Managing Organizational Constraints in Innovation Teams: A Qualitative Study Across Four Health Systems

Med Care Res Rev. 2021 Oct;78(5):521-536. doi: 10.1177/1077558720925993. Epub 2020 Jun 17.


Though increasingly useful for developing complex healthcare innovations, interdisciplinary teams are prone to resistance and other organizational challenges. However, how teams are affected by and manage external constraints over the lifecycle of their innovation project is not well understood. We used a multimethod qualitative approach consisting of over 3 years of participant observation data to analyze how four interdisciplinary teams across different health systems experienced and managed constraints as they pursued process innovations. Specifically, we derived the constraint management process, which demonstrates how teams address constraints at different stages of innovation by applying various tactics. Our findings point to several practical implications concerning innovation processes in healthcare: (a) how conditions in the organizational context, or constraints, can impede team progress at different stages of innovation; and (2) the collective efforts, or tactics, teams use to manage or work around these constraints to further progress on their innovations.

Keywords: health system innovation; interdisciplinary teams; organizational structure; qualitative methods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Humans
  • Organizational Innovation
  • Qualitative Research