With increasing attention directed at quality problems and medical errors in healthcare organizations, the ability of senior management to promote and sustain effective quality improvement efforts is paramount to their organizational success. We sought to define key roles and activities that comprise senior managers' involvement in improvement efforts directed at physicians' prescription of beta-blockers after acute myocardial infarction (AMI). We also developed a taxonomy to organize the diverse roles and activities of managers in quality improvement efforts and proposed key elements that might be most central to successful improvement efforts. Results are based on a qualitative study of 8 hospitals across the country and included in-depth interviews with 45 clinical and administrative staff from these hospitals. The findings help identify a checklist that senior managers may use to assess their own and others' participation in quality improvement efforts in their institutions. By reinforcing their current involvement or by identifying potential gaps in their involvement in quality improvement efforts, practitioners may enhance their effectiveness in promoting and sustaining quality in clinical care.