Self-managed work at Oodi – benefit to both employees and customers

Helsinki Central Library Oodi is involved in a research project funded by Tampere University, which aims to analyse occupational well-being in five self-managed organisations. Oodi is the only public sector organisation among the workplaces studied.

What self-management means at Oodi is that teams can make independent decisions about almost anything related to their work. Team members are involved in work shift planning, and they get to make decisions on the development of team services, the events to be organised and the opening hours of various services. They are also independently responsible for procurements within their teams. That being said, the customer is always the most important consideration. Customers are also often involved in service development.

“One of the characteristics of a self-managed work community is self-reflection. We strive to develop the activities of our organisation and teams and make course corrections that support work and collaboration better than ever before,” says Service Manager Laura Norris.

The study indicates that the flow of work, which has been widely studied in Finland as an indication of occupational well-being, is substantially higher than average in self-managed work environments. Among the workplaces studied, the flow of work was found to be highest at Oodi.

Based on the study conducted by the University of Tampere, self-management brings substantial benefits. Opportunities to influence things make work tasks more meaningful and support learning. At Oodi, the job descriptions are extensive, and you can always influence the content of your work. “We care very little about someone’s title – trainee, supervisor or anything in between. If you are interested in something, you can work on it,”describes an Oodi employee in one of the research interviews.

Still, self-managed work has its challenges. The responsibility of making decisions, managing your own work and considering the variety of factors involved can seem very demanding. In the opinion of the employees interviewed, employees of self-managed organisations should have ”a flexible mindset and the capacity to cope with changing situations.”

The self-managed approach seems to suit Oodi because it helps highlight the employees’ various skills and strengths, generating new kinds of solutions to meet customer needs. “Operating as part of a sizeable and more traditionally operating city organisation presents its fair share of challenges, with agile methods colliding with heavier and slower decision-making processes. Once we can live with this and find effective solutions, self-managed arrangements are absolutely viable for the public sector. Customers will benefit from creative and constantly improving services,” says researcher Riitta-Liisa Larjovuori from Tampere University.

Among the Oodi staff, 70% responded to the Tampere University survey, and information on employee experiences was also collected through personal interviews.

Photo: Toni Kitti/City of Helsinki