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Hospital management from a high reliability organizational change perspective: A Swedish case on Lean and Six Sigma

Nomie Eriksson (School of Business, University of Skövde, Skövde, Sweden)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Article publication date: 9 January 2017




The purpose of this paper is to describe and analyze nurses’ perceptions and evaluations of healthcare developmental work after the introduction of Lean and Six Sigma and, how nurses aspire to maintain a high reliability organization (HRO).


Nurses’ roles and the way they respond to new efficiency and quality working methods are crucial. Underlying themes were analyzed from in-depth, semi-structured interviews with (n=17) nurses at two Swedish hospitals.


The nurses perceived that Lean worked better than Six Sigma, because of its bottom-up approach, and its similarities with nurses’ well-known work qualities. Nurses coordinate patients care, collaborate in teams and take leadership roles. To maintain high reliability and to become quality developers, nurses need stable resources. However, professional’s logic collides with management’s logic. Expert knowledge (top-down approach) without nurses’ local knowledge (bottom-up approach) can lead to problems. Healthcare quality methods are standardized but must be used with flexibility. However, HROs ensue not only from method quality but also from work attitudes, commitment and continuous work-improvement.

Practical implications

Management can support personnel in developmental work with: continuous education, training, teamwork, knowledge sharing and cooperation. Authoritarian method structures that limit the healthcare professionals’ autonomy should be softened or abandoned.


The study uses theoretical concepts from HROs, which were developed for unexpected events, to explain the consequences of implementing Lean and Six Sigma in healthcare.



Eriksson, N. (2017), "Hospital management from a high reliability organizational change perspective: A Swedish case on Lean and Six Sigma", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 30 No. 1, pp. 67-84.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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