We live in a time of change, transformation and disruption where digital transformation is the buzzword a lot of company uses in their communication and strategies these days. Everything is about digital transformation or just transformation. It’s looks similar like the 90s where change management was the buzzword and for each change, even changing pencils in the office required a change management plan. What I notice is that organisations use the word transformation while they actually mean change and visa versa. They use these words interchangeably.

I believe there is a huge different between transformation and change. Some organisations claim to be in a digital transformation, but they are actually in an organisational change.

For a successful change or transformation, it is vital to understand the difference between these two. Both are good and necessary for the organisation, but the goal, outcome, processes and way of thinking are different and that is very important to understand for everybody involved.

Change fixes the past. Transformation creates the future.

When in change mode it is the desire to improve the past that directs what we do. In Transformation mode it is the future that will direct our actions and only the limitation of our imagination and courage constrains the possibilities.

Having said that, change is required for transformation, and all transformation involves change, but not all change is transformational.

Are you still following me? Please find below the differences between change and transformation and I hope it will make it clearer.



  • Requires becoming familiar with the current situation and use the past as fundamental reference point. It is assessing the past, comparing it to the present and deterring the future / wanted position.
  • The future / wanted position is a reconditioned or improved version of the past.
  • Makes things better, cheaper, faster and more efficient.
  • There is a constant evaluation of the past and present to gauge process and measure the success, eg. ROI.
  • Implementing finite initiatives. There are definitive beginnings and ends.
  • Can originate from any part of the organisation.
  • Comparison of whether the future is ‘better’.
  • Can be small and incremental or large and complex.
  • Incremental – anytime an organisation asks its people or system to stop, start or execute in a new way a process, behaviour or location of performance.
  • Making setups in different formats within the given system to achieve improvements in performance.
  • Strategy definition; tangible, immediately measurable, discreet and immediately tactical.
  • The result of change is that the organisation, team or yourself became a better version not a different version. It depends on the goals that of the wanted change, but ultimately you are still you but in a different state.


  • It starts with assessing the present to future / wanted position, which direct your actions. It birds a future that is entirely different and new.
  • Comparison of whether the future is entirely different from the past
  • You design your own future and invent ways to realise it
  • Unpredictable and needs progressive planning due to all the unknowns. Timelines must remain relatively fluid, and expectations set accordantly on all levels of the organisation.
  • Iterative & Experimental.
  • Is almost always large and significant. It’s a result of many changes and radical shifts.
  • Should originate at the highest level of the organisation due to its goals, magnitude and scope of timing and budget.
  • Is dependent on multiple change management initiatives.
  • Is about modifying beliefs so that natural actions achieve the desired results.
  • A portfolio of open-ended initiatives.
  • It’s a necessity as a result of resistance to change.
  • Makes a better system, not the system better.
  • Throughout the transformation, there is a constant assessment of present and future with intermediate to gauge process and success.
  • Strategy definition; intangible, deeper and must remain more fluid at the beginning.
  • The result of transformation is that the organisation, team or yourself is completely different from the past. You become something entirely different and redefined based on your assessment of the future and your objectives of redefining the future.
  • What you do and how you do it is entirely different from today.

Change uses external influences to modify actions, but transformation modifies beliefs so actions become natural and thereby achieve the desired result.

As you can see Change and Transformation are not the same and both play a different role and are essential for successful and sustainable business.

Hope this blog post gives you more information and inspiration on how to successfully implement change and transformation in your organisation by knowing the differences between the two.

A butterfly is a transformation, not a better caterpillar.

This blog post was written with the inspiration of the following websites:

Butterfly Photo by Havilah Galaxy on Unsplash