Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to examine empirically why a systematic problem-solving routine can play an important role in the process improvement efforts of hospitals.
Design/methodology/approach: Data on 18 process improvement cases were collected through semi-structured interviews, reports and other documents, and artifacts associated with the cases. The data were analyzed using a grounded theory approach.
Findings: Adherence to all the steps of the problem-solving routine correlated to greater degrees of improvement across the sample. Analysis resulted in two models. The first partially explains why hospital workers tended to enact short-term solutions when faced with process-related problems; and tended not seek longer-term solutions that prevent problems from recurring. The second model highlights a set of self-reinforcing behaviors that are more likely to address problem recurrence and result in sustained process improvement.
Research limitations/implications: The study was conducted in one hospital setting.
Practical implications: Hospital managers can improve patient care and increase operational efficiency by adopting and diffusing problem-solving routines that embody three key characteristics.
Originality/value: This paper offers new insights on why caregivers adopt short-term approaches to problem solving. Three characteristics of an effective problem-solving routine in a healthcare setting are proposed.
Keywords: A3 Process; Healthcare; Metaroutines; Operating performance; Operations management; Organizational problem solving.