The term "transformation" is currently on everyone's lips - as is the term "turning point". But what does it mean in the corporate context? That is often unclear! As is what distinguishes a transformation process from a change process.
In the management field, a new buzzword has established itself after the term change: Transformation. Just a few years ago, this term was used rather rarely in corporate pronouncements; today, however, it can be found
during the digital transformation of the economy as well as
events such as the Corona crisis, the Ukraine war, climate change and their consequences.
in almost all statements of companies concerning their future.
But not only this: In many larger companies, dedicated staff units or even departments have now been created to deal exclusively with the topic of transformation. However, this is striking: Often, the players are the same people who were responsible for the topic of change management or business development not so long ago.
Not every change is a transformation
In discussions with internal transformation experts and their external consultants, one often notices that many people find it difficult to say exactly what distinguishes a transformation from a change,
what distinguishes a transformation process from a change process and
a transformation manager from a change manager
from a change manager. The two terms transformation and change are often used synonymously. But there are differences between them.
The word change simply denotes a change and can refer to very many objects and processes. For example, it is also a change process when the PCs in a company are replaced, or the walls are repainted. It is also a change when processes are optimized, teams are reorganized, or employees are hired or fired. A Change can therefore, but does not have to, refer to all levels, which, for example, form the basis of K&P's consulting triangle, i.e. corporate strategy, culture and structure (including processes, workflows).
Moreover, a change does not have to, but can also require a change in attitude and behavior on the part of the employees, because it does not necessarily involve a so-called "pattern change". For example, it is also a change, but not a "pattern change", if employees at a car manufacturer's plant now produce sedans instead of SUVs. In this case, they will probably have to relearn a few manual operations, but they will not have to fundamentally change their attitude and behavior. The situation is different, on the other hand, if a car manufacturer decides: "In the future, we will only produce e-cars instead of cars with internal combustion engines". Or even: "We are developing into a mobility provider." Because then not only the production and service provision processes change, but the entire company must develop a new self-image or identity, which also requires new competencies as well as thought and action patterns among those involved in the process.
Transforming means reinventing oneself
In general, transformation is understood to be the process of deliberately reshaping the basic "genetic" structure of a system - irrespective of whether this involves a company, a business or a business unit, for example. In the course of this process
a company, for example, redefines itself and a large part of its relationships to its environment and
questions not only its strategy and its business model but also its business processes and, if necessary, radically redesigns them.
The company (or division) reinvents itself, so to speak, in order to ensure its success in the medium and long term; a challenge that many companies are currently facing, because: The Corona pandemic and Ukraine war have changed many paradigms of entrepreneurial commerce, and they will continue to change due to the increasingly noticeable consequences of climate change, among other things. Or to put it another way: It is not only our society that is currently in the midst of a turning point, but many companies are also facing one as well.
Such a fundamental change affects all three of the a forementioned levels of companies: their strategy, their culture and their structure. And their employees? They have to redefine themselves and their behavior and develop a new identity at least in relation to their function in the organization.
The transformation of a company can best be compared with the metamorphosis that many insects undergo in the course of their life cycle. In a butterfly, for example, there are the developmental stages of egg, caterpillar, pupa, and butterfly. And in the transition from one developmental stage to the next, the genetic material undergoes a complete transformation. But not only this! A butterfly caterpillar also has different capabilities than the butterfly at the end of the development cycle: a caterpillar cannot fly, for example.