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Hawthorne Effect

The Hawthorne Effect is something I’ve seen numerousness times on projects.  When auditing or introducing a new process, do you tend to see people doing a better job than you expected? The Hawthorne Effect refers to the tendency of some people to work harder and perform better when they are participants in an experiment. Individuals may change their behavior due to the attention they are receiving from researchers, auditors, or coaches.

hawthorne effectThis effect was first discovered and named by researchers at Harvard University who were studying the relationship between productivity and work environment. Researchers conducted these experiments at the Hawthorne Works plant of Western Electric. The study was originally commissioned to determine if increasing or decreasing the amount of light workers received increased or decreased worker productivity. The researchers found that productivity temporarily increased, regardless if the light was increased or decreases. They then realized the increase in productivity was due to the attention given the workers by the research team and not because of changes to the experimental variable.

Do you audit your processes?  How do you ensure you get a true representation of project efficiencies and not suffer from the Hawthorne Effect?

HT: Wikipedia

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About Derek Huether

I'm Vice President of ALM Platforms at LeadingAgile. Author of Zombie Project Management (available on Amazon). Novice angel investor.

2 Responses to “Hawthorne Effect”

  1. Fabrice Aimetti
    April 6, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    Hello Derek,
    Very interesting post, I’ve translated it into french :
    http://www.fabrice-aimetti.fr/dotclear/index.php?post/2011/04/06/L-Effet-Hawthorne
    Regards, Fabrice

    • Anonymous
      April 8, 2011 at 3:06 am

      Merci beaucoup!

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