Characteristics of health care organizations associated with an ability to learn from experiences and to develop and manage change were explored in this study. Understanding of these characteristics is necessary to identify factors influencing success in learning from the past and achieving future health care quality objectives. A literature review of the quality improvement, strategic organizational development and change management, organizational learning, and microsystems fields identified 20 organizational characteristics, grouped under (a) organizational systems, (b) key actors, and (c) change management processes. Qualitative methods, using interviews, focus group reports, and archival records, were applied to find associations between identified characteristics and 6 Swedish health care units externally evaluated as delivering high-quality care. Strong support for a characteristic was defined as units having more than 4 sources describing the characteristic as an important success factor. Eighteen characteristics had strong support from at least 2 units. The strongest evidence was found for the following: (i) key actors have long-term commitment, provide support, and make sense of ambiguous situations; (ii) organizational systems encourage employee commitment, participation, and involvement; and (iii) change management processes are employed systematically. Based on the results, a new model of "characteristics associated with learning and development in health care organizations" is proposed.
2009. Vol. 18, no 4, 285-294 p.