Transformation or substitution

Transformation or substitution - Team in an office working together on a problem

When we talk about change as a strategy or a need inside an organization, we must first consider what the outcome is that we’re expecting and then how we might get there.

We use lots of “throw-away” words in business today like transformation but if you closely inspect what some call a transformation journey, it often looks more like a substitution journey – meaning that instead of changing from the inside out, they’re substituting one thing for another.

For example, in many agile and digital transformation programs, organizations are replacing one methodology for another, one tool for another and so on. Methodology, tools and process are a critical factor in any change journey but they are substitutes for something that’s currently in place. The transformation part comes from changing the hearts and minds of the people involved. Substituting one thing for another still matters but let’s not call that transformation.

A failed Scrum of SAFe implementation often stems from a misunderstanding of how to think differently about work at all levels in the business. We mix up words like agile, change, transformation and others and tend to bundle them into the same category or meaning.


Are you on a substitution journey or a transformation journey? How do you know?