Short-term, transient population dynamics can differ in important ways from long-term asymptotic dynamics. Just as perturbation analysis (sensitivity and elasticity) of the asymptotic growth rate reveals the effects of the vital rates on long-term growth, the perturbation analysis of transient dynamics can reveal the determinants of short-term patterns. In this article, I present a completely new approach to transient sensitivity and elasticity analysis, using methods from matrix calculus. Unlike previous methods, this approach applies not only to linear time-invariant models but also to time-varying, subsidized, stochastic, nonlinear and spatial models. It is computationally simple, and does not require calculation of eigenvalues or eigenvectors. The method is presented along with applications to plant and animal populations.