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Buzzword Transformation Change Implementation

Buzzwords are a part of every industry and change management is no different. While dealing with a constant flux of buzzwords can be entertaining, aggravating, or both, they can be said to serve a useful purpose. When entering into the change management field, for example, there is a period of adjustment when everything is new and exciting. After a person has been in a field for twenty years, the excitement wears off. The information, the terms, the work itself is a largely a known quantity. This is where keywords can serve a useful purpose, as a means of refreshing the field and reigniting interest in the work. Right now the big buzzword in the area of change implementation is transformation.

Transformation is a term that is cropping up everywhere: forums, blogs and articles. It has ignited engagement from a wide variety of sources. Yet, in spite of all the discussion it is generating, it remains a poorly defined term. To clarify its given meaning for those working in the area of change implementation, transformation is a qualitative change in the way an organization does business.

It is a functional definition, but it hinges on the meaning of the phrase qualitative change. In essence, a qualitative change represents a departure from a previous approach toward business in favor of a new one. This is opposed to a quantitative change, which is an attempt to continue doing business in the same way but do it more effectively. A good example of a qualitative change can be drawn from the history of Compaq.

When Compaq first hit the scene, its essential claim was the portability of its computers. Their computers were small enough, compact enough, and light enough to be taken from here to there. As the PC industry evolved, the portability claim was threatened by miniaturization, in the form of laptops for example. Rather than try to pursue an ever-smaller, lighter computer, Compaq decided to alter course and focus on offering the lowest cost computers. The change implementation that Compaq engaged in was not a shift in production technique or design, but in the way the company perceived and projected itself within the marketplace.

The moral in this for change professionals engaged in change implementation is to be aware that the term is tied directly with qualitative rather than quantitative change. The urge to include a buzzword like transformation to generate excitement should be limited to its applicability to qualitative change. The risk in doing otherwise is that the change implementation will not be able to deliver on the promise of the buzzword.