Imagining the Ideal Organization in Healthcare- Part I: Six Attributes

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by Jim Murphy and Beth Boynton-

What would the ideal organization to work for look like in healthcare?  Just to pose the question may feel depressing: most of us work for organizations so far that state that “ideal” seems chimerical.

Still, developing ideals can have a positive effect by stimulating our imagination.  Moreover, countless books and articles have offered prescriptions to organizations for becoming the best, the greatest, and so on.

A recent good example is the June 1013 Harvard Business Review  by Robert Goffee and Gareth Jones entitled “Creating the Best Workplace on Earth”.  Based on their own surveys of “hundreds of executives in surveys and in seminars all over the world” and the findings of other organizations such as the Hay Group, the authors boil it all down to six attributes, to which we have applied our healthcare “tailoring”:

1.  Individual differences are nurtured.

In healthcare: Staff are recognized by leaders and peers for offering insights and inputs that promote best care.  This is evidenced by some staff being held in high esteem for clinical expertise and some for emotional intelligence.

2  Information is not suppressed or spun.

In healthcare:  The truth has high value.  It is ok in the culture to say, “I don’t know”, time is available for research, and workloads allow for a reasonable pace.

3.  The company adds value to employees, rather than merely extracting it from them.

In healthcare:  Employees tell their friends where they work with a sense of pride.  They trust the organization cares about them and they feel respected for the work they do.

4.  The organization stands for something meaningful.

In healthcare:  Safe, compassionate care IS the goal.

5.  The work itself is intrinsically rewarding.

In healthcare:  The goal is attainable and employees go home, (most days) feeling like they were helpful and made a difference in the lives of the patients/clients they served.

6.  There are no stupid rules.

In healthcare:  Right!  The work is supported by management and policies require input from those impacted by them. Management and staff work to understand each other’s perspectives and concerns about rules and when necessary, compromise with respect.

Simple things, perhaps, but we all know that simple objectives are the hardest to accomplish.  And, as authors put it, “few, if any, organizations possess all six virtues. Several of the attributes run counter to traditional practices and ingrained habits. Others are, frankly, complicated and can be costly to implement. Some conflict with one another. Almost all require leaders to carefully balance competing interests and to rethink how they allocate their time and attention.”

How does your organization measure against these six standards? And what other suggestions can you make toward defining the ideal healthcare organization? 

Jim murphyJim Murphy has a solo consulting practice called Management 3000, focusing on organizational development and change management. Formerly he led the Massachusetts Bay Organizational Development Learning Group, was Human Resources Director for the City of Boston Assessing Department, and served as a consultant with the Boston Management Consortium.  His consulting practice includes management coaching as well as research and writing on employee relationships, leadership, healthcare and collaborative practices.  Having produced newsletters for several organizations  and being a frequent content writer for the”Confident Voices in Healthcare” blog, he is interested in writing and research opportunities, as we all consulting and coaching.




BB closer Headshot 1-13 CherationsBeth Boynton RN, MS is a national speaker, organizational development consultant, and the author of the award-winning book, “Confident Voices:  The Nurses’ Guide to Improving Communication and Creating Positive Workplaces”.  She specializes in communication, collaboration, & emotional intelligence for healthcare professionals and organizations and is trained in the Professor Watson Curriculum for Medical Improv through Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. She offers medical improv training for communication, emotional intelligence, culture change, and teambuilding efforts. Her video, “Interruption Awareness:  A Nursing Minute for Patient Safety” and blog, “Confident Voices in Healthcare” have drawn audiences from all over the world.  She is currently writing a core text with F.A. Davis Publishing Co. tentatively titled Successful Nurse Communication:  Safe Care, Positive Workplaces, & Rewarding Careers, practices as a Per Diem RN in a LTCF for folks with dementia, and a student of improv.  Her complete CV is online.



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