12:  What is Just Culture and Why Organizations Might Want to Learn About It with Julie Stephenson

A Just Culture is one where fairness, empathy and shared accountability are paramount. 

In this special four-part series, returning guest Julie Stephenson and I will examine how this culture has transformed the hospital where she works, shifting from punitive responses to understanding and addressing root causes. We’ll also look at the challenges of implementing just culture, from overcoming resistance to change, to fostering a blame-free, yet accountable environment.

Julie will shed light on the nuances of mistakes, at risk behaviors, and the value of curiosity and systems thinking in this context.

In this episode, we’re defining what a just culture is, how the model accounts for the systemic structures in which individuals make choices, and what it meant to implement a just culture framework in Julie’s rural critical access hospital.

Julie Stephenson’s commitment to and passion for conversations that move organizations toward a healthier and more human place to live, work and learn have guided her entire career. Currently, she supports a critical access hospital in southwestern Wisconsin as a certified coach and Just Culture leader. Her most recent creative endeavor includes The Water We Swim In series and The Lab — a cultural and storytelling experiment she co-created. This work destigmatizes mental health, normalizes sharing stories, and honors the lived experiences of our friends and neighbors in southwestern Wisconsin. In 2018, Julie founded Compounding Courage to create a movement inspired by Mr. Rogers’s wise words, “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”


  • Why implementing a just culture requires embracing human fallibility in order to reduce harm
  • How working through COVID shed light on structural inequalities that existed within the hospital
  • Four key components and definitions with just culture
  • Why understanding context is essential closing the gap between what we believe and what we do
  • The challenges of moving away from systems that are hierarchical and punitive to one that is more strategic and compassionate
  • How implementing a just culture framework supports the wellbeing of those within the system


LEARN MORE ABOUT Julie Stephenson


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