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Exploring the potential of a multi-level approach to improve capability for continuous organizational improvement and learning in a Swedish healthcare region

Journal article
Authors M. E. Nystrom
E. Hoog
R. Garvare
Monica Andersson Bäck
D. D. Terris
J. Hansson
Published in BMC Health Serv Res
Volume 18
ISSN 1472-6963
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Social Work
Language en
Keywords Continuous quality improvement, Organizational learning, Change management, Organizational development, Health care, Social services, of-the-literature, quality improvement, united-states, social care, systems, classification, visualization, facilitation, promotion, framework, Health Care Sciences & Services, ton jd, 1990, academy of management review, v15, p203
Subject categories Social Work


Background: Eldercare and care of people with functional impairments is organized by the municipalities in Sweden. Improving care in these areas is complex, with multiple stakeholders and organizations. Appropriate strategies to develop capability for continuing organizational improvement and learning (COIL) are needed. The purpose of our study was to develop and pilot-test a flexible, multilevel approach for COIL capability building and to identify what it takes to achieve changes in key actors' approaches to COIL. The approach, named "Sustainable Improvement and Development through Strategic and Systematic Approaches" (SIDSSA), was applied through an action-research and action-learning intervention. Methods: The SIDSSA approach was tested in a regional research and development (R&D) unit, and in two municipalities handling care of the elderly and people with functional impairments. Our approach included a multilevel strategy, development loops of five flexible phases, and an action-learning loop. The approach was designed to support systems understanding, strategic focus, methodological practices, and change process knowledge-all of which required double-loop learning. Multiple qualitative methods, i.e., repeated interviews, process diaries, and documents, provided data for conventional content analyses. Results: The new approach was successfully tested on all cases and adopted and sustained by the R&D unit. Participants reported new insights and skills. The development loop facilitated a sense of coherence and control during uncertainty, improved planning and problem analysis, enhanced mapping of context and conditions, and supported problem-solving at both the individual and unit levels. The systems-level view and structured approach helped participants to explain, motivate, and implement change initiatives, especially after working more systematically with mapping, analyses, and goal setting. Conclusions: An easily understood and generalizable model internalized by key organizational actors is an important step before more complex development models can be implemented. SIDSSA facilitated individual and group learning through action-learning and supported systems-level views and structured approaches across multiple organizational levels. Active involvement of diverse organizational functions and levels in the learning process was facilitated. However, the time frame was too short to fully test all aspects of the approach, specifically in reaching beyond the involved managers to front-line staff and patients.

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