What’s the difference between change and transformation

What’s the difference between change and transformation


In today’s post I am going to answer one of the most commonly asked questions posed during consulting engagements and training sessions.

What’s the real difference between change and transformation?

The two words change and transformation are often used universally and interchangeably by many, when in fact they have very different connotations. If you ask ten people for their definition of change and transformation you will likely get ten very different answers, viewpoints and opinions. What I provide here is a broad overview that gives a quick insight into the real key differences between change and transformation and when and where they apply.

So what’s the real difference between change and transformation?

Change within businesses can be subtle and or significant but are normally well defined finite initiatives which provide iterative shifts and or improvements to the way current systems, processes and solutions work. The key here is that these core processes, procedures and systems where change is being applied already exist. Change initiatives are focused on execution and improving the current state.  Changes may or may not have an impact across the organisation as a whole and are generally self contained, unbound in nature and so have less risk of detrimental business impact assocaited with them as a result.

Transformations¬†unlike change which focuses on small well defined isolated shifts, are generally interdependent portfolios of initiatives that are focused on the reinvention of the organisation to meet the “vision of the future” in some way. Transformation is much more unpredictable, experimental and iterative in nature and as such represents a much higher risk factor as a result. Transformation initiatives are normally much more radical in nature, require significant engineering to implement and have far reaching business impacts.


Changes are normally well defined isolated initiatives that have less risk attached to them, are focused on execution and often deal with alteration and improvement of current states and past events. Transformation on the other hand is focused on the creation of something new. Transformations are much less structured than change and often have high levels of interdependencies across the business, alongside higher risk and impact potential. One important factor to remember is this. Whilst change is inextricably linked to transformation and every transformation involves change, change of and by itself in isolation is not transformational.

Additional Resources

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About the author

James Kingham administrator

James is the Co-founder and CEO of Clarity IQ and is an expert at helping businesses successfully deliver digital technology change and transformation projects across the enterprise. James is the pioneer of FastStepTM the technology transformation management lifecycle framework, James often holds business technology strategy insight sessions at business events, exhibitions and workshops and regularly contributes to leading industry publications.