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Friday, 25 March 2016

The language of change and transformation

I was visiting Rosslyn chapel the other week, and came across the word 'Transfiguration' in relation to a scene depicted in one of the stain glass windows. A scene that resonates with the energy of Easter for many around the world.  

I wondered at the time, in what way Transfiguration was different from Transformation, and was Transfiguration a word we should perhaps be using more widely in business?

Once I returned home I realised there's many different words we can use to describe change that is, or we want to take place.

Balogun and Hope-Hailey identify 4 different types of change, dependant on the scope and nature of the change taking place:




Interesting then, that in business we often either simply say "change is needed" or perhaps talk of "transformation."

Are we missing a trick I wonder, and simplifying this complex area too much?

As Caroline Myss, author and speaker, says, each word has power.

If you consider power in an organisation for a moment. Power has the capacity to inspire, and the capacity to damage.

That is what Caroline means when she says, words have power. Choose the wrong word, and it may take you down a path you never wanted to go, and one that is contrary to the business strategy such as:
  • Pain not pleasure 
  • Stick instead of carrot
  • Blame instead of empowerment
  • War when collaboration is needed
  • Collaboration when confrontation is needed
I wholly accept the basis of the above model, and yet wonder what power do these words of change carry with them. Could changing the word we use for change tap into a more aligned energy for the outcome we're wanting? 

Let's look at their definitions:
  • Changean act or process through which something becomes different.
  • Evolutionthe gradual development of something.
  • Developmentthe process in which something changes, and becomes more advanced
  • Adaptation: the process of change by which an organism becomes better suited to its environment
  • Reconstructionthe act or process of building something that was damaged or destroyed again
  • Revolutiona sudden, radical, or complete change (often accompanied by violence!)
  • Transformationa marked change in form or appearance
  • Transfigurationa complete change of form or appearance, into a more beautiful or spiritual state
What change are you currently wanting to take place, and are the words you're using supporting this outcome? 

On reflection, whilst I'd love business to Transfigure, I do wonder if we should use the word 'different' more. Have we got so anaesthetised to people saying we need to 'change and transform', and forgotten it means
  • Evolutionthe gradual development of doing things differently 
  • Adaptation: doing things differently to become better suited to our environment
  • Revolution: suddenly and radically doing things differently 
  • Transformation: becoming different
  • Transfiguration: becoming beautifully or spiritually different
I'd welcome your thoughts in comments below.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change  becoming different - inside and out 

Last week I touched on the power contained in the phrase "x% of manager believe their organisation is too focused on tactical concerns." The power seemingly given away, by blaming some other "them/they" for what's happening in the organisation - rather than realising they are the organisation they talk about.  

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