Implementation of the strategy in the City of Turku

The City of Turku uses Topaasia to support its strategy work. Initially Topaasia was used with pre-existing games, but with its good reception, the use of the game has been extended through the creation of own game content to the implementation of the city-wide strategy and HR strategy. There are currently three “Turkufied” games: the City Strategy, HR Strategy and Work Capability games. In this customer story, Rami Savila, Strategy and Development Director of the City of Turku, and Marita Heinä, Human Resources Planner, share their experiences of implementing the city strategy with Topaasia.

Turku, Finland. Known for its castle, the home of mustard, split by the Aura River. Also the employer of more than 12 000 employees. The City of Turku has created a new strategy, and Marita and Rami describe the starting points for its implementation:

“The strategy is a big whole. Not every employee is affected by every aspect of the strategy. That’s why it’s important for people to find their own corner of the strategy, where the strategy touches their own job. It’s important for both the employee and the city that the strategy really guides the work of the employees, and is not just a big summary that doesn’t touch on day-to-day operations,” says Marita.

Rami explains that the role of the strategy manager in cities and municipalities is to ensure that the strategy is created, comes to life in the organisation and genuinely guides people. Rami describes the strategy as an underlying document that should be kept in mind when making choices, and getting it into the daily lives of staff is a challenge:

“We have a new strategy and people haven’t quite taken it as their own yet. We had the previous strategy for a long time, since 2014. With the new strategy, it takes time and effort to get familiar with it. At what point do people find the sticking point and what part of the strategy is what everyone is going to implement?”, Rami says, and continues to explain how Topaasia helps to bring the strategy closer to the people:

“Topaasia is a tool that allows us to bring the strategy closer to the people. These playing cards that have been made for the Topaasia game reflect well our strategic guidelines. When people go through these cards in the game, it’s also going through our strategy.”

City strategy bends into a game

Based on Turku’s city strategy, a dedicated game has been created in the Topaasia service, which is available on the city intranet and on its own strategy page. In addition to the City Strategy game, the full strategy is available to use more traditional methods to go through the strategy.

“We have informed all managers that this is being used as a tool for strategy implementation, and now the intention is to start rolling it out more widely to all managers,” Marita explains, but points out that the person running the game session does not have to be in a managerial position, and that the game can be run by practically anyone who wants to:

“We have tried to communicate that the director or leader of the game is not the most important person in the game. He or she acts as the secretary of the game and the main point is the participants”.

In addition to the City Strategy game, the organisation has also created its own game content for HR strategy and work capability management. Marita says that games are played not only in day-to-day development meetings, but also in various work groups and customer-oriented networks.

“The games allow employees to work in groups to discuss how the strategy affects them and how each employee contributes to the city’s strategy. We have other tools in our strategy toolbox, but yes, this is an important method to bring the strategy closer to the people,” says Rami, describing Topaasia’s role in the implementation of the city strategy.

Benefits at three levels

Rami and Marita describe the benefits of gaming from three different levels: from the player’s perspective, from the game leader’s perspective and from the management level.

“From a player’s point of view, this is a surprisingly easy and good tool to use. It’s good that it’s a balanced game. There are negative perspectives, but there are also positive things available, inspiring, hopeful, encouraging factors,” Rami describes the player’s perspective.

“From a game leader’s point of view, it’s been nice to see that people are “getting it” and getting excited. I’ve made it a habit to go through what our city or human resources strategy is in a few slides, and this is discussed using Topaasia. The game makes you think about what you’re really doing about things and when you finish the game you always make an action plan, it’s always done with an eye to the future. A particularly big plus of Topaasia is that it makes even difficult issues approachable.” Marita continues from the perspective of a game leader.

“From a strategy manager’s perspective, the benefit and impact comes from staff and teams genuinely going through these issues and understanding how the strategy is reflected in their work and daily lives. The notes and knowledge generated by the games are also a big benefit. Over time, things will accumulate in Topaasia and the value of the tool comes from being able to capture and analyse data. In the old days, when strategy discussions were held, they were recorded in a corner of a powerpoint or in a notebook, they were not centrally displayed anywhere. The game changes the dynamics and in that sense this is a good method for implementing strategy. Even though we’ve been building the city for almost 800 years, we’re not quite perfect yet,” Rami points out.

As easy as using your online bank

Marita highlights the ease of use, both in using the game and in using the tool:

“People always claim that new systems and tools are easy, but are they really easy to use? In the case of Topaasia, they really are. Interested colleagues have asked me if game leaders need to be trained, if there is a certification course, if there is a lot of communication required to use the game, if the system is cumbersome? I am happy to answer that it is easy. I am then asked ‘am I an IT professional?’ and I can say that I am not. I am a full HR person. I would describe the implementation as particularly easy. New game leaders ask me what you need to know, so I’ve described it as if you can pay bills in online banking, then you most certainly know how to use Topaasia.”

Thank you Marita, Rami and Turku, Finland. Good luck and success in developing the city for the next 800 years.