“Good morning Mr. Director!”

This is how a friend of mine a junior receptionist greeted all the white-collar staff at an architecture company many years ago.  “If I shoot a bit higher that’s fine,” he said to me with a bewildering smile. That is what popped in my mind at the first place when I noticed that we are tending to call every change a transformation. 

Experienced managers have specific approaches to different changes, thus achieving their goals more effectively and maintaining the motivation of those involved. To make the most of the approach you consciously choose, in the first place it is worth identifying the type of change you are dealing with. Above I am giving you a short and easy-to-understand overview of transactional, transitional and transformative changes. Anyone who fancies can put a different label on them.

Transaction is when we buy the grocery store next to ours so to increase revenue and make it cheaper to purchase in larger amounts and sell them at our shops. Transition is when we do this to have enough vegetables to become a regular supplier of nearby restaurants. Similarly, the introduction of web ordering option in our Pizzeria is the backbone of the digital change (transition). The new channel requires some adjustments of our usual processes including the transactions. Transformation will happen when we start turning our established restaurant into a network of street food stalls.

The three types of change have different results and investment(s) needs.

  • Transactional changes bring up important synergies, typically resulting in cost reductions but also require process development.
  • A transition usually takes you to a new market meaning new products or a new customer base. In addition to process improvements, they also involve business development.
  • Transformations, which include multiple transactional and transitional changes, can end up in a significant market jump. In return, they require to transform the entire system of operations, from appointment patterns to cooperation in specializations to daily group rituals.

The confusion usually comes from the miscommunication of the transformation. The label glued on the change in many cases, is disproportionate. Exaggerating the change causes over-expectations and anxiety. Understating the change on the other hand infuriates those from whom the change requires more adaptation than they expected based on the communication.

Another serious problem is when results do not meet expectations and therefore the management gets disappointed. This often happens when the expected outcome is not in correlation with the investment. To be frank the consultant involved can also become part of the equation by promising the stars just to win the assignment. He may suggest delivering appealing results of best seller management books if he gets the chance to work on the transformation project himself. Unfortunately, on the other hand he sometimes fails to mention that such results do not come without the top management taking on the uncomfortable role to redefine the spheres of influence in the organization or appointment patterns. 

That is why choosing a development partner who can help maintaining leadership credibility by making the expected results and prices of alternatives transparent and supporting you to communicate your chosen path can make a real difference. 

The experienced receptionist already knows how to greet who and even can spot those ones are not to be joked about in the morning.