Organization Transformation (OT) is a new field. Early on, it was a diverse field, clearly defined by an eclectic set of theories, and a similarly diverse set of practices and interventions. For instance, in 1986 Levy and Merry, in their textbook Organization Transformation: Approaches, Strategies, Theories, identified six different OT theories. Kochan and Useem, in Transforming Organizations, described OT as being everything from strategic restructuring to an effort designed to produce "learning organizations." Nadler, Shaw, and Walton, in their book Discontinuous Change: Leading Organization Transformations, likewise described OT as a diverse set of theories, suggesting there were at least five practical "leverage points" that organizational leaders could use to create an organizational transformation. In their book, Levy and Merry summed up the OT field this way; "...there has not been, as yet, any comprehensive publication covering the OT field..." Absent a coherent sense of what organization transformations were all about, it was almost impossible to see what effective transformational leadership should be concerned with.


At TLO we've research all these divergent theories, and we’ve thought a lot about Levy and Merry's observation. Most importantly, we recently spent six months searching the internet for anything that might qualify as a unified theory of organizational transformation. And/or a coherent description of what transformational leadership should be concerned with. This search came up empty. But it did convince us that Levy and Merry are still right; three decades later, there still is no one authoritative statement presently available that defines what organization transformation is. Nothing exists that offers an integrative sense of how we should united organization transformation and transformational leadership into one cohesive field of practice.  

In this regard, here at TLO it seems to us that if we’re serious about wanting to help senior executives transform their organizations, then we at least have to be able to offer our clients four things:

  • First, a coherent theory of our own that defines Organization Transformation’s essential purpose;

  • Second, a coherent theory of our own that identifies what Organization Transformation is.

  • Third, a statement that defines what Organization Transformation’s essential elements and components are; and

  • Fourth, a framework that explains Transformational Leadership’s essential dynamics and processes.

In short, we need to be able to explain to our clients what the key components of any organization are, and why their leadership efforts must eventually transform each and every one of these elements. In addition, we must have in hand a fulsome set of transformation-inducing interventions that, over an extended period of time, will allow an organization’s leaders to reliably produce irreversible alterations in everything their organization is and does.

In short, we must be able to detail what organizational transformations involve. We must be able to describe ways our clients, as transformational leaders, can implement the best-practice interventions that prompt both dramatic internal, system-wide infrastructure changes and, as well, all the radical external changes that must be made outside the organization, especially in the organization's competitive, regulatory, and customer networks. Simply put, we must be able to show both why and how organizational leaders must implement a system-wide revolution.

Here at TLO, we’re clear that effective transformational leaders must ultimately alter their organization's bedrock elements. To be effective, they must revolutionize both those bedrock elements that are inside the organization and those that are outside. In short, they must accomplish four complex, comprehensive, integrated results: 

  • Recast and rebuild the organization's basic structure, and it's fundamental strategic and operational processes.

  • Reframe and reintegrate the organization's stakeholder networks, especially those that legitimize, control, and supply it.

  • Respect and support the organization's constructive and destructive change dynamics.

  • Recognize and catalyze the short, medium, and long-term mindset and Order of Consciousness shifts that the organization's key leaders, stakeholders, and employees must make.

To get a more complete picture of TLO’s definition of what an organizational transformation is, and what transformational leadership entails, click the navigation buttons just below. To develop a deeper appreciation of the complexities and challenges involved in a full-scale both organizational transformation and transformational leadership, check out TLO’s OT Resource Center. To schedule a free exploratory conversation with us about your specific transformational needs and interests, click the Exploratory Conversation button..