Strategic Management, Leadership and Organisational Change in Healthcare

This course offers students a look at various aspects of managing healthcare organisations. It pays particular attention to service delivery organisations within the healthcare context (i.e. healthcare providers). These face the challenge of delivering high quality health care, with a sustainable business model, in an increasingly competitive environment.


Modern day healthcare delivery entails several challenges. Increasing health expenditures, due to technical developments and an increasingly old and chronically ill population, have for example triggered pro-competition policy reforms aimed at curbing costs while enhancing quality of care. Within such competitive markets, healthcare organisations are expected to act strategically in order to outperform competitors and survive on the market and ultimately deliver value to their patients.
At the same time, new patients’ needs require rethinking of healthcare provision into new delivery models. The treatment of multi-morbidities of chronically ill patients for example requests high levels of coordination of highly specialised healthcare professionals, often across organisational boundaries. A high number of interdependent providers thus need to formulate adequate strategies in a dynamic environment.

In order to adapt to their changing environment, healthcare providers need to undergo fast-paced organisational change. Yet, healthcare organisations are notably slow at adopting organisational and technological innovation. High professionalisation, well-anchored routines, traditional delivery formulas, strong regulatory presence of the government, and influence of powerful stakeholders are all factors that contribute to healthcare organisations’ inertia. A fundamental force to drive change is adequate leadership. However, even with adequate leadership, organisational change may be difficult to create in healthcare organisations.

This introduces students to the concepts of strategic management, professionalism, organisational change, and leadership in order for them to understand how healthcare providers can establish and maintain a competitive advantage. For example by strategically influencing, adapting to, or coping with their external environment (formed by competitors, stakeholders, suppliers, customers) and by leading and changing their internal environment (constituted by professionals, knowledge and resources).

Course content specified

This course addresses how strategy and strategic actions within health service delivery organisations (i.e. professional organisations) spur dynamics of organisational change, which need to be supported by appropriate leadership styles. Therefore, the course focuses on four main themes:
 strategic management,
 organisational change,
Each of these themes comprises a broad and rich field of scientific knowledge and practical applications.
Additionally, much of the knowledge in these fields has originated from sectors other than healthcare. Therefore, their relevance to - and application in - the healthcare sector requires additional consideration.

Strategic management is a field of knowledge which investigates how organisations can establish and maintain higher levels of performance than their competitors (i.e. a ‘competitive advantage’). The relationship between the organisation and its external environment is of specific interest in the strategic management literature. More specifically, strategic management studies how organisations adapt to their environment and vice-versa. Organisations frequently need to change (aspects of) their behaviour in order to stay aligned with their environment or to disrupt their environment by creating new value propositions. In other words, organisations are forced to continuously adapt. The field of study regarding these adaptations within organisations is known as organisational change. Regardless of the importance of change (as a source of improvement or renewal), it is far from easy for organisations and its members. Change triggers (hidden) mechanisms which need to be dealt with. This requires insights in organisations and change management to help overcome internal inertias. This is particularly true in healthcare organisations, most of which are typically characterised as so-called professional organisations. These revolve around - and depend on - a wide range of professionals which form the core of the organisation. A foundational force able to align individuals’ goals with the organisational objectives is leadership. However, different types and styles of leaders and leadership have various effects on organisations’ employees. Specific leaders and leadership approaches are therefore particularly suited to healthcare organisations.

During the first part of the course, which encompasses the first three weeks of the course, students familiarise themselves with the fields of strategic management, leadership, professionalism, and organisational change. This provides them with an understanding of the main theories, concepts, and literature within each of these domains. Since the four themes are interdependent, students integrate their knowledge of the four themes, rather than merely study each in isolation. Of particular importance during this part of the course is students’ understanding of relevant concepts, their interdependencies, and their consequence for healthcare managers. The first part of the course provides students with the required knowledge to successfully complete the second part of the course.
In the second part of the course, students focus on applying the theoretical knowledge to a (real-life) practical case in one of the available project and training tracks. Both tracks revolve around a group project in which students work in teams.

“Healthcare has become very dynamic and competitive. In order to survive and prosper, it becomes increasingly important for healthcare providers to employ carefully designed strategies, to demonstrate leadership and to embrace the need for organisational change. Not all providers are aware of this, to their detriment.
Daan Westra, PhD, course coordinator

Language of instruction

Language of instruction is English.


Participants in this course are healthcare managers, consultants, medical doctors and graduates from universities and universities of applied sciences who wish to enhance their knowledge about strategic management, leadership and organisational change.


This course has three core topics: strategic management, leadership and organisational change. At the end of the course, students will be able to:

Knowledge and understanding
The student has:
1. an understanding of strategic management, organisational change, leadership, and professionalism and the relationship between these concepts;
2. an understanding of the main theories and seminal literature on strategic management, organisational, leadership, and professionalism;
3. acquired insights into the theories underpinning the analysis of strategy, organisational change processes, leadership, and professionalism in healthcare settings.

Application of knowledge and understanding
The student can:
4. critically evaluate and apply conceptual models on strategic management, organisational change, leadership, and professionalism;
5. apply theoretical knowledge or different interventional strategies to actual problems in relation to strategy, organisation change issues, and challenges related to leadership and professionalism;
6. relate the acquired knowledge to the knowledge from other related units.

Making judgements
The student is trained in:
7. the ability to critically analyse issues regarding strategic management, organisational change, leadership, and professionalism based on their theoretical understanding;
8. considering the needs of various stakeholders in developing organisational strategies and approaches towards organisational change in healthcare settings;
9. identifying and overcoming barriers to strategic management, organisational change, leadership, and professionalism.

The student can:
10. debate the strengths and weaknesses of approaches towards strategic management, organisational change, leadership, and professionalism;
11. communicate effectively in group work and during presentations.

Learning skills
The student, assuming the role of consultant, will be trained in:
12. their ability to act as advisors, advocates, change agents and/or (opinion) leaders when managing/leading strategic choices and/or organisational change;
13. analysing managerial problems, organisation change issues, and problems with leadership and providing advice as to relevant solutions.

Teaching methods 

Problem-Based and Team-based Learning, group assignments, workshops, formal lectures, interactive lectures, (tutorial) group discussion, training and projects. Examination consists of an individual test and a group portfolio.

Teaching staff

The teaching staff of the course consists of Maastricht University experts on strategic management, organisation, leadership and economics.


Upon completion of the course, you can ask the FHML Exams office for a list of grades and a certificate.

Admission requirement

  • Bachelor’s or master’s degree or an equivalent
  • Sufficient English skills


Sign up by filling in one of the forms below:
 Application form for non-degree seeking students -  Master
 Aanmeldingsformulier contractonderwijs AIOS

Course/module code

Application deadline 
9 December 2019

Course fee

€ 1.680,- for the academic year 2019-2020 (with reservation)

    Start: 3 February 2020

    End: 3 April 2020


    Locations for the classes are at Maastricht University / Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences.

    More information

    Daan Westra, PhD (course coordinator)
    Department of Health Services Research
    Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences
    Maastricht University

    Phone: + 31 43 38 81 729
    Email: d.westra[at]maastrichtuniversity[dot]nl