Leadership, Culture, and Organizational Technologies as Absorptive Capacity for Innovation and Transformation in the Healthcare Sector: A Framework for Research

By Bita A. Kash, Aaron Spaulding, Larry D. Gamm and Christopher Johnson.

Published by Change Management: An International Journal

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Organizational transformation, in brief, is the profound reshaping of the organization’s and its people’s performance. The same transformational initiative might prove effective in one health system yet not another. Variations in success also exist across facilities, departments, or other units within a healthcare organization. Such variations remain relatively unexplored in the literature. We propose that some of these variations might be due to levels of absorptive capacity (ACAP), the ability to discover and exploit innovation, across and within healthcare organizations. The purpose of this article is to provide a research framework and recommend a measurement model for the study of ACAP for transformations in the healthcare setting. To develop a framework for ACAP for transformation, we reviewed 118 peer-reviewed journal articles, 36 books or book sections and two websites related to transformation and ACAP. We also reviewed literature covering related topics, including ACAP measurement models, organizational learning, organizational change, innovation, complex adaptive systems, strategy execution, organizational technologies, leadership, and culture. This comprehensive review of literature covered fields of sociology, organizational theory, management science, and systems theory. The approach sought a parsimonious framework sufficient to capture the significant complexities of ACAP for transformation in healthcare. Our proposed framework of measuring ACAP in healthcare organizations encompasses three dimensions: leadership (L), culture (C), and organizational technologies (OT) that are relevant to transformative change. By applying this LCOT framework in measuring ACAP levels associated with transformation issues, barriers, and outcomes, we propose that constraints can be identified and addressed, and successful implementation of transformational initiatives can be realized. Capturing and tracking the level of ACAP will help healthcare leaders with improving transformation implementation and success, making informed decisions about timing and selection of initiatives, and decisions about continuation or contraction of specific transformations within specific departments, teams or their healthcare system.

Keywords: Transformation, Organizational Capacity, Innovation, Culture, Leadership, Absorptive Capacity

Change Management: An International Journal, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp.1-13. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 477.650KB).

Bita A. Kash

Assistant Professor, Department of Health Policy and Management, Health Science Center, Texas A & M, College Station, Texas, USA

Dr. Kash is an assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Texas A&M Health Science Center. Her research background is primarily in organizational change and performance, nursing home staffing and turnover and healthcare strategic planning. Prior to her academic career she worked as a healthcare management consultant engaging clients in strategic, business and personnel planning projects.

Aaron Spaulding

Assistant Professor, Health Administration Program, Univeristy of North Florida, Florida, USA

Dr. Spaulding is an assistant professor in the undergraduate and graduate Health Administration (MHA) programs at the University of North Florida. His research focuses on organization theory, organization behavior, and human resources—with a focus on how organizational processes affect individuals as vice versa.

Larry D. Gamm

Professor, Department of Health Policy and Management, School of Rural Public Health, Health Science Center, Texas A & M, College Station, Texas, USA

Dr. Gamm is Regents Professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management, and Director of the NSF-supported Center for Health Organization Transformation at the Texas A&M Health Science Center. His research focus is on management of organizational innovation and health information technology across health systems and populations.

Christopher Johnson

Associate Professor, Department of Health Services, University of Washington School of Public Health, Seattle, Washington, USA

Dr. Johnson is an associate professor, Austin Ross chair in health administration, and Director, Health Administration Program in the Department of Health Services at the University of Washington School of Public Health. His research focus is in applying organization theory to understanding how to improve access to health services and quality of care for patients across a variety of organizational forms and populations.