Material habit stacking towards enterprise transformation

Change Management with Marcin Nowakowski

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So much being said about change and transformation (especially in digital context) that it becomes a buzz word having no real true meaning. This is challenging especially for change and transformation managers because if the core of your profession is difficult to grasp how can you deliver it?

What is change and what is transformation?

On top of that, we have been witnessing a wave of change and transformation methodologies popping up everywhere (as well as praise and complaints about old ones). Which ones should we choose and apply in our business setting?

Those questions are disrupting (another buzz word…) the sleep of mangers and experts of all levels. So what is change? What is transformation? Do we need it ? How do we do it?

What is real change and what is real tranformation?

In order to help everyone sleep a bit better lets investigate change & transformation. We will try to avoid the pitfall of dull definitions and try to describe it with tangible characteristics.

Lets talk what REAL CHANGE is (or better, what are the features of REAL CHANGE) in our business world.

Tangible actions

First of all, REAL CHANGE must be a tangible thing happening in the real world. Power point presentations, new company values statements and vision & mission retreats are (maybe) important, but they are not change actions. Dreaming and planning a new client approach is different than meeting the client and using that new aproach.

The first feature of the real change is – tangible real actions happening in the real world.


Know what tangible thing needs to happen in order to say that the change we plan was implemented,

Your talent

Following from the first feature (real tangible action), we must admin that REAL CHANGE needs to be done by a specific person. It will not become real if we hope that somebody else (consultants?) will do it for us.


Know who will execute the change activities and who will be truly affected.

Tangible results

Change needs to bring tangible results (benefits). Activities that do not bring results to anybody are not change actions. So if somebody wants to change but can not describe it in tangible, easy to understand and quantifiable means, they should not call their results 'change' or 'transformation.'


Know the results you expect from the change. Know the expectied ROI. Know if you will gain profits, reduce cost, gain knowledge, make our company better place to work. Know the tangible measures you are using to quantify the change.

Change needs to be material

A word of commentary on the difference between change and transformation – change activities are less disruptive than transformation activities. You could say that changing something 5% is change but changing it 80% is transformation. The materiality does not need to be one off, it can be an accumulation of small change results (like habit stacking), but in the long run it needs to have material results.


Know how to ensure that change is material to your organization. Know your benchmark of materiality (look inside and outside our circle for this).


Real CHANGE needs to bring emotions and feelings, it can be painful (shaving off 20 minutes from your marathon best result for example) or extremely enjoyable (switching from eating frozen food to real cooked meals for example) but it needs to carry emotional power. 

If something is lukewarm (switching from one beer brand to other if you can not say the difference in blind test) it is not REAL CHANGE.


Know what emotions and feelings will arise during and after implementation.


Last, but not least, REAL CHANGE needs to take into account the context, especially external context. When accounting firms began to use PC's it felt like real change but comparing to rest of the world it was merely doing the necessary to survive.


Let your change initiatives be the way to the future not merely fixing up the past or managing today.

Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future” Barack Obama

To sum up our characteristics – REAL CHANGE is future oriented real activities, done by specific people which bring real results to specific people, which bring tangible and measurable material results, causing emotions and feelings that matter. 

Check back for the next article: “Do we have to manage change? Aren't managing new tools and technologies enough?”