A guide to change and transformation

Change is all about taking small and continuous steps to ensuring that your current business state is just one step closer to your ideal business state.

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Adam Muspratt

Cartoon man on compass holding telescope

What is change?

Implementing change seems like a difficult prospect, but it doesn’t have to be. Change is all about taking small and continuous steps to ensuring that your current business state is just one step closer to your ideal business state. That is change management.

In a business context, change management is a broad term for when a business undergoes process change when it is unsatisfied with the current status quo. 
As a result, change is continuous and incremental and the barometer for useful change is how much better your ideal business state is compared to the present state of your business. This means a continuous push is needed to maintain the change and lessen the gap.

Video: Gill Graham describes how an OPEX program caused cultural change at Vattenfall

Change is sometimes used interchangeably with transformation, but the two could not be any more different, and without having a firm understanding of both concepts, you may find that change management is more difficult than it should be. 

The difference between change and transformation

Change is a continuous process that may be small or incremental.

Transformation alters the nature of why a company takes a particular action.

It is important that your businesses understand the fundamental differences between change and transformation as implementing change is more manageable, as the change can often be reversed.

For example, when a car manufacturer introduces a new model, we might consider that to be a change. When the car manufacturer automates their factory and back office, drastically reducing their costs so they become exponentially more profitable and productive, forcing their competitors to adopt the same process or become obsolete, we might consider that to be more of a transformation.  

Ultimately, change management entails altering the systems, processes, and organisational structures that the business operates in. Change can come in two ways – as a reaction to external circumstances and change that is adopted to encourage improvement.

There are wide ways of tools and methods that can bring about change management and prescribe adjustments to the threads of your organisational components.

With transformation, you may lose the structures in a place that many processes depend on. Implementing and reversing an transformation takes a substantial amount of resources and time. 

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Key steps to successful change management


Steps to successful change. Source: Shutterstock

1. Determine the aspect of your business that needs improvement

We should implement change when there is an identifiable process that needs improvement. As with all process excellence plans, it is vital that your goals are laser focused with a clear structure – with resources allocated and individuals ready to take ownership.

  • In practiceAny sign of trouble is a good reason for change. Customer defection, inability to attract new customers and clients, or even something as simple as falling sales. The key response at this junction is to recognise that your business cannot go on like this and to enact change.

2. Ensure cross organisation buy-in

When implementing change, internal resistance is natural as fear of risk and the unknown are natural responses. From stake holders to upper management, and everyone on the ground – they all need to be onboard with the change. This is vital for breaking down silos and maintaining collaboration between different departments, ensuring that everyone is geared towards the same journey.

Read: Be a change leader: 7 windows of opportunity

  • In practiceThe best chance of getting your organisation onboard it determines who exactly will be impacted by the change at all organisational levels. Analyse the potential effect each unit and how best to limit disruption. 

3. Proper planning, readiness and data management.

Create a multi-step strategy outlining the process change with incentives, measurements for success and scope for reflection and analysis. Whether this entails new hardware infrastructure, or process management tools, any model you adopt must ensure that clear data gathering systems are in place to illuminate visible success and completed millstones. The ability to celebrate success is one of the most important aspects of change management, as it will strengthen company wide buy in and validate your initial reason for implementing change.

  • In practiceWhen the change is in effect, it is important that all affected personnel have the training and knowledge required to carry out the change. Whether this entails online webinar sessions, online learning modules, or face-to-face training, it is vital employees are ready for the change.

4. Implementation

Implementation is made up of two elements: training and the support structure. Once you have these in place, and the change has been planned, you should be ready to implement.

  • In practiceAt this stage leaders mandate new processes. It is natural for feelings of uncertainty and confusion to ensue, but it is up leaders to stick to the strategy and keep all departments working towards the same goal. One of the biggest hurdles to overcome is working with the current process while trying to implement the new one.

5. Implement continuous change and review your efforts

Change should be an ongoing process (one factor that separate change and transformation). Even mid-strategy, consider the benefits of change to remove roadblocks and unhelpful processes that were not discovered at the initial launch of your change management cycle.

What do the experts say about change?

PEX talked to Ravi Rao, HR expert and author of ‘Emotional Business’. We asked: what stops people from putting change into practice?

Putting change into practice is often more complex and difficult than it seems it should be. The ideal change roadmap often runs into boulders in the middle of the highway. Most often this is because of fear, miscommunication, or failure to understand the priorities of the affected stakeholders. In more complex situations, there may be political power forces at work within the organisation blocking the change. These are commonplace - perhaps even expected - when change will cause significant organisational disruption.

Read: 5 Tips On How To Successfully Execute An Operational Strategy 

How to overcome challenges to change?

There are several approaches to addressing these impediments to change.

  • First: While addressing mindsets is important, behaviours must also change.

It may seem easy to dismiss the need for training on communications or collaboration, but change initiatives often expose/reveal team weaknesses and conflicts. Sessions to improve behavioural skills go a long way to making change successful.

  • Second: Solicit early input from resistant individuals.

Ask what they are feeling and whether there are ways they might suggest adapting the rollout. Sometimes the most obstinate stakeholders become zealots once they are included in the process.

  • Third: Ensure that KPIs and incentives align with the expectations of the "future state" rather than the objectives written months ago.

Rewrite objectives or goals as necessary to align expectations with incentives. People will inherently find more motivation to be part of the change if they see personal benefit.

  • Finally: Ensure visible leadership with inspirational communications.

This can include highlighting successes, recognising change leaders and contributors, repeating how the mission and vision of the organisation are served by the change initiative, and conducting recognition events and town halls to celebrate the change successes.

  •  “Our ability to adapt is amazing. Our ability to change isn't as spectacular. “ — Lisa Lutz, author

  •  “People are very open-minded about new things, as long as they're exactly like the old ones.” — Charles F. Kettering, inventor, head of research at General Motors

  • “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” W. Edwards Deming, management consultant

  • “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence—it is to act with yesterday’s logic.” — Peter Drucker

  • “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” —Buckminster Fuller

  • “Change before you have to.” — Jack Welch

  • “Those who expect moments of change to be comfortable and free of conflict have not learned their history.” — Joan Wallach Scott

Change trends

Change is firmly an expected aspect of contemporary work culture and it is occurring at such a high frequency many companies can't keep up and feel that they are being stretched. However, strategies to sequence change and allocate resources are always being improved in the growing discipline.

More and more positions are being created for change professionals as business realises the importance of maintaining sustained change over a long period. This will also entail more opportunities for training and formal education in the coming years through formal change management training events. 

Change trends. Source: Shutterstock

In addition, Younger workers are creating a different business culture as they disrupt existing companies and start their own. The influence of millennials on the workplace and in leadership positions is explored in this article: 

“Add together the flat hierarchy, the absence of managers, the increased reliance on interpersonal skills while the computers deal with the data, and organisations as dedicated to making the world better as they are to turning a profit, and you have a blueprint for how the workplace of the future may look.

‘Organization changes, such as restructuring, budgetary modifications, new IT or human resources systems, or new leadership, can lead to employees who are overly stressed, have less trust in their employers and have a greater desire to find new jobs’ - Ravi Rao, HR expert and author of ‘Emotional Business’

Read: Consequence management for better process change

Where to learn more about change?


  • Change tools: stapler or loom?
    In this piece, Jeff Cole discusses the correct way to go from problem to solution while ensuring to due diligence. 

  • Be a change leader: 7 windows of opportunity
    Without innovation any organization will eventually fail. This article explores becoming a change leader and ensuring your strategy is maintained throughout the change cycle and beyond. 

  • 5 tips on how to successfully execute an Operational Strategy

    All organisations need to change what they do, how they look and what services they offer to remain competitive and attractive to customers. Here are 5 tips to help you successfully execute an operational strategy based on experience working with various organisations and industries.

  • Consequence management for better process change
    Why do some change management strategies suffer through chaos while others run smoothly? This illuminating article explores the best strategies to avoid common process change pitfalls. 

  • Better change through more stress?
    Communicating the benefits of change to your business is key. This article explores the "stress curve" and limiting the stress you place on those affected by change. 



Change is all about taking small and continuous steps to ensuring that your current business state is just one step closer to your ideal business state.


Ravi Rao, author of Emotional Business, joins us and shares why emotional intelligence is a fundamental building block to a healthy business - and why in an age of automation, humans are still indispensable.


Will Swanson, Vice President HR Shared Services Schneider Electric, tells us how, despite not being 'a HR guy', he used his experience in shared services and continuous improvement to move into a HR leadership role.

Richard Conroy joins us and shares P&Gs approach to merging HR into the change management process.


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4 Strategies For Successfully Driving Transformation - A digital framework is critical to ensure that business model change can be implemented fast enough to impact your market more rapidly than your competitors, and in this white paper we explore how SAP S/4HANA can enable creation of a digital core which can underpin your business model change.

4 steps to solving problems of strategic change - Strategy execution very often fails because of alignment problems. If the strategic vision is not translated into an operating model and a way of working, executive managers have a hard time defining concrete targets for their managers and KPIs to measure their success.

7 Ways To Drive Engagement And Secure Process Improvement Success - The support of your business teams can mean the difference between success and failure for your continuous improvement efforts. In this White paper we learn of 7 ways to drive engagement and secure process improvement success.