Michael West 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,Denamrk, Canada 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 150,000 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 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, the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, the International Association of Applied Psychologists, the British Academy of Management and a Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. He is a member of the Board of the European Foundation for Management Development and an Academician of the Academy of Social Sciences.