health care org culture Research Paper

Pages: 15 (4263 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 15  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Healthcare

Computers were starting to become more common in businesses, and the United States had just signed its first trade agreement, a sign of things to come. The Eastern Bloc was crumbling, remaking the world order on top of all this. These external forces were combining to bring about a more rapid pace of change to the world, and to organizations, than had been seen for decades. As a result, organizations and management theorists started to conceptualize how organizations could better equip themselves for such changes. One of these conceptualizations was the learning organization.

Senge and Sterman defined organizational learning as "process whereby shared understandings and strategies change," the implication being that a learning organization is one that employs such a process. The pace of external change has only increased, to the point where even more stable industries such as health care had to increase their ability to adapt -- HIPAA, electronic medical records, technological advancement in procedures and medicines, and finally the ACA have assured that rapid pace of change is the new norm in health care, too. Management literature has ever since emphasized the need for organizations to become learning organizations in order that they continue to thrive in such an environment (Garvin, Edmondson & Gino, 2008).

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As the concept has been developed, the different elements of the learning organization have been explored. One key element is organizational culture. The premise is that organizational culture has to be oriented towards being adaptable, that a culture too rigid will struggle to ever become a learning organization. Culture can be an inhibitor to organizational learning, and therefore it is critical that the leader of any health care organization that wishes to be engage in a high level of organizational learning will need to place significant emphasis on building a flexible culture, just as a baseline that will permit the organization to improve its adaptability (Chang & Lee, 2007).

Overview of Learning Organizations

Research Paper on health care org culture Assignment

The fundamental premise of the learning organization is that it must be capable of adapting to a rapidly-changing environment. That the environment today is rapidly changing scarcely needs to be said, but the reality that companies need to adapt quickly to change is perhaps less universally-accepted. Garvin (1993) highlights how an organization can position itself to adapt quickly: "A learning organization is skilled at creating, acquiring, and transferring knowledge, and at modifying its behavior to reflect new knowledge and insights." The building blocks of the learning organization therefore are the different aspects of the organization that encourage it to perform these tasks with respect to information.

Everybody is involved in the creation of a learning organization. Leadership plays a critical role because leaders define the structure and culture of the organization, and set the tone by being adaptable themselves. That relates to the second part of the definition of a learning organization, "modifying its behavior to reflect new knowledge and insights." But the other members within an organization, outside of leadership, also play a key role. It is the larger body of employees at an organization that maintain its culture, and their participation in the acquisition and absorption of key information is essential. They need to be oriented, from a cultural perspective, towards learning. So culture is one of the most important components of the learning organization, regardless of industry.

Organizational Culture in Health Care

Health care has long been a conservative industry. It has been able to adapt to new medicines and procedures, but in terms of being genuinely adaptable to change, there is little doubt that health care has struggled. While the entire rest of American business is digital, many in health care struggle with the concept of electronic health records, as one example. In that sense, adaptability might not be the best trait of many health care organizations. This has consequences for transforming them into learning organizations, because the baseline culture in many health care firms is one that does not encourage a high rate of organizational learning.

Davies, Nutley & Mannion (2000) point out that health care management also does not tend to borrow much knowledge from other industries, a contributing factor in the staid culture that fails to promote a rapid pace of change. The traditional culture in health care, therefore, is not conducive to organizational learning because it does not encourage learning from all sources, focuses too much on centralized decision-making and does not offer pathways for organizational learning. Even if one part of an organization innovates, it is often too disconnected from other parts of the organization to bring the whole organization into the new way of thinking.

Thus, there are transformations that need to be undertaken in order to bring about the sort of organizational cultural change that will create learning organizations out of today's health care organizations. Davies, Nutley and Mannion (2000) note that organizations can only loosely chart the course for a culture. They can create the myths and the core values that incorporate learning. By ensuring that the organization knows where it needs to be, in terms of culture, leadership creates the conditions whereby management can gradually affect culture change. Gaining buy-in from different levels within the organization flows from having leadership buy-in and the appropriate resources dedicated to bringing about a change in the organizational culture.

The Changing Environment of Health Care

There are a number of forces driving change in health care, which makes the case for greater attention to organizational learning. The legislative environment is complex and changing. The ACA is the latest in a series of significant measures that is influencing the legislative environment, but noteworthy is that there are provisions in the ACA that have not been rolled out consistently across the country. This sort of complexity emanating from the political environment means that health care organizations need to be adaptable depending on how the winds of political change are blowing.

Moreover, the pace of technological change is increasing at a rate much faster than has been traditional in health care. New drugs, new medical devices, procedures and information technology are all changing the way that health care is administered. Traditional models of health care are dying out, and new models are being introduced. An organization needs to have a culture of learning in order to ensure that its members keep pace with this rapid pace of technological change.

The structure of the industry is changing as well. There is a move towards different sorts of business models. Health care firms are seeking ways to consolidate operations in order to save money. Despite rapidly-escalating costs associated with health care, the reality is that the economic environment for health care providers is anything but certain. Health care is becoming commoditized, a process that encourages consolidation. Such trends challenge health care organizations to maintain their own sense of identity and adapt to what are rather jarring changes.

Add to all of these changes the demographic reality. Baby boomers are entering their retirement years, creating a sharply rising demand for health care. This is a challenge for health care providers as it stretches their existing capacity. There are demographic shifts in terms of increasing diversity of the people who receive health care, as well as those who give it, again presenting a few unique challenges that maybe most health care managers did not think about historically (Fiscella, et al., 2000).

Internal Challenges in Healthcare

The key to building a positive culture that promotes organizational learning is to understanding the existing culture in health care and what barriers that might present, and how to overcome those barriers. In many areas, there is a shortage of quality workers, which creates all manner of problems. First, understaffed facilities do not have the time to dedicate to learning because too often they are simply putting out fires. Further, Workers tend to move more in such an environment, because there is competition for their services. Even if the shortages are alleviated by importing workers, those workers come from different cultures and may be even more resistant to an organizational learning culture than the mainstream culture (Kuehn, 2007).

Increased diversity presents a challenge in the sense that not everybody comes from the same cultural baseline. Where some cultures might be highly adaptable, it cannot be assumed that all are. And individual people might behave different from their expectations based on culture, but the point is more that with a greater diversity of thought there are going to be people who are not as adaptable because that is how they have been raised.

To foster a greater sense of adaptability is one of the challenges for a health care organization that wants to build adaptability into its organizational culture, it is important emphasize adaptability and education. Adaptaibility means having a certain openness to new ideas, being willing to change how things… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

health care org culture.  (2016, August 31).  Retrieved September 24, 2020, from

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"health care org culture."  31 August 2016.  Web.  24 September 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"health care org culture."  August 31, 2016.  Accessed September 24, 2020.