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Professor Michael West CBE


Michael West

Lancaster University

Charles Carter Building



Tel: +44 1524 510907

Research overview

Team and organizational innovation and effectiveness, particularly in relation to the organization of health services.

Research Interests

His areas of research interest are team and organizational innovation and effectiveness, particularly in relation to the organization of health services.

Current Research

Cultures of Quality and Safety in Healthcare

Research Grants

2010-2012 £1,450,000 Department of Health: Evaluating High Quality Care for All in the NHS

2009-2011 £240,000 Department of Health: NHS Staff Engagement and Analysis of Related Data

2008-2011 £1,500,000 ESRC: Capacity Building Clusters in Business Research and Engagement - Engaging Research for Business (EREBUS) (PI) with Universities of Warwick and Birmingham

2008-2011 £475,750 National Institute of Health Research: Service Delivery Programme – Effectiveness of multi-professional team working in mental health care (PI)


Michael West CBE has spent the greater part of his career undertaking research into the factors that determine the effectiveness and innovativeness of individuals, teams and organizations at work. He has also focused on improving the well being of those who work within organizations. His research has contributed to the field in three areas: innovation and creativity at work, the development of effective teams, and the links between enlightened people management and performance. His research and theory development have shown how the context within which people work profoundly influences their creativity and innovation. This theorising has been extended to the team and organizational levels contributing to understanding of how to work in teams in ways that promote innovation. It has also been extended to offer insights into how organizations can be developed to promote engagement and innovation throughout the enterprise. The importance for innovation at work of diversity of knowledge and skills, challenging tasks and environments, and effective integration of perspectives has underpinned the theoretical and practical contributions of his work. 

His theory of team reflexivity has shown how team reflection, planning and action predict both team effectiveness and innovation in teams engaged in complex work. This work has stimulated research internationally and has also influenced practice in many settings. It has had particular application in the NHS (in primary health care, acute care, breast cancer care, and community mental health), with widespread use of the concepts and the associated instruments. This work has been applied in health services in many countries including Australia, Netherlands, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Canada, Sweden and Jordan. His book Effective Teamwork has been translated into 12 different languages. 

He has maintained a strong line of research into the links between how people are managed at work, the climates and cultures of their organizations, and organizational performance over the last 20 years. This work, in collaboration with economists, sociologists and policy researchers, shows that people management and company climate are primary predictors of company productivity and profitability over time. His interdisciplinary orientation, with a strong base in psychology, has been another hallmark of his work.

His research on people management has continued to influence the agenda of Human Resource Management in the UK over the last decade. Moreover, his subsequent research in the NHS has shown convincingly how the management of staff in UK hospitals is the most powerful predictor of patient mortality in those hospitals over time. This work has been extended to show links with patient satisfaction, absenteeism, financial performance, quality of patient care and error rates across organizations in the health service. 

As a consequence of his research, he has contributed to a number of national policy making boards, commissions of inquiry and to meetings of senior policy makers. He was responsible, on behalf of the Care Quality Commission and the Department of Health, for developing and running the annual NHS Staff Survey over eight years until 2011.  This survey, involving  more than 160,000 respondents each year, has significantly influenced policy and practice in NHS Trusts throughout England over this period.

He has authored, edited or co-edited 20 books, including Compassionate Leadership: Sustaining Wisdom, Humanity and Presence in Health and Social Care (2021), The Psychology of Work and Organizations (2010) and Effective Teamwork (2004), which has been translated into 12 languages. He has also published over 200 articles for scientific and practitioner publications, as well as chapters in scholarly books.  He is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society, the American Psychological Association (APA), the APA Society for Industrial/Organizational Psychology and the Acaemy of Social Sciences. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow and an Honorary Fellow of Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland, Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery. 

He led the English Department of Health Policy Research Programme into cultures of quality and safety. He also led the NHS National Staff Survey development and initial implementation. He assisted in developing the national framework on improvement and leadership development in England (Developing People, Improving Care - 2016) and in Northern Ireland in developing the Collective Leadership Strategy for Health and Social Care (2017). He is supporting Health Education and Improvement Wales to develop the national health and care compassionate leadership strategy in Wales. He co-chaired with Dame Denise Coia, the two-year inquiry on behalf of the UK General Medical Council into the mental health and well-being of doctors Caring for Doctors, Caring for Patients (2019). He led the review for The King’s Fund (commissioned by the RCN Foundation) into the mental health and well-being of nurses and midwives across the UK, The Courage of Compassion: Supporting Nurses and Midwives to Deliver High Quality Care (2020).

He was appointed a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2020 for services to compassion and innovation in healthcare.

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