Using Case Studies as a Leadership Developmental Tool

Hypothetical Work Problem: Rationale for Problem Analysis

Understanding the benefits of cooperation and successful communication is essential for favoring a healthy environment within an organization, particularly when it comes to patient safety and quality of treatment. Therefore, a lack of effective collaborative techniques, as well as reluctance of the staff to share information can lead to serious pitfalls and misguidance. Managers failing to provide instant monitoring of processes, operations, and activities in a health care environment can face the problem of effective knowledge management and information exchange (Kovner et al., 2009).

Knowledge and information management is an integral component of successful organization and work of the entire department because it significantly contributes to organizational change. Being obsessed with old stereotypes and traditional techniques to handling departments can prevent the employees from introducing progress and advancement to the organization, which diminishes the hospital’s chance to compete equally with other organizations.

Aside from inefficient knowledge sharing among the members of the organizations, there is a significant gap in leadership and management. At this point, the role of a leader here is to encourage rather than suppress the active participation of nurse professionals in problem-solving and decision-making. More importantly, leaders should motivate their subordinates to work out specific strategies and techniques aimed at enriching organizational culture.

Failure to effect successful information exchange can also be explained by the fears of the employees with the originality of their ideas due to the inability of the employees to understand the actual purposes and intents of the organization. Therefore, the problem of knowledge management touches upon many aspects of management and leadership and creates difficulties for a manager to handle the organization effectively. This problem should be presented in a case study for the staff to understand how poor collaboration skills can threaten the quality of patient care.

Themes and Main Aspects of the Problem

While considering the above-presented rationale, the problem involves a multi-facet view on the overall organization of the hospital and, therefore, the solutions provided to the problem can significantly improve other spheres of management. Specifically, knowledge management as itself is closely connected with human resource management since human creativity and motivation are the basis of effective information exchange within the organization (Watson, 2007).

Further, reference should be made to the analysis of collaborative models and communication strategies ensuring the successful exchange of information between nurses and their patients. Information flow is an important condition for delivering accurate background information and fulfilling medical history. Nurses should know the common clichés and rules for filling out forms and creating a database. Another important problem of insufficient knowledge management can derive from improper accommodation to the constantly changing external environment (Guptill, 2005).

Thinking within stereotypical frames prevents both the leaders and their subordinates from acquiring new knowledge and exploring new learning techniques. Because learning and information challenges are the main condition for professional growth, reluctance to learn new approaches and theories is the major threat to a hospital’s high level of performance and quality of care (Guptill, 2005). Finally, ineffective knowledge management directly influences quality management because a lack of accurate and reliable information, as well as new advancements in evidence-based practice, brings in serious pitfalls to the core purposes of an organization.

Regarding the above threats, knowledge management is an essential skill that each manager and leader should possess to handle a health care center effectively. The leading managers of our hospital should consider the case study revealing the pitfalls associated with knowledge management to understand how this problem can affect other spheres of organizational activities.

Case Study: “Reluctance to Share Experience and Knowledge”

Mr. Holstein is a well-known and authoritative manager who has been operating the X Medical Center for 25 years. Employees got used to his management style and, therefore, much of their responsibilities were dependent on his orders and commands. There was strict discipline and none of the nurses was enthusiastic about introducing their concerns and opinions on specific issues. They strongly believed that discipline and strict monitoring were the best to introduce the quality of treatment and patient safety. Each nurse was aware of the duties and responsibilities and, therefore, everything that went beyond this was considered inadmissible. Even the contingency situations were considered with reluctance since each nurse was afraid of taking extra responsibility on his/her shoulders.

When Mr. Holstein retired, his position was taken by Mr. Pearson, a young and promising leader whose strategic and quality management significantly differ from the model introduced by his predecessor. Integrating new creative policies, the ambitious leader was eager to introduce a new collaborative model to increase organizational performance and define a new change strategy. However, his new policy faced strict opposition on the part of the staff since department managers were not productive.

Mrs. Grey was not able to take part in decision-making because her duties were confined to carrying out a task and following the established code. Mr. Oldman was more concerned about the old respectable image of the hospital and, therefore, any novelties presented during the conference were rigidly confronted. Mr. Pearson was significantly challenged because he did not realize the reason why his transformation policy was not successful.

