An Organizational Learning Framework for Patient Safety
Despite concerted effort to improve quality and safety, high reliability remains a distant goal. Although this likely reflects the challenge of organizational change, persistent controversy over basic issues suggests that weaknesses in conceptual models may contribute. The essence of operational improvement is organizational learning. This article presents a framework for identifying leverage points for improvement based on organizational learning theory and applies it to an analysis of current practice and controversy. Organizations learn from others, from defects, from measurement, and from mindfulness. These learning modes correspond with contemporary themes of collaboration, no blame for human error, accountability for performance, and managing the unexpected. The collaborative model has dominated improvement efforts. Greater attention to the underdeveloped modes of organizational learning may foster more rapid progress in patient safety by increasing organizational capabilities, strengthening a culture of safety, and fixing more of the process problems that contribute to patient harm.
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