Evolution vs. revolution: do you know the difference? When it comes to change management, understanding what is evolution vs. revolution can be the difference between success and failure.
Change is everywhere. And whether you’re talking about your hometown or your day-to-day activities, evolution, i.e., adjustment and fine-tuning of the current state, is inevitable. Within the context of the organization, the challenge is learning to handle change effectively – to manage change with evolution as an end goal. From this perspective, there are basically two ways to understand change: Evolutionary or incremental change and Revolutionary or transformational change. Understanding the differences and learning how to make the most of these opportunities can be a challenge, but one that ensures the organization not only survives but also thrives. Leadership is the foundation of every change management initiative’s success or failure.
What is Organizational Evolution?
Organizational evolution is a normal progression where both the organization and its people attain a higher level of consciousness. It’s a form of evolution (absent religion) that involves developing the ability to think systematically to be trustworthy and transparent. It’s about decentralized and participative decision-making and the realization that all people – regardless of position – have an important, valuable role to play. Adhering to higher principles of living leads to a firm commitment to ethics, values, and a decision to be more representative not only to those around you but also to the larger world.
Evolutionary or Incremental Change
Evolutionary change is incremental and takes place gradually, over time. Slow, gradual change often takes place to ensure the survival of the organization. It’s incremental in that it happens step by step, little by little. Organizations undergoing evolutionary change may have been prompted by outside pressure, as in keeping up with technology or addressing the needs of stakeholders more effectively. In other cases, evolutionary change may be spurred by competition.
Revolutionary or Transformational Change
By contrast, revolutionary or transformational change is profound. When we think of revolutionary change, we envision complete overhaul, renovation, and reconstruction. Change is fundamental, dramatic, and often irreversible. From an organizational perspective, revolutionary change reshapes and realigns strategic goals and often leads to radical breakthroughs in beliefs or behaviors. When an organization decides to engage in revolutionary change, radical transformations to products or services often follow. In efforts to stay ahead of the curve and reach evolution, outstanding organizations often pursue revolutionary change.
The challenge in today’s organization is not in learning how to accept change, but in how to orchestrate the most efficient change leading to organizational evolution. Staying in touch with core values, maintaining a culture of innovation, and learning to make the most of resources during change is the key to success.