An inappropriate culture is often presented as the reason why hospitals throughout the world have been unable to achieve best practice. Many have concluded that the organizational culture of hospitals limits the ability of these organizations to improve performance, particularly in relation to improving quality and safety. Establishment of a "better" culture is often presented as the resolution to quality, safety, financial and productivity issues in hospitals. Our research indicates that certain management conditions are required before culture change can be contemplated. This paper suggests that we have underestimated the importance of people management in improving practice within hospitals, with the three most important aspects being the development of teamwork, performance management and sophisticated training. We present evidence of the potential contribution good people management can make to high performance, and argue that better people management is a cause, not an outcome, of cultural change.