Transformational change

Termeer, Katrien; Dewulf, Art; Biesbroek, Robbert


Although transformational change is a rather new topic in climate change adaptation literature, it has been studied in organisational theory for over 30 years. This paper argues that governance scholars can learn much from organisation theory, more specifically regarding the conceptualisation of change and intervention strategies. We reconceptualise the divide between transformational change and incremental change by questioning the feasibility of changes that are concurrently in-depth, large scale, and quick; and the assumption that incremental change is necessarily slow and can only result in superficial changes. To go beyond this dichotomy, we introduce the conceptualisation of continuous transformational change. Resulting intervention strategies include (1) providing basic conditions for enabling small in-depth wins; (2) amplifying small wins through sensemaking, coupling, and integrating; and (3) unblocking stagnations by confronting social and cognitive fixations with counterintuitive interventions. These interventions necessitate a modest leadership. Governing transformational change thus requires transformation of the governance systems themselves.