Keywords: team development, continuous improvements, action learning, public sector, Sweden
Developing multi-functional teams in public service - from prescribed helplessness to perceived self-esteem
The case describes a two-year action research project aimed at developing a team-based organisation and establishing sustained improvement processes in one branch office of the Swedish Social Insurance Agency (SSIA). The objectives of the project were to reduce the total cost incurred by the insurance system, increase customer satisfaction and improve working conditions. An action-learning methodology was used to bring about a common experience of actually carrying out improvement activities. In small steps and through discussion between the teams, tasks and responsibilities were redefined in order to improve work planning possibilities, reduce overlap and enrich work content. The project was finally evaluated after 18 months and the tangible results showed that more than 400 improvements were implemented reducing insurance costs in excess of 2.5 million SEK per year. Working conditions had also improved resulting in a gradual shift from "prescribed helplessness" to "perceived self-esteem".