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Five ways to transform a business

Osvald M. Bjelland (Executive chairman of Xyntéo Ltd, an international strategy consultancy with headquarters in Heathrow, UK, advises owners and senior executives of large corporations)
Robert Chapman Wood (Professor of strategic management at San José State University, studies innovation and managed institutional change (

Strategy & Leadership

ISSN: 1087-8572

Article publication date: 9 May 2008




For half a century, experts have offered leaders a standard model of how to transform organizations. It involves unfreezing them, developing a clear picture of the future, managing to make the picture a reality, and then changing systems to support the new ways. However, studies have shown that transformation does not always follow this script. This paper aims to look at four alternatives.


This paper reviews more than 50 well documented transformations and compares them to both the standard model and non‐mainstream ideas about transformation


The paper offers a guide to five distinct, reproducible ways of radically altering organizations: the standard model process (“holism”), transformation through the ambidextrous form, transformation through acquisition/restructuring, the Collins “Good‐to‐great” process, an improvisational transformation process. Hybrid approaches are discussed.

Research limitations/implications

Providing a comprehensive guide to corporate transformation is a problematic undertaking. The authors could not review every case study of transformation, so they cannot say with certainty that their list of documented transformation methods is all‐inclusive. However, their survey gave them good reason to believe these are the five best‐documented transformation processes.

Practical implications

The paper explains the important advantages of each approach to transformation that make it appropriate for particular purposes.


When organizations need radical change, leaders need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of all five well‐documented alternative paths to transformation.



Bjelland, O.M. and Chapman Wood, R. (2008), "Five ways to transform a business", Strategy & Leadership, Vol. 36 No. 3, pp. 4-14.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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