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By Truven Staff

Organizational Fibrillation: Studying the Cause of Organizational Malaise

Robert Sutter imageWhen I ask my clients how their performance improvement system is working, they often respond that it’s not working well, and they can't seem to make progress on performance improvement projects. Upon further discussion, it becomes clear that these organizations are afflicted with organizational fibrillation with respect to performance improvement.

When the heart is afflicted with fibrillation, the muscle fibers contract rapidly at their own pace and not in coordination with other muscle fibers. As a result the amount of blood pumped to the body is reduced. In other words, there is a lot of heart activity, but reduced heart output.

Many healthcare organizations are in same state with respect to their performance improvement system; there is a lot of activity, but minimal results. This is typically characterized by more performance improvement projects and other projects, such as tasks, being conducted simultaneously than can be supported by the performance improvement project leaders. Hence, they exist in a state of organizational fibrillation.

The causal factors associated with this condition are the lack of two important components of an effective performance improvement system:
1.    A supportive organizational infrastructure
2.    A systematic approach to performance improvement.

Joseph Juran said it best, "All improvement happens project by project and in no other way." This is the beacon guiding the implementation of an effective performance improvement system and the treatment of organizational fibrillation. It means that the key to improving organizational performance is to successfully execute as many performance improvement projects within a given time frame as possible. In order to achieve this, objective organizational defibrillation is required.

Robert Sutter, RN MBA MHA