Manageable change?

Julkaistu 17.04.2018.

Although it seems that Finnish economy is starting to return to growth, it still has major challenges to solve in near future.

The prolonged recession that seems to be now passing by, a dwindling working-age population and industrial restructuring have had prolonged negative impact on public debt. Regional dependency ratio challenges are partially regional in their nature: for example, in some areas, population is growing old causing extra eldercare costs, whereas in other areas high birth rate may turn in to increased expenses. Because challenges are heterogeneous, we are in need of more individual, diverse and tailor-made social, health and welfare service production toolbox to serve our population. At the same time, studies show that there are great regional differences in efficiency to produce social and health services. Everything suggests that reform in social and health sector is needed.

The state and regional authority driven constructing service structure reform of the health and social services is also known as the Sote. In the heart of this project is the reorganization social welfare and health sector structure. The aim of the restructure is to reduce the regional differences in production of services and to improve availability of services in cost-friendly manner. To sum it up: to better the customer equality in social and health sector without growing expenses. According to up-to-date time-table, the national eighteen counties will be responsible to produce these updated social and health care services from 01.01.2020 onwards. The Sote reform has not, however, gone unchallenged, on the contrary. Among the frenzied criticism, there has been ground-breaking question: is the long brainstormed reform in line with constitutional law.

There a several widespread questions in air. How this reorganization affects employees? What is the final timetable? What are the forthcoming changes? What is the outcome of reform? Does the Helsinki-driven urban Sote munity have an impact? Is there something concrete information to be passed on? It seems that the Sote reform is still in status “in construction” and the political climate on topic is more than heated. And at the same time, research studies on management of change argue that more often than not, reorganization projects are failures. It is not coming as surprise, that the long-debated Sote reform has caused widespread insecurity especially among people who are working in social and health sector. Employees face the reform differently: some may consider the Sote as great opportunity, other maybe afraid of their personal future in this Sote structure. Among foremen, it has to be art to manage the change and employees in Sote level.

Is the Sote reform manageable? In governmental and political level, there are great expectations and expected avenues to better services attached to the Sote reform. One cannot, however, create and govern future without unexpected uncertainty factors, especially in this magnitude level. The Sote reform is still, for example, searching best practices to serve and guarantee equal-quality services regionally. In this Sote world of insecurity and “great failure expectance percentage”, one of the major tasks is to manage and govern the change in ground level. In my thesis I will centre on change in the Sote reorganization in management and operative level. I will investigate the Turku Sote example as a case study on preparation on change.

We are in need of operative methods and strategic objectives to manage the future change. I am interested in to examine what change management and coaching skills serve best the Sote reorganization?  In my thesis I will centre on preparation and getting ready on change in the Turku Sote reform level. One need to be aware, what kind of management and leadership we are in need of when we are facing reorganization in the Sote reform and how these methods can be grounded and solidified? Do we need depth and tailor-made change management education and coaching? Does the change management education requirement differ among employees in the field of welfare and health care sectors? Do we need many different kinds of coaching methods in change management?

Jaana Halin
Head of Planning / Doctoral student
Public Management


Sote and Labour Union

Kirjoittanut Alabi Rasheed 18.04.2018 18:31:47

Hi Jaana.

Thank you for the summary of your dissertation. It would be interesting to know that your research gave an insight to my long standing question about "new Finland". I am very happy to know about Sote and the summary of their activities. As a foreigner in Finland especially living in Helsinki-Espoo for over 10years, the amount of strikes and disagreements that I have witnessed in the past 2years is very alarming. I understand the slogan " Valtio säästää rahaa", but I think Sote should be pragmatic to discuss about the stakeholders in the Health and Social sectors so that the standards for which Finnish Health sector is known for would not be compromised. The so called reform in the education sector of Finland for the past two years has not yielded a meaningful results in my opinion. So many lecturers and university lecturers have lost their jobs. Similarly, the management of the schools are not happy. I hope a pragmatic approach can be taken by Sote to critically address the situation while considering the potential impacts on all and sundry. Thank you for your write-up.


