The work is never ending: uncovering teamwork sustainability using realistic evaluation

Mandus Frykman, Ulrica Von Thiele Schwarz, Åsa Muntlin Athlin, Henna Hasson, Pamela Mazzocato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose-The purpose of this paper is to uncover the mechanisms influencing the sustainability of behavior changes following the implementation of teamwork. Design/methodology/approach-Realistic evaluation was combined with a framework (DCOM®) based on applied behavior analysis to study the sustainability of behavior changes two and a half years after the initial implementation of teamwork at an emergency department. The DCOM® framework was used to categorize the mechanisms of behavior change interventions (BCIs) into the four categories of direction, competence, opportunity, and motivation. Non-participant observation and interview data were used. Findings-The teamwork behaviors were not sustained. A substantial fallback in managerial activities in combination with a complex context contributed to reduced direction, opportunity, and motivation. Reduced direction made staff members unclear about how and why they should work in teams. Deterioration of opportunity was evident from the lack of problem-solving resources resulting in accumulated barriers to teamwork. Motivation in terms of management support and feedback was reduced. Practical implications-The implementation of complex organizational changes in complex healthcare contexts requires continuous adaption and managerial activities well beyond the initial implementation period. Originality/value-By integrating the DCOM® framework with realistic evaluation, this study responds to the call for theoretically based research on behavioral mechanisms that can explain how BCIs interact with context and how this interaction influences sustainability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-81
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Health, Organisation and Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Behaviour analysis
  • Implementation
  • Operant psychology
  • Realistic evaluation
  • Sustainability
  • Teamwork


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