The Hawthorne Effect – Experiments in Productivity

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Understanding the Hawthorne Effect – Experiments in Productivity

Productivity can have a profound effect on your joint venture relationship teams. Understanding how to increase the productivity or work output of your team or of your joint venture partners team can increase your profits as well as create future partnership projects.

This is an interesting experiment done back in the 1920’s by a manufacturing plant on human productivity.

Quoted from by John C. Harrison’s work on the “The National Stuttering Project”

A little history.  The Hawthorne plant was the manufacturing arm for the telephone companies of the Bell System.  It employed over 29,000 men and women in the manufacture of telephones, central office equipment, loading coils, telephone wire, lead-covered cable, toll cable, and other forms of telephone apparatus.

In the mid-1920s, the Hawthorne plant undertook a series of studies to investigate how it could improve worker output.  In particular, the company was interested in discovering whether manipulating the lighting, break schedules, and other workplace conditions would lead to higher production.  It was thought that even slight improvements could have significant impact on the company’s bottom line because of the enormous volume of products that the plant turned out for the Bell network.

One of the earliest experiments involved a group of six women from the coil winding production line.  These volunteers were pulled from the line and relocated into a smaller room where various elements of the environment could be manipulated.

The first experiment looked at whether changing the intensity of the lighting in the working environment would have a positive impact on production.  The experimenters started out with the same lighting intensity the workers were used to on the production line.  They then increased the light a few candlepower.

Production went up.

Pleased with the results, they increased the room light by another few candlepower.

Production went up again.

Now, quite confident that they were on to something, they continued to increase the room lighting a little bit more each time until the illumination in the room was several times the normal intensity.  At each increment of change, the production of the six women continued to rise.  At this point, the researchers felt a need to validate their hypothesis that better lighting was responsible for the increased output, so they brought the lighting intensity back to the original starting point and dropped it by a few candlepower.

To their surprise, production continued to go up.

Was this a fluke?  Simultaneously bothered and intrigued, the research team reduced the lighting by another couple of candlepower, and sure enough, production continued to rise.  They continued to reduce the illumination in the room until the women were working in the dimmest of light.  At each lower lighting increment, production was still a little bit higher, and it continued to rise until the lighting was so dim that the women could barely see their work.  At that point, their output began to level off.

What was going on?

It was clearly not an improvement in lighting that increased production, especially since production continued to rise in the face of less favorable lighting conditions.  After testing numerous other environmental factors, the answer emerged.  Although these changes in the work environment did have some lesser effect, the reason for the higher production lay in the fact that bringing the workers together allowed them to coalesce into a cohesive group, and it was the creation of this group dynamic that had a profound effect on the mindset and output of each individual group member.

To better understand what happened, let’s look more closely at the differences between the two work environments and how these differences impacted the women in the coil winding room.  While they were just nameless cogs on the production line, the workers lacked any sense of importance.  They had few meaningful associations with their co-workers.  Their relationship with their boss was primarily adversarial.  He (and it was always a “he”) was the whip cracker, exhorting them to work harder and faster.  There was little personal responsibility for turning out a quality product.  Someone else set the standards, and they just performed according to instructions.

There was not much pride in what they did.  It was, to conjure up a familiar phrase, just a job.

But all this changed when the six women were pulled from the production line and given their own private workspace.  From the very beginning they basked in the attention paid to them by the research team.  Each of the women was not just an impersonal face on the production line.

She was now a “somebody.”

For further explanation of the Hawthorne Effect, download the usability study at:

christian fea is CEO of Synertegic, Inc. A joint venture marketing firm. He exemplifies how to profit from Joint Venture relationships by creating profit centers with minimal risk and maximum profitability.

To discover more joint venture marketing Strategies join his free Joint Venture Marketing Wealth Report

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