Self-organizing organizations and well-being

Tampere University and The Finnish work environment fund has studied self-guiding organizations from occupational well-being point of view. The study drilled into topics like: On what level is employee’s well-being in organizations that have no management? What is the common stress factor in self organizing companies? Which ways of working would support employee’s well-being? 

Study group found seven development areas that should be taken into consideration when developing self-organizing teams. 

  • Clarification and management of work itself
  • Adjusting workload
  • Know-how and growth (as individual, – team and – organization)
  • Increasing the sense of community
  • Increasing / managing the information flow
  • Equal and functioning decision-making process
  • Managing organizational tension and solving conflicts

Picture by Heli Penttinen, source, Hyvinvoinnin seitsemän elementtiä itseohjautuvassa organisaatiossa- hankkeen keskeiset kehittämissuositukset. Webinaaritallenne 24.8.2021


All these seem like everyday problems or development areas to all kind of companies. Painting a clear vision of what the company is doing and making sure all understand the strategy at least on basic level the same, has always been a priority in companies. All companies also struggle with information and workload problems. Works does not distribute equally, and some get more load than other as the same time others get bored the same time. We also know that only organizations that learn to learn will survive in the futures faster and faster renewing business environment. 

To understand this study better, we need to also understand the typical features or descriptions of self-organizing company. In self organizing companies’ responsibilities and decision-making rights are distributed to the whole organization. Common goals and purpose guide peoples’ actions. Abilities to decide and influence your own work are high. Employees can choose the ways, time, and place where they work. In self organizing companies employees have power also to influence on the team structures, recruitments and rules.  The ability to influence on different issues in the company goes as high as the strategy that guides all actions. 

It seems that experienced well-being in self. Organizing companies is quite high. This is partly due the autonomy, freedom to choose and influence. When comparing traditional companies and self-organizing ones, it can be seen that work engagement is higher in self-organizing companies (Tampere University, 2021)


From service designers’ point of view self-organizing team structure seams more than right. By bringing everyone’s opinions and ideas to the table, I believe we are more able to solve more complex problems and create more innovative solutions. The idea of giving everyone a change to influence walks hand in hand with design thinking ideology.  
As the Tampere University study also states, this kind of model yet requires clarity in vision, common rules and guidelines, transparent communication and regular reviews and discussions of how we are doing and where we are going. When management is missing, leadership is needed more. I feel this will be the future, but before that, we have some rocky road ahead of us turning traditional organizations to more flexible mode. 

After listening the webinar and discussions followed, I stayed thinking which kind of design thinking methods and service design tools we could use to create tools to ease pointed development areas in self-organizing companies.

Text by Tarja Paanola
SID MBA Student at Laurea University of Applied Sciences

Source; Seven steps to occupational 
wellbeing in self guiding organization- Webinar

Tampere University and 
The Finnish Work environment fund
24.8.2021 

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