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Top 5 organizational change trends in 2019

By Ilkka Mäkitalo on Aug 13, 2018 11:11:54 AM

If you'd like to read the blog in Finnish, please click here.

In my work, I have the pleasure of meeting hundreds of representatives of various companies from around the world every year, and these meetings challenge and shape my thinking. Having worked around twenty years as a consultant, I’m quite sensitive to tacit signals and trends.

After the summer vacations, my mind flies to thinking about the future of the consulting business. Thinking back my amazing trips to the US last spring and planning the next ones during this autumn, I get inspired of listing the top 5 trends in organizational change at the moment.

The trip inspired me to share my observations of the five key trends in our field.

1. From change processes to continuous development 

Particularly in the United States, organizational change is seen as a process with a beginning, a midpoint and an end when the goals have been achieved. This approach is being replaced by transformation—that is, continuous organizational development.

Instead of purchasing the perfect plan, companies want genuine changes, where the general direction is known, but the workplace community finds its way to the final destination together. Transformation is not about having a set goal; rather, the result is created and shaped through learning. I wrote about transformation in an earlier article.

2. Implementing change is about facilitation

This important trend is closely linked to the first one on my list. It means that valuing your own expertise is no longer enough. Effective facilitators go deeper than just methods. They know how to inspire and involve people in processes and how to handle the process respectfully. Fundamentally, they create favorable conditions for people to become motivated and commit to their work.

3. Digitalization is progressing by leaps and bounds

This year, many longtime visions are becoming reality. These include digitalization.

People are given real opportunities to participate, and decisions are made collectively. Digitalization enables transparent, real-time processes.

Digitalization is progressing more rapidly in countries with an existing analog foundation, such as the Nordic countries. Change is digitally driven in countries where traditional hierarchies endure. This was the case when developing countries transferred directly to mobile networks and took the leap onto the Internet, for example. The same will happen with corporate cultures. Communities will be built on real-time technologies and new types of communication practices. 

4. Networks determine the success of change

This trend has reached somewhat different stages in different countries. The transformation of working life is enabling the creation of networked operating models focusing on the individual. Consultants, experts and other innovative partners are also invited to join the transformation journey.

For example, small and medium-sized consulting firms have run into difficulties in competitive bidding processes in Sweden, because they are not able to provide their services as cost-effectively as individual consultants. This trend is polarizing the market, as only major companies and individual operators seem to be surviving.

5. More multifaceted interaction

Social media already plays a significant role in our lives. However, little use is made of our social media experience, expertise and insight in the realm of work. Our interactions in our personal networks differ dramatically from our interaction in work-related contexts. 

This is evident in terms of transparency, for example. Continuous communication and sharing are key to building trust in workplace communities. They prevent disconnects based on assumptions and interpretations.

A transparent work culture makes structures and reporting less complex, as everything is visible. It also means that we need to replace traditional management approaches with coordination and connection. Organizational structures become obstacles to smart ways of working if they do not adapt to people’s ability to work together in a self-guided manner.

The good news is that people can further develop their interaction skills if the organization has the willingness and the necessary tools. Better and more multifaceted ways of interaction mean better business and operations for everyone.


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