To understand the full seriousness of the problem, the expert from a conference has been provided to define the attitudes and perceptions that each manager had:

Mr. Pearson: “Introducing laser machine equipment is a valuable contribution to the hospital because so many procedures can be simplified. Besides, many other hospitals have come up with this new technological advancement”

Mr. Grey: “What about financial resources? Do we have enough funding for introducing this resource? Many nurses are not familiar with this new intervention.”

Mr. Pearson: “I am sure there is no problem with resources. I have hired several professionals who can handle laser procedures. Our nurses can quickly learn to operate this procedure.”

Mr. Oldman: “I am not going to take this extreme responsibility for integrating new technology. I do not see any advantages of this equipment. Old and traditional methods have been good so far. Why should change anything?”

Mr. Pearson: “Many types of research prove that this method is much safer than surgical intervention. Besides, it is less time-consuming. So, we can significantly increase patient turnover.”

Mr. Grey: “What about training? There should be a lot of new information. You will have to spend a great deal of time to get the principles of working with laser machines”

Introducing changes and technological advancement was not welcomed by the center and, as a result, the center failed to gain a competitive advantage over other centers taking an aggressive policy of change management.

Possible Actions/Interventions to Solve the Problem

Knowledge management is an essential attribute of effective performance because it identifies the organization’s readiness to change and face challenges. What is more important, the degree to which knowledge management is integrated defines the professionalism and competence of an organization’s leader. To solve the problem of insufficient information exchange and knowledge management, it is purposeful to provide a systematic algorithm of action that would make the employees accept transformation as a natural process of organizational development. To begin with, Mr. Pearson should identify the goals and objectives of an organization, even though they were previously defined.

In the case under analysis, all top managers were ignorant of structural changes that were introduced by a new manager, and, as a result, they acted by initially outlined norms and regulations. Further, Mr. Pearson should provide employees with the relevant training programs and courses to be able to come up with new technological advances integrated into the working setting. Another intervention to be introduced is a new policy of resources allocation to establish priorities in financing different projects within a hospital environment. In such a manner, the organization will be able to gain a competitive advantage over other hospitals.

Finally, a leader should focus on resolute actions in terms of implementing the concept of learning and knowledge acquisition. This should be affected by the challenge of cultural diversity. Incorporating all these actions and solutions provides a fresh insight

The proposed intervention plan is congruent with the framework presented by Bordoloi and Islam (2011). Introducing a contingency-based framework, the researchers seek to understand the connection between knowledge management and organizational performance, define how knowledge can be applied for clinical decision-making, and capture the way patient information sharing is carried out.

The framework will refer to such factors as ailment characteristics, physician characteristics, and organization characteristics, which corresponds to the concerns represented in the case. Because the staff lacks creativity and decision-making skills, a deep analysis of characteristics can help reveal possible drawbacks. Most importantly, the connection between technological and interpersonal care can also be highlighted to understand how technological advances are favored through a re-evaluation of personal perceptions and attitudes to technological modernization of the hospital center.

While exploring the facets of knowledge management, Orzano et al. (2008) have proved that quality management and organizational change are attributed to this field. Specifically, the research underscores, “mindfulness, or openness to new ideas and perspectives and heedful interrelating, or awareness of how one’s work affects another, are examples of relationship characteristics that support [knowledge management]” (Orzano et al., 2008, p. 491).

Apart from organizational performance, knowledge management models are closely associated with quality management and effective leadership. Therefore, the above-described characteristics are indispensable to favoring an organization’s transformation. At this point, uncovering knowledge enables the organization to get benefit from the information. The process focuses on technical tools and can be regarded as socially driven tools to connect employees with current information sources. Finally, the introduced model can contribute to organizational learning and development.

Abstract 1 (Bordoloi & Islam, 2011)

“Being a knowledge-driven process, healthcare delivery provides an opportunity to incorporate knowledge management practices to improve processes. But it has also been noted that knowledge management (KM) is systematically more complex in healthcare and minimal research exists to guide academic and organizational stakeholders. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the application and impact of knowledge management practices in healthcare delivery. The paper is primarily based on a literature review of healthcare knowledge management and associated information sciences research streams.

