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Throw Out Your Management Textbook

For those of you who might have missed slept through Management class, the Hawthorne effect is oft cited study from the early days of scientific management. Two researchers trying to determine the effect of changes in light output on productivity found that it did not matter what changes they made, productivity improved, presumably because the workers knew someone was watching. Or so they thought:

It turns out that idiosyncrasies in the way the experiments were conducted may have led to misleading interpretations of what happened. For example, lighting was always changed on a Sunday, when the plant was closed. When it reopened on Monday, output duly rose compared with Saturday, the last working day before the change, and continued to rise for the next couple of days. But a comparison with data for weeks when there was no experimentation showed that output always went up on Mondays. Workers tended to beaver away for the first few days of the working week in any case, before hitting a plateau and then slackening off.

via Questioning the Hawthorne effect: Light work | The Economist.

While a crucial building block of years of management theory has crumbled to