The Hawthorne Effect is something I wrote about over a year ago. Previously as a Project Management Adviser and now as an Enterprise Agile Coach, I’ve seen it numerous times. To all those currently advising or coaching, do you tend to see clients trying to impress you? The Hawthorne Effect refers to the tendency of some people to modify their behavior, when they know they are being watched, due to the attention they are receiving from researchers, auditors, or coaches.
This 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. (Thanks Wikipedia)
This is one reason short term engagements can be challenging. People are on their best behavior, until they get used to you being there. This is also why I don’t believe in annual reviews. How do you, as managers, leaders, coaches, or auditors get past the effect? How do you ensure you get a true representation of individual and team behavior and not suffer from the Hawthorne Effect?
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