Organizational Structure, Autonomy, & Innovation

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Managers always have and still do engage in activities of planning, organizing, leading, and controlling. The notion of command intent is still important, today. Command intent gives a description of what the desired outcome is in relation to the current mission; it focuses on the endpoint. That is, and especially with regard to knowledge workers, telling them what to do rather than micromanaging how they do it will likely result in pleasant surprises. Autonomy is key. Health professionals, including pharmacists and technicians, ascribe considerable value to autonomy.

Theurer et al examined contemporary work design and autonomy of employees.1 They contend that in environments experiencing fast technological change in which innovative performance is expected, past research has found that degree of autonomy positively predicts behavioral and attitudinal work outcomes. Because work design research has tended to examine the effects of autonomy on work outcomes such as job satisfaction, there needs to be additional consideration for the more situational elements of work and the degree to which the organizational context strengthens or weakens this relationship. Thus, they examined the degree to which psychological climate dimensions such as supervisor support, organizational structure, and organizational innovation moderate the effects of autonomy (work scheduling autonomy, work methods autonomy, decision-making autonomy) on employees’ perceived innovative work behavior (IWB). They found that all autonomy dimensions had a significant direct effect on employee perceived IWB.

Pharmacy managers, even in hierarchical environments such as large health systems and chain drug stores can provide autonomy to employees in a number of ways. This includes peer mentoring and supervision of one another, creating work schedules that best fit the needs of all those in the same work unit, allowing employees to make certain decisions such as teamwork/workflow considerations that work best for them. They should delegate some decision-making even on more advanced concepts such as on marketing new services and designing customer appreciation programs. They will often have good ideas that can be accepted as is or at least some that you might adopt after a bit of tweaking. And in turn they will feel as though they have more ownership, or skin in the game in your pharmacy organization.

Additional information about Management Functions and Operations Management in Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 5e. If you or your institution subscribes to AccessPharmacy, use or create your MyAccess Profile to sign-in to Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 5e. If your institution does not provide access, ask your medical librarian about subscribing.

1Theurer CP, Tamasian A, Welpe IM. Contextual work design and employee innovative work behavior: When does autonomy matter? PLoS One;2018;13(10:e0204089. 

Shane Desselle

Professor of Social and Behavioral Pharmacy, Touro University California

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Shane Desselle 4 months ago

Have you been afforded autonomy at work? Have you come up with some nifty ideas?