The fundamental research questions are: ”what and how do the various knowledge management practices affect the performance of healthcare delivery?” and ”what are the contingent and contextual factors that need to be considered when exploring the relationship between knowledge management practices and performance of healthcare delivery?”. The paper is conceptual and aims to propose a contingency-based framework to drive further empirical research. We first discuss facets of performance in healthcare delivery but thereafter focus on the technical and interpersonal care aspects of healthcare delivery. We investigate KM practices in the areas of

  1. knowledge elicitation, acquisition, and sharing,
  2. knowledge application for clinical decision support, and
  3. capturing and sharing patient information.

In our paper, we explore how the different KM practices affect the performance of healthcare delivery through technical and interpersonal care. Thereafter we explore the factors of physician characteristics, ailment characteristics, and organization characteristics, on which the conceptual framework will be contingent. From an academic perspective, our paper identifies some key KM practices and explores their linkages with technical and interpersonal care, while from a practical point of view it provides implications for administrators and practitioners in healthcare delivery on the management of contingency factors so that the KM practices can be properly implemented”.

Abstract 2 (Orzano et al., 2008)

“Improving health care delivery is a pressing societal goal, and information scientists have a role in effecting change. Information science research has led to understanding theories and practices of information use within the informing professions, but information science and one of its subspecialties, Knowledge Management (KM), also have the potential to influence and enhance other professional disciplines. This concept paper makes the argument that KM is a beneficial framework to help health care clinicians manage their practices and ultimately administer quality care to their patients.

The central argument is predicated on the assumption that medicine is a knowledge-based profession and that finding, sharing, and developing clinicians’ knowledge is necessary for effective primary health care practice. The authors make the case that in an environment of a burgeoning body of health care research and the adoption of technology tools, physicians can benefit from understanding effective KM practice. The model as presented here borrows from recent information science scholarship in KM and is intended to inform intervention protocols for effective KM to improve quality of care”.

When combined, the introduced models, – contingency-based framework and knowledge management model will enable the managers to capture all aspects of the organization’s performance and development and provide employees with necessary mechanisms and tools for coping with changes and making decisions.

Objectives and Expected Outcomes

While exploring the case study and leadership development exercise, the group should gain a much greater understanding of how an organization’s transformation should be carried out. They should also recognize the necessity to acquire effective communication and decision-making skills to exchange and share their experience. What is more important, such a knowledge management analysis can also shape behavioral patterns in the course of treating patients.

As soon as the selected group identifies the main aspects of the problem and defines how it influences different aspects of organizational activities, they should also analyze the case study that can solve the issues within their employed environment. At this point, they gain a full picture of how quality management and knowledge exchange interact to introduce an improvement to the sphere of health care delivery.

There is also a necessity to integrate similar solutions and schemes within the real setting and define the extent to which the case study can apply to our organizational problems. In such a manner, they can learn new patterns of managing different situations, as well as become more sensitive and flexible to critical situations. Finally, managers can gain a deeper understanding of how leadership skills can contribute to coping with managerial risks.

Learning the above-presented cases provides nurses and managers with invaluable experience in coping with difficult situations and facing a variety of challenges. Hence, concrete examples from the case study can also be found in daily practice because many situations resemble real-to-life problems. Therefore, group members can react much quicker to unpredictable situations, as well as provide viable and creative solutions to the identified problems. Highlighting possible pitfalls can help leaders define whether similar problems are presented within their organization.


Bordoloi, P., & Islam, N. (2011). A Framework Linking Knowledge Management Practices and Healthcare Delivery Performance. Proceedings Of The International Conference On Intellectual Capital, Knowledge Management & Organizational Learning, 655-662.

Guptill, J. (2005). Knowledge Management in Health Care. Journal of Health Care Finance. 31(3), 10-14.

Kovner, A. R., McAlearney, A. S., & Neuhauser, D. (Eds.). (2009). Health services management: Cases, readings, and commentary (9th ed.). Chicago: Health Administration Press.

Orzano, A., McInerney, C. R., Scharf, D., Tallia, A. F., & Crabtree, B. F. (2008). A knowledge management model: Implications for enhancing quality in health care. Journal Of The American Society For Information Science & Technology, 59(3), 489-505.

Watson, M. (2007). Knowledge management and staff expertise in health and social care. Journal Of Integrated Care, 15(5), 41-44.

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