05 Nov 2010  HBS Faculty Research Symposium: 2010

The Work-Around Culture: Unintended Consequences of Organizational Heroes

Professor Anita Tucker shares findings from her research on the problems caused by "work-around cultures" in hospitals. Key concepts include:

  • Work-around cultures are pervasive in health care.
  • Frequent work-arounds can be costly and impair organizational effectiveness.
  • There are benefits to work-arounds which can be compelling on the individual level.
  • Organizational policies and managerial behavior create a culture for work-arounds or systemic problem solving.
  • The solution to work-arounds is an improvement-oriented culture.

 

"Work-around cultures" are pervasive in health care. Employees tend to work around obstacles, often feeling like a hero in the process, without solving the underlying problems.

The reasons for these cultures are manifold, but they are costly in financial and human terms. The solution is an improvement-oriented culture built on manager responsiveness and problem-solving efficacy.

Read Executive Summary