For some time now I have been struggling about not using the concept of Organizational Transformation and, instead, using Organizational Evolution.
It seems a subtle change, but I think it reflects a radical change in what sustains it. What seems to me the most important thing that motivates this differentiation is a change in the why of the agile initiatives that these days are going on everywhere.
Let me put it down to more concrete examples. And before that, analyze the meaning of each of these two concepts.
The word transformation comes from the Latin transformatio and means "action or effect of changing from one form to another". If we disaggregate it, then we find the prefix trans- (from one side to another), the concept form (figure, image) and the suffix -tion (action and effect).
Transformation means the result of a process of change of form/shape. It happens when one thing, fact or idea is converted into another.
And here are some ideas that disturb me:
- I feel the transformation as something superficial. Something that refers to the change of form or image; and not necessarily nucleus or essence.
- I feel the transformation as a process or initiative of a predetermined time, which has a beginning and an end. It finishes at some point.
- I feel in the transformation an identified goal, with the simple fact of declaring that result or form sought, that thing to which we want to transform ourselves into.
- I feel that transformation as a linear process, going from one side to the other, directly and without going back and forth, without feedback loops.
And all of this, I feel as limiting.
On the other hand...
The word evolution comes from the Latin evolutio, from the verb evolvere. Derivative of the prefix ex- (to throw out) and the verb volvere (to bend, to turn). Righteous, they define the action of "turning outward" in the sense of expanding, developing.
Evolution is an infinite attainment of gradual transformations that allow something to become something more complex, and repeat, and repeat.
And in this context:
- I feel evolution as something profound. With consequences in form or shape; based on an evolution of what underlies these.
- I feel evolution as a continuous process in time, indeterminate, that has no end. It keeps going on and on.
- I feel in evolution the absence of an anticipated destination. An emerging drift.
- I feel that evolution is a non-linear process, that comes and goes, has back and forth. It has feedback from the environment and adapts constantly.
When I accompany an organization to transform itself, I accompany it to be that form that it wants to be. A transformation towards agility accompanies an organization to be agile. It ends when that organization is agile.
When I accompany an organization to evolve, I accompany it to challenge its forms and seek new, more complex forms, continuously. An evolution towards agility has no meaning in itself, agility is an intermediate point, a means for something more. And when that something else is achieved, the organization has already learned to evolve, and will continue to do so beyond agility.