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Organizing for teamwork in healthcare: an alternative to team training?

Christofer Rydenfält (Department of Design Sciences, Lund University, Lund, Sweden)
Per Odenrick (Department of Design Sciences, Lund University, Lund, Sweden)
Per Anders Larsson (Department of Clinical Sciences, Lund University, Lund, Sweden)

Journal of Health Organization and Management

ISSN: 1477-7266

Article publication date: 15 May 2017




The purpose of this paper is to explore how organizational design could support teamwork and to identify organizational design principles that promote successful teamwork.


Since traditional team training sessions take resources away from production, the alternative approach pursued here explores the promotion of teamwork by means of organizational design. A wide and pragmatic definition of teamwork is applied: a team is considered to be a group of people that are set to work together on a task, and teamwork is then what they do in relation to their task. The input – process – output model of teamwork provides structure to the investigation.


Six teamwork enablers from the healthcare team literature – cohesion, collaboration, communication, conflict resolution, coordination, and leadership – are discussed, and the organizational design measures required to implement them are identified. Three organizational principles are argued to facilitate the teamwork enablers: team stability, occasions for communication, and a participative and adaptive approach to leadership.

Research limitations/implications

The findings could be used as a foundation for intervention studies to improve team performance or as a framework for evaluation of existing organizations.

Practical implications

By implementing these organizational principles, it is possible to achieve many of the organizational traits associated with good teamwork. Thus, thoughtful organization for teamwork can be used as an alternative or complement to the traditional team training approach.


With regards to the vast literature on team training, this paper offers an alternative perspective on how to improve team performance in healthcare.



The authors would like to thank the Gorthon foundation for supporting Christofer Rydenfält as a Doctoral Student. The Gorthon foundation is a private foundation residing in Helsingborg, Sweden. The authors report no conflicts of interest.


Rydenfält, C., Odenrick, P. and Larsson, P.A. (2017), "Organizing for teamwork in healthcare: an alternative to team training?", Journal of Health Organization and Management, Vol. 31 No. 3, pp. 347-362.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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