Transformation Management

By Phil Wales and Samuel Townsel II

Transformation Management (TM) may not be as familiar to facility managers as its more commonly used cousin Change Management (CM). In fact, many view these labels as interchangeable with their use being one of personal choice. logo-web-only-articles-icon

Certainly, similarity exists, and to an outside observer the methods employed to effect transformation/change may look identical but fundamentally the difference is: Change is typically perceived as an alignment activity to keep a program or organization on target. Transformation is broader in driving a fundamental alteration of how people perceive a future state. Change tends to be small and incremental. Transformation tends to be more pervasive and significant. Change tends to be a reaction to external forces on an organization. Transformation is about modifying traditional or often dogmatic beliefs so that people choose actions which enable the desired results. Considering wide ranging changes within facility management, TM appears to be “just what the doctor ordered.”

Why Engage TM?

New concepts, or at least ones not widely used yet, usually prompt the question: “Why should we use this new game plan (Transformation Management) in our organization?” Most relevant is that nothing is static. Structural changes may occur, such as a corporate reorganization, implementing new technology, or old bosses leaving and new management coming on board. These changes have to be managed internally, which is why a strong TM initiative within an organization is key to a positive outcome.

Externally, corporations are undergoing fundamental changes such as adopting new business models, entering new markets, and exiting existing ones. With this tremendous wave of change, friction inevitably rears its head among employees because “I’m doing a good job every day but you’re telling me the world has changed and I have to do something totally different.”

This, along with several other kinds of issues, must be managed, to overcome pockets of resistance (even though the learning curve may be steep for some).

Common Sense Approach

In practice, Change Management and TM are essentially different perspectives on the same issue; it’s literally Process vs. Outcome. The key differentiator is that Change Management tends to be the toolset. In other words “Here’s how we’re going to communicate, how we identify the resisters and how we overcome the resistance.” In contrast, TM involves effectively shepherding change to a successful outcome for the people involved.

With TM, it is very important at the outset to understand the type of change being addressed. For example, is it a program change, change driven by costs or a behavior change—and what aspects should be expected to cause the most friction, so that these natural resistances can be identified and overcome? Therefore, primarily who will the change initiative impact?

Above all, everyone adopting TM should recognize a major pitfall that seems pervasive in all areas of Change Management: Managing change does not wholly revolve around communications, such as exclusively sending out daily e-mails about what’s taking place in the transformation program and considering the job done. While communication is important, it is only one component in taking the organization to its new state.

Other key TM components include: addressing the human side (i.e., acknowledging and dealing with how the change will create friction) and, second, establishing the authority of change (who is in charge). That latter component is critical in that the change is not about a low level expectation but must be embraced by wide management support. When fully launching into the change, buy in from top-down is critical. This includes lateral support, from middle management to peer groups and champions at every level that reinforces the message from the top.

Third, ownership must be created because when employees take ownership their resistance to change tends to effectively vanish since they would be resisting themselves. Fourth is how communications are deployed. They must be consistent and multi-modal. They must come through various avenues and not just e-mail. A unified message must be created and communicated throughout the entire process. Typically, not doing this well is where most failures occur.

Fifth is managing any resistance that still remains, by finding any gaps in the program that still exist and how to eliminate or at least get around these to control the resistance.

Finally comes reinforcement and encouragement. People need to be reinforced for supporting the organization’s TM initiative, not left “out on a limb” by themselves, and encouraged to continue being champions and deliver a successful transformation.

More Than Lip Service

Virtually without exception, companies which have managed change very well have kept their eye on the ball while employing TM from Day 1. However, those who have rolled out new programs and, as an afterthought, introduced scattershot ideas for managing the change after its implementation have discovered that’s much too late to achieve success. Not only is TM important to a project success, it’s an active ingredient throughout the entire process (especially important for programs that take a long time to be fully put into place).

Having a systematic program for TM, rather than shooting from the hip with a variety of ideas for change initiatives, is critical because personnel, even top management, are always changing. Those in place at the start of a project may not be there at its conclusion. So, using a proven methodology overcomes any “hiccups” caused by the departure of organizational leadership. There must be consistency in messages and the basis for why decisions have been made so that any changes in leadership do not create a disconnect in messaging around the reason that change is necessary.

Savvy organizations recognize they must periodically change the way (or certain key aspects) they do business because the reality is that change is not a “one and done” deal. By using Transformation Management concepts, getting everyone on board and in a highly supportive way moving the change initiative from A-Z, the organization reaches the best conclusion possible.

Phil Wales
Phil Wales

Wales is the founder of Houston-based eBusiness Strategies. For more than 30 years he’s enabled some of the world’s largest private and public sector organizations develop and apply best practices and business solutions for critical enterprise assets: people, processes, technology, physical plant.




Samuel Townsel II
Samuel Townsel II

Townsel’s architectural practice, prior to joining eBusiness Strategies, was concentrated in the design of commercial, residential and educational facilities. With both a B.A. of Arts and Master of Arts in architecture, he is a member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).