Survival Is Optional

by Jay Deragon on 08/07/2012

The rate of change is increasing. The results of change are transforming every business model, structure and more importantly beliefs about business.  Yet most managers and leaders do not understand what transformation truly means.

Transformation has become a popular, overused and misunderstood word within organizations in the twenty-first century. 

Unfortunately, few individuals understand transformation or why there is an imperative for transformation, not merely incremental or transitional change.

Often, people confuse transformation with any kind of change, technology breakthrough, innovation, process improvement or transition. However, few changes are truly transformational.

Management typically interchanges the words and thinking for changing and transforming an organization. But there are unique distinctions—and those distinctions, applied and realized, not only result in a competitive edge but in unparalleled leadership that is rare to find and that can make a difference for society. However, while all transformation is change, not all change is transformation.

Transformation is motivated by survival, by the realization that everything needs to change or the organization will die; that a significant breakthrough in mindset is needed in order to pursue new opportunities. Another motivator is a leader’s urgency and drive to envision and create the future. From either motivation, the entire mind-set and organization’s paradigms are forced to shift. The challenges to those who embark on and choose to lead a transformation journey are many; they lead in a direction where the “destination” is not known. The challenge to those who travel with such leaders will be to trust and support the vision and the system. 

Tradition, Transition, Transformation

So what does it take to transform? Simply stated, our thinking is has to change. If we want to hold on to our tradition, (see above.) we will make incremental process improvements and not “rock the boat.” In this mode we are content, complacent, arrogant, or unaware. If the world is changing in any significant way, it’s only a matter of time before we do not survive. The timing of irrelevance (death) depends upon our industry or competition. But we will not know if we have three months, three years, or 30 years to survive. If we want to move to the next level of change, yet be safe, we make transitions and change from State A to State B. We know where we are going (we go from manually systems to automated by technology.)

There is comfort in certainty. In transition, we can plan the change and work the plan. But if we want to create a better future, we have to let go and reach for the unknown. We need transformation. We adopt the most difficult and challenging strategy because leading is better than following and in a world of constant and frequent change survival is optional.


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