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Organizational Development in Health Care: Theory and Application 3

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The text discusses the characteristics of complex adaptive systems and managing those systems. How do such systems differ from traditional management systems? How are they the same?



In the advent of the new perspective in the way systems work, it was recognized that most things are changing and evolving. There was a need to put more emphasis on the relationships between the parts than how parts work. This is how Complexity Science emerged. Complexity Science recognizes that a system is a universe. Protocols and standards change over time. Roles become diversified. Some tasks even overlap. Research findings differ in each span of time. The traditional method examines each factor of the system and understands the mechanics of how every part works. For the healthcare system, it has been this way up to a couple of decades ago. The traditional view of health organizations is taken as something like a machine wherein the functions of each part is considerably analyzed when trouble starts to set in. The cause and effect of problems in the system and the corresponding solution are found and explained by the functioning parts (Hunter, 2018).

The traditional system and Complex Adaptive Systems, which are under complexity science, differ in a variety of ways like:

Roles; which the traditional system emphasizes management and chain of commands while complex adaptive systems focus on leadership and collaboration.

Method of mobilizing people; in the older system, the control is done by the highest in the hierarchy. Information goes down a unidirectional channel through commands. The newer system however utilizes positive and negative reinforcements, recognizing achievements and focusing on the behavior rather than the person when rectification is needed.

Measuring improvements; in the traditional way of organizing healthcare systems, one way of measuring improvements is through realization of activities that were deemed necessary to develop a system. Ticking all activities in a checklist means success. On the other hand, Complex Adaptive Systems allow diverse ways on achieving success, measuring outcomes instead of activities.

Focus of Success; in the traditional system, focus of achieving improvements is through efficiency of each component. Complexity science looks at agility, the trends and changes within the organization.

Working Relationships; with the newer system, personal commitments describe work relationships as compared to contractual work with the older system. This coincides with the method of improvement that looks at accomplished activities regardless of the people behind the success in the traditional system. In contrast, Complex Adaptive Systems create work commitments from people who become experts in the process. This becomes part of process improvement.

Organizational Network and Design; while the older system deals with hierarchy that is adamant about its organizational design, a complex adaptive system is hierarchical that allows dynamic self-organization.


Hunter, Greg. (2018). Complex adaptive systems in healthcare: a leader’s perspective – part 1. Manage Up PRM. Retrieved from





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Last Updated on February 25, 2018

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