Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Management Theories # 9 - Hawthorne effect

The Hawthorne effect describes a temporary change to behavior or performance in response to a change in the environmental conditions, with the response being typically an improvement.

The term was coined in 1955 by Henry A. Landsberger when analyzing older experiments from 1924-1932 at the Hawthorne Works (outside Chicago). Landsberger defined the Hawthorne effect as:

Hawtorne effect is a short-term improvement caused by observing worker performance.

Earlier researchers had concluded the short-term improvement was caused by teamwork when workers saw themselves as part of a study group or team. Others have broadened the definition to mean that people's behavior and performance change following any new or increased attention. Hence, the term Hawthorne effect no longer has a specific definition.

The Hawthorne studies have had a dramatic effect on management in organizations and how people react to different situations.

Although illumination research of workplace lighting formed the basis of the Hawthorne effect, other changes such as maintaining clean work stations, clearing floors of obstacles, and even relocating workstations resulted in increased productivity for short periods of time. Thus the term is used to identify any type of short-lived increase in productivity.

In short, people will be more productive when appreciated or when watched.

The term Hawthorne effect has been linked with numerous other terms, including: epistemic feedback, systemic bias, implicit social cognition, and continuous improvement.

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