Leading Transformational Change

As many of you know I am currently studying for my MBA.  Yes, even at my age you can go back to school!  What follows is a recent assignment I thought appropriate to share given the current transformation of auto retailing.

The literature most frequently breaks change into three categories,  (1; 2; 7).  There are specific change initiatives that have a start and completion date, changing CRM software for example; there are continuous improvement changes that are an ongoing part of business; and then there is transformational change.  As Lawrence Miller (4) puts it sometimes revolution rather than evolution is called for.” 

The most comprehensive literature that I’ve found on transformational change is the book Beyond Change Management; Advanced Strategies for Today’s Transformational Leaders (1).  Like my own beliefs they focused on the critical importance of people and collaboration; similar to David Miller’s (4) model that reinforces engagement, personal connection and shared change vision.  Many changes will fail for not addressing these human (people) elements; culture, behavior and mindset (1); fear of the unknown, emotional immaturity, unhealthy relationships can cause blame and stress to doom any attempted transformation.


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One of the most challenging aspects of my new role will be to help other leaders become leaders of transformational change in their own organizations.  In this respect I need to develop my own competencies as a transformational change consultant and change leader (1).  Fortunately, this literature review has provided me access to the knowledge to do so and my new role will enable me to practice what I am learning.

It’s interesting to note the difference in perspectives based on the dates of the literature. Beyond Change Management (1) was written in 2001 and gives examples of environmental transformation like the public’s growing disdain for partisanship in politics.  Fifteen years later that Emerging Mindset (1) is causing a transformation of presidential politics.  That is a current illustration of the difference between the Industrial Mindset, “the establishment,” and new way of thinking, doing and being.  Most of the literature reinforces that transformational change requires a radical shift in perspective, thinking and behavior (1; 7).

Anderson and Ackerman-Anderson (1) do an excellent job of breaking down the different mindsets and explaining how a leader needs to apply the Emerging Mindset to affect transformational change.  One area that I had not been thinking enough about for my own organizational change challenge was the wholeness of organizations.  Lawrence Miller (4) talks about the blend of the technical, economic and social systems; but they go even deeper to ensure you think about the interconnectedness of the organizations within the organization; divisions, departments, levels (1).   The transformation I am leading is primarily focused on the sales organization; however, will definitely impact all areas of dealership operations including, Marketing, Accounting, Finance, Service.  As well as group dynamics for the ever increasing dealership consolidation from individual owned stores to privately and publicly held groups of dealership under the same organization.

There is also a consistent theme within much of the literature of empowerment, participation and collaboration.  Rohland (6) reinforces that engagement and empowerment are critical to success.  Miller (4) agrees that change leaders must achieve meaningful participation from their peopleeven to the point of shared control.  Anderson and Ackerman-Anderson (1) go even further in their discussion of conscious process thinking to say the leadership style that is best for leading transformational change in the future (remember they were writing in 2001) was self-organizing.  Where the leader does not attempt to control or even heavily influence the change process but lets it evolve to emerge from within the organization.

Now that doesn’t mean they don’t recommend you use a change model, just not the traditional ones.  Miller’s (4) 6 CFSs model is directional enough to keep you on track yet flexible as is the Nine-Phase Model Anderson and Ackerman-Anderson (1) have used for decades.

One “ah ha” moment I had was reading the Ten Principles of Conscious Transformations.  When they got to number 8: Lead as if the future is now, one example they gave was writing vision, mission and goal statements in the present tense as if they were already achieved (1).  In my past role we wrote them in future tense, to be aspirational.  I recall that giving us the rational for not achieving them yet, almost like an excuse, we’d say; “well that’s what we’re striving for, we’re not there yet.”  My own personal mission statement is written in the future tense rather than present.  If I want to help people transform, perhaps I should start with myself!

Fortunately, the literature review I conducted was helpful there as well.  Scheele (7) overviews several academics thoughts on transformative learning.  Kegan and Lahey (3) suggested that transformative learning is the process of transforming our meaning making so that the way we make meaning “becomes a kind of ‘tool’ that we have rather than something that has us”.  It seems I just can’t get away from continually learning more about sense-making.

This review and what I learned through the process has challenged me to further develop my own transformational change leadership skills.  Anderson and Ackerman-Anderson (1) close out their tome with ten very thought provoking introspective questions and challenge the individual reader to take action in their own development astransformational change leaders.


  1. Anderson, D, & Ackerman-Anderson, L 2001, Beyond Change Management. [Electronic Book] : Advanced Strategies For Today’s Transformational Leaders, n.p.: San Francisco : Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer, c2001., University of Liverpool Catalogue, EBSCOhost, viewed 27 April 2016.
  1. Boonstra, J. (2009), “Organizational and transformational change”, in The Business & Management Collection, Henry Stewart Talks Ltd, London (viewed 27 Apr. 2016 online at                                                
  1. Kegan, R., & Lahey, L. L. (2009). Immunity to change: How to overcome it and unlock the potential in yourself and your organization. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press.
  1. Miller, David. “Delivering Transformational Change.” European Business Review. European Business Review, 23 Mar. 2012. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.
  1. Miller, Lawrence M. “Transformational Change vs. Continuous Improvement.” IndustryWeek. Penton, 14 May 2013. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.
  1. Rohland, L 2016, ‘Transformational Change’, Salem Press Encyclopedia, Research Starters, EBSCOhost, viewed 27 April 2016.
  1. Scheele, Paul R. “Processes of Transformational Change and Transformative Learning.” Scheele Learning Systems. Scheele Learning Systems, Jul 2013. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.