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Lynn Wooten
  Lynn Wooten

Reaping the Benefits of Constructive Organizational Cultures

10/8/2003 --

ANN ARBOR, Mich.---The health care industry has lagged behind other sectors in its understanding of how to develop effective organizational cultures. Yet, new research suggests medical centers, hospitals and specialized practices can benefit by implementing constructive cultures, which balance humanistic values, organizational goals and patient advocacy, according to a University of Michigan Business School researcher.

"Constructive organizational cultures enhance both employee and patient satisfaction," says Lynn Wooten, assistant professor of corporate strategy and international business at the Michigan Business School. "These cultures support work environments where members have positive colleague interactions and approach tasks in a manner that helps them attain high-order personal satisfaction and meet organizational goals."

Wooten and Patricia Crane, director of Certified Nurse-Midwifery Service at the U-M Health System (UMHS), examine constructive cultures in their new study, "Nurses as Implementers of Organizational Culture," forthcoming in the November 2003 issue of Nursing Economics.

For many health care institutions, creating and nurturing a constructive organizational culture is a considerable challenge, requiring a strong mission statement and a defined sense of purpose to guide behaviors, Wooten and Crane say. Drawing from theory and case-study data, they conclude that nursing leaders can use human resource management practices, such as recruitment, training and socialization, to reinforce people-centered values in the work environment, inspire teamwork and empower nurses to provide compassionate, high-quality patient care.

The researchers spent two years collecting data from UMHS departments, focusing particularly on the nurse-midwifery practice, which provides specialized care and counseling for healthy women, from pregnancy through menopause. The practice possesses many attributes associated with a constructive culture, and is known for exceptional satisfaction among patients and midwives.

In a related study, the two researchers probe more deeply into the nurse- midwifery practice, seeking to explain its humanistic approaches to work and unique value creation. They find that nurse-midwives¿ sense of personal "calling" and strong socialization into the profession create humanistic work values and serve as a driving force behind their high level of commitment to the practice and its patients. "Clan control" mechanisms help generate a collective mission, consensus decision-making and efficient coordination of work, they say.

"Solidarity, respect, collaboration and supportive organizational routines characterize the relationship between the midwives in the practice and enable the group to integrate tasks effectively," Crane says. Wooten and Crane note that the feministic values of the practice empower nurse-midwives by encouraging resilience to big bureaucracy and creating an internal structure that buffers patients and employees against adverse bureaucratic routines.

"The lessons learned from midwives---their passion for their work, egalitarian management styles and resiliency when confronting adversity---have broader managerial implications beyond the health care industry," Wooten says. "This model can be used by other organizations to explore situations where it "pays" to care about individuals and to value social relationships."

Their second study, "Generating Dynamic Capabilities Through a Humanistic Work Ideology: The Case of a Certified Nurse-Midwife Practice in a Professional Bureaucracy," is forthcoming in a 2004 issue of American Behavioral Scientist.

View the Special Report on Positive Organizational Scholarship.

For more information, contact:
Bernie DeGroat
Phone: 734.936.1015 or 734.647.1847