Kirjoittanut daniel Sahebi 19.04.2018 09:50:46

Thank you for the post. As a foreigner who has lived in Finland for over 15 years, I can confidently say that many reforms should have been taken place long ago. The economical recession that Hit Europe in 2008, was estimated to end by 2010 or 2011. Germany was the first European country declaring that they managed the recession and the rest of the countries followed up during the next couple of years. However, it is 2018 and yet we are dealing with economical issues, employees being lay off and big companies going bankrupted. What is the reason for being so much behind from most of the other european countries. Could it be so that the Finnish politicians are not as honest as the rest of the Finns? Could it be so that a country can be like a company in reality, in which the citizens are the workers and politicians are the managers who only care about their own well being financially? Just some questions to mingle with :)

Regional co-operation and leading change for the future

Kirjoittanut Tiina Leino 19.04.2018 10:02:15

Hi Jaana! An interesting topic you have. I have been involved in the regional reform process since the beginning as an employee of the Satakunta regional authority, ie. council. I also have an interest in leadership, leading change and future of work. It seems our research topics have many similarities! We'd need to chat some time :) Regarding your topic and blog post, I consider the regional authority part very important in this aspect also, as health reform is one part but also the biggest in regional reform. How the organisation is constructed and with what resources etc. is defined when the whole construct is created in each region. The big organizations that shall be constructed in this reform, definitely need a program for leadership and leading change, coaching and other ways to create a vision towards an optimal performance in the organization. The task is huge, since the organizations are big and shall be even bigger and the culture regarding personnel and leadership work is somewhat old-fashioned, one might say. But since the competition of workforce is getting serious, also the regional reform organization needs to tackle this issue. And your topic is just in the spot there!

Thank you for your comments

Kirjoittanut Jaana Halin 19.04.2018 21:07:28

Thank you for your comments. Being only at the beginning of my dissertation voyage, I am grateful for your remarks and observations on the subject matter. As you commented, the Sote reform can be studied from different perspective and reference points can be found from recent history. The prolonged recession (and why Finland is only starting return to growth) and challenging dependency ratio (especially in near future), for example has been used as ending statement when Finnish government has thanked the Sote project as being cost-friendly reform and solution (although the final Sote sentences are still un-written). Without question, big changes are required in the field of social and welfare care. Another question is, are we ready to change the challenge, especially within given timetable (which is still more or less un-given and without the final signature). To latter question, I am tempted to say, no. As the previous reforms have shown us, one need to design not only the reform, but also the pathway to the new system. Without operative methods and strategic objectives to manage the change, the reform is in danger to failure.

Is the Sote reform manageable?

Kirjoittanut Markku Kumpulainen 30.04.2018 12:46:25

Of course the reform is manageable. When the government decides to go through a major reform, people are adapting to it. "In governmental and political terms, there are great expectations and expected avenues to better services attached to the Sote reform." There is no doubt that all these expectations are met. The government must only find the means to demonstrate that reform has been a success. At individual level these changes are not always felt positive, but this can be measured by a meter that is not compared to other meters.

I'm in my own research Interviewed a number of health care professionals and almost every Responses can be read between the lines of the impact of social and health care reform. It is very important to know how the staff responds and to find ways to identify problems and to find ways in which the well-being of the staff can be managed through leadership during and after the reform.

Health Services equal?

Kirjoittanut Lina Maria Fernandez Gualdron 02.05.2018 14:37:57

Dear Jaana Halin Thanks for your article, I found it very interesting, informative and inviting. I did not have idea about SOTE, now, thanks to your post I have searched more about it. I come from Latinamerica, where the health services are according to your status; We lack of equality and people often dies at hospital doors waiting for an appointment. Even if there are issues in Finland regarding the economy,the services, the government and many others problems, trust me, compare with the system we have, Finns are in heaven. I wish my country and especially, our leaders, could have a bit of Finland's vision. Thanks again for your post and I hope your results can be taken into account to improve the development of this country of yours.

Reply to: Is the Sote reform manageable?

Kirjoittanut Jaana Halin 15.06.2018 18:56:10

Thank you for your comment. There is no question that some kind of Sote reform is required in near future. You are at the heart of the subject matter, when you underlined that “the government must only find the means to demonstrate that reform has been a success”. In public, the Sote reform is shown as the battle between political parties and as a result the Sote reform is now more “how it looks” rather than “what it is”. This also raises other questions: Is the reform in our hands success story or is it seen only as political quarrel and interest lobbyists? Can the Sote be sold as success story in this political and economic climate? I would say that taking considered the long history of building the Sote, recent Gallup polls (which can be read as highly critical) and the current open Sote rebellion, it will be hard issue to sell as a success story. And at the same time, the research on the subject matter is highly critical: the failure expectation rate is more than high. According to them some 70 percentage of change processes are doomed to fail.

Reply to: Health Services equal?

Kirjoittanut Jaana Halin 15.06.2018 18:59:29

Thank you for your comment. I can imagine that, from the outside perspective, our quarrel on the Sote reform can be seen as minor issue when in other places equality and health care availability are not the common coinage.


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