed in their change programs aimed at solving the problem, which is why the issue is still at large.

However, by working with this IT team from a stance of transformation rather than that of change, the result would see the IT firm eliminating more than 90% of their service outage troubles. This would occur in the shortest time possible, compared to if the company would have applied change to manage the situation.

What exactly is the company doing differently to restore order?

The company is recognizing the fact that the people working in this IT firm are passionate about efficient service delivery. These employees are willing to become effective fire-fighters when situation forces them to — rather out of necessity, and this is geared towards streamlining service delivery to customers.

The company lending hand here simply shows them that for one to become effective in their service delivery efforts, they need to first recognize the value of becoming fire ”preventers” instead.

By doing this, the company is transforming their beliefs about efficient service delivery, and so their new altered action is likely to give results in the shortest time possible.

And you see, this technique is very effective when it comes to changing processes and procedures without necessarily addressing the basic beliefs of employees, and their initial idea that rendering good service delivery means being a good firefighter. They are not being forced to believe otherwise, because this transformation is taking place in a natural process.

It’s true that many organizations have successfully executed change programs to the benefit of everyone in the organization. However, others have failed outright.

Questions to ask yourself when change management principles are not working

If you’ve implemented change and it’s not working, then you should know that the solution lies in implementing fundamental change in beliefs of your people. You should consider asking the following questions when launching your next change management strategy:

  • Will you see results by just following the new processes and procedures?
  • Will monitoring the metrics give you the results you badly want?
  • Are the people you are working with holding to the right belief that is in line with what you want to achieve at the end of it all?

Transformation is a very powerful concept, compared to change. That’s because it’s mainly centered towards business goals and the act of transforming in general. It would mean one is becoming something fundamentally different, but in a sustainable way, instead of struggling with things that might not even work in the end.


If change fails, transformation strategies should take place. We’re talking of a dedicated team who have a direct access to the board or even the CEO of the company in question. This is quite different from what happens in the world of a change manager. Change managers simply beg others to join in their new ways, while transformation managers simply instil beliefs and wait for the rest to join. That’s what change VS transformation is all about.

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