The National Health Service -- committed to failure?

June 24, 2014

London (24 June 2014). A project has failed. So why continue to invest in it? This is a pertinent question for large organisations, like the UK National Health Service, which has a history of investing vast amounts of taxpayer's money into unrealistic and ultimately unsuccessful projects. According to business experts, organisations develop blind spots due to a perfect storm of unworkable policies and defensive behaviour. In fact, organisations and individuals have a few things in common, psychologically speaking, when it comes to throwing good money after bad, the experts say.

The National IT Programme for the NHS, Individualised Patient Choices and Mental Health Services Reform are three costly examples of the NHS failing to quit while it was ahead, according to Marianna Fotaki, Professor of Business Ethics at the University of Warwick, and Paula Hyde, Professor of Organisation studies at Durham University. Using these case studies along with a novel, social-psychological approach, they delve into the underlying, institutional reasons for escalating commitment in the face of failure in their paper, "Organizational blind spots: Splitting, blame and idealization in the National Health Service," recently published in the journal Human Relations, published by SAGE.

Unconscious social demands - for example, the expectation that a well-run health service can prevent disease or death - often underpin unrealistic policies. The very fact that society expects organisations to address large and intractable problems like this means that failure is inevitable. But, the policies themselves demand that organisations will remain committed. Escalation of commitment is socially embedded, the authors say. But behaviours driving escalation goes beyond 'impression management,' or the need to look good. Unconscious factors are at play, which are as much about upholding the ideal for others as for oneself.

The authors demonstrate that there are certain groups within the organisations (e.g. clinicians or patients) who are often painfully aware of the difficulties. However, when their voices are cut off through splitting and blame, their input may not be heard or acted upon. Splitting in the system (mostly between policy and its implementation) enables idealization of the task. This becomes an aspirational grand project, causing organisations to abandon the very task they have been created to fulfil.

"An important implication of our contribution concerns the inability of power holders and/or policy makers to recognize the origins of blind spots in overly ambitious policies, as well as their own emotional investment in these policies," according to Fotaki. "There is enormous pressure to demonstrate success, often fed by public scrutiny. Such intensification of commitment to a chosen course of action, driven by a desire to avoid humiliation associated with failure, may lead to greater and greater material losses."
-end-
"Organizational blind spots: Splitting, blame and idealization in the National Health Service," by Marianna Fotaki, and Paula Hyde, is published June, 2014 in Human Relations. The article can be accessed online for free here.

Human Relations is a key forum for innovative ideas in the social sciences and one of the world's leading journals for the analysis of work, organisations and management. It has stimulated advances in research and practice for over half a century, pioneering publication of multidisciplinary and action research focusing on progress in theory, methodology and applications. The editorial policy firmly grounds the journal in the belief that social scientists in all domains should work toward integrating their disciplines to understand humankind's increasingly complex problems.

SAGE is a leading international publisher of journals, books, and digital media for academic, educational, and professional markets. Since 1965, SAGE has helped inform and educate a global community of scholars, practitioners, researchers, and students spanning a wide range of subject areas including business, humanities, social sciences, and science, technology, and medicine. An independent company, SAGE has principal offices in Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore and Washington DC. http://www.sagepublications.com

SAGE

Related Business Articles from Brightsurf:

3D printing -- a 'dusty' business?
3D printers are becoming increasingly popular. They can be used to create a wide variety of three-dimensional objects based on computer templates.

Business-to-business customers expect personal service in online chat
Companies engaged in business-to-business (B2B) sales are also increasingly moving their activities online, but their online chat services and customer interaction have not been studied much yet.

Entrepreneurs have different storytelling styles for presenting business
New pioneering research shows that entrepreneurs communicate to strengthen their professional image and stakeholder relationships -- and avoid blaming others.

Gender quotas in business -- how do Europeans feel?
Despite years trying to bring more women to the top boards of business, the proportion of women on the committees of companies is tiny.

Carbon dioxide capture and use could become big business
Capturing carbon dioxide and turning it into commercial products, such as fuels or construction materials, could become a new global industry, according to a study by researchers from UCLA, the University of Oxford and five other institutions.

How NASA is becoming more business friendly
A new case study demonstrates the steps being taken by the US National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) to make it easier for small businesses and entrepreneurs to understand its needs and do business with it.

Finding the 'Goldilocks' level of enthusiasm for business pitches
Georgia Institute of Technology researchers found how long an entrepreneur displays the highest level of excitement during a pitch also plays a major role in predicting success in receiving funding.

Bosses who put their followers first can boost their business
Companies would do well to tailor training and recruitment measures to encourage managers who have empathy, integrity and are trustworthy -- because they can improve productivity, according to new research from the University of Exeter Business School.

Bacteria rely on classic business model
The pneumonia causing pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa has developed a twin-track strategy to colonize its host.

Even small gifts boost business
If a sales agent brings their customer a small gift, the customer is much more likely to make a purchase, a study by the university of Zurich has shown.

Read More: Business News and Business Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.