What is Transformational Change?

I’ve just been reading the website of a new bit of the civil service. It says that, amongst other things, they are responsible for “transformational change” in government. I was puzzled. I’ve been hearing the term a lot lately; and I’m seldom clear what is meant by it. I Googled: a big consultancy defines it as - “major change programs that improve performance, build capabilities, and strengthen behaviour over time”; a guru explains Sigmoid Curves and a need to switch to the next one before the current one runs out of steam; and another guru talks about a shift to a state of continual organisational learning. Different meanings.

Then, quite a few people use the term rhetorically - because it sounds better than plain old “change”.

I saw an ad a few weeks ago for a government services firm with the words, “We support change and transformation in the public sector”. Semantically daft but, for folk with services to sell, there are buttons to be pressed and keywords to be hit.

And compounding all this - my dictionary defines “transform” as "change the nature, function, or condition of" and “change” as "make different; cause a transformation" - “transformational change” is a tautology.

Making fundamental change is hard. Being grandly woolly about our intentions doesn’t help.