Beyond Transformation
by Rick Sidorowicz

The most subtle distinctions in language can create “insights” that can be valuable to the ‘adaptation’ to a new ‘reality.’ Such is the distinction between the implications of “change” and the more ‘delicate’ notion of “transformation,” and what lies beyond.

Change is hard, it’s tough, it’s cold - and in a business sense it’s really practically impossible to do. Let’s face it. People don’t “change.” They may change their behaviour somewhat, their relationships somewhat, their ‘visible’ “attitude” somewhat, but they don’t “change” who they are. They may “change” what they do and who they do it with, but “they” - don’t change. “They” - or “you” or “I” - can’t “change.” Maybe that’s why people seem to resist “change” - they don’t want to be “changed.” 

So we can grasp the delicate notion of the subtle difference and step right around the difficulties with change and being changed to - transformation - a most enlightened distinction. So let’s not even bother with change - let’s transform! We are who we are - let’s just see things differently - alter our thinking, and step out-of-the-box for a fresh new bold perspective on whatever we’re up to.

Transformation really is a better word to use for two reasons:

1. It puts the responsibility for the seeing of things differently back to the person doing the seeing, and ... 2. It’s a more accurate and precise description of the process that actually happens.

transform v 1. To alter markedly the appearance or form of. 2. To change the nature, function, or condition of, to convert.

Transformation is better than change. We want to alter the appearance of - how we dress, how we work, how we collaborate, how we respond positively. We want to markedly alter the form of how we communicate, how we organize, how we support each other, how we execute. We want to step out and beyond the view of organizing around tasks and functional silos and move to a more lateral view and organize around the processes that add value to the end user - the customer. And we really don’t want anyone to really change - we want them to see the light and embrace a new way of thinking - we want them to convert. Ah - here is the gem, the jewel, the source, the juice - the essence of change and of transformation itself!

convert v 1. To change into another form, substance, state, or product: to transform. 2. To induce or be induced to adopt a new religion or belief (OK!). 3. To adapt to a new or different use or purpose (bingo!). 4. To exchange for something of equal value (insight!).

But wait a minute - we want them to convert - of their own volition. We want converts - who believe in the new values, thinking, and purpose. We want, no - we need them to ...

to like it! 

And therein is the seed of the limitations of transformation and the need to go beyond.

People don’t resist change - they resist being changed! They also resist being transformed! They definitely resist being converted especially if you have an underlying need for them to like it! 

So what do we do? Let’s unwind the logic a little bit and see where that takes us.

Do we really care if they like it? Yes commitment is better and we do want people to be involved and committed. But really, does it matter if they like it? We’ll likely do it anyway. (Won’t we? Don’t we?)

So let’s go to convert. Yes we want others to adapt positively, and to transform. Sure a new form is good, we need alignment to our cause. But does it really matter? (Really?)

And what about the delicate difference of transformation? Do we really care about being delicate and ethereal? Perhaps, and stay with me on this for a minute, just perhaps, all we really want to do is to change their %$#& behaviour.

So forget about changing anyone or transforming anyone, or converting anyone. We want a change in behaviour and results, period. We want different outcomes - and just perhaps - we can tolerate just about any kind of temperament, attitude, mind set, inclination and outward appearance of commitment - if the desired results and outcomes are obtained. What a novel idea.

So we do in fact want people to change - and markedly so. We want to go beyond change - we want a complete mutation to occur - and to occur fast! Let’s add a few new words to our vocabulary of change and transformation, and go beyond.

transmutate v To change from one nature, form, substance, or state into another.

So let’s forget about change and transformation and talk instead about transmutation - this is what we’re really after! To in fact transmutate to a new form, substance or state - ie to change. And it really doesn’t matter if they like it - how will they know? - they’ve transmutated into a new form!

So now we’re well beyond transformation. We’re into the heavy duty stuff of real, lasting, and profound transmutation - our new foundation of new thinking and commitment for the future.

But there’s more ...

the ultimate ...

... well beyond almost anything we’ve encountered thus far.


transmogrify v To change into a different, especially fantastic or bizarre shape or form.

And now we see the light - the real light and truth. This is what we’re really after. The complete change into a new fantastic and bizarre shape or form - that of course delivers the results we want and need.

So when people say, “You can’t change the spots on a leopard.” You say, “ I know, but I want an animal that runs exceptionally fast, climbs trees, swims underwater, costs me next to nothing to maintain, has a pleasant temperament and always, always keeps my freezer full." And when someone says, “We need to transform and adapt to the new and unique circumstance we now face.” You say, " %$&# transformation, the word is feeble - we’re going beyond to transmutate - now!” And if they think you’ve lost it completely (which, by the way, they probably already think you have) you say, “We’re going beyond change, we’re going beyond transformation - we’re already beyond re-engineering - we will transmogrify - and it won’t even matter if you like it! Because you’re going to love it!"

And there are two reasons why transmogrification is where we need to be today:

1. It puts the responsibility for performance directly on the person expected to do the changing and performing and ... 2. It’s a more accurate and precise description of the process that must happen to deal effectively with the fantastic and bizarre world we’re encountering every new day.


Rick Sidorowicz is the Publisher and Editor of The CEO Refresher and
the Minister of Culture of High Performance Retail.

Many more articles on Leading Change in The CEO Refresher Archives


Copyright 1998 by Rick Sidorowicz. All rights reserved.

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