October 4, 2016

What is a “Just Culture”?

You’ve probably been hearing a lot about just culture, especially if you work in HR. But before we can guide you to developing a just culture within your organization, we first need to define what a just culture is.

According to experts, these are the parameters of a just culture:

  1. Competent professionals make mistakes in complex systems
  2. Even competent professionals will develop unhealthy norms
  3. Zero tolerance for reckless behavior
  4. Balances a non-punitive/blame-free environment with accountability

definition of just culture

Let’s break each of the points down even more:

  • Competent professionals make mistakes in complex systems. A just culture recognizes that competent professionals are humans who will make mistakes working in complex systems that are designed by humans and are also not perfect.
  • Even competent professionals will develop unhealthy norms. Yes, even competent professionals are human and will develop bad habits, like short cuts and routine rule violations. A just culture understands that due to time pressure, other environmental factors, and imperfect systems, even competent and conscientious professionals will have a tendency to develop short cuts and violate rules.
  • Zero tolerance for reckless behavior. This is the just in a just culture. What makes a just culture “just” is that it also has zero tolerance for reckless behavior.
  • Balances a non-punitive/blame-free environment with accountability. The key to a just culture is the ability to balance a non-punitive/blame-free response to simple mistakes with personal accountability for unhealthy behavior choices that put patients at risk. In order to do this, the organization must establish a clear line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior that is well understood by everyone. The response to unacceptable behavior and reckless behavior must be consistent over time and across individuals. This in turn builds an environment of trust in which people feel free (safe) to report and learn from errors.

Now that we’ve defined exactly what a just culture is, why should HR leaders develop one for patient safety? We’ll be answering this question in an upcoming blog post, but we invite you to share your thoughts with us on Linked In!

At Coors Healthcare Solutions, we have the unique ability to understand each client’s needs and cultures, allowing us to create tailored solutions that address their unique challenges in an evolving healthcare environment. To align your leadership, physicians and culture to create strategic success, contact us today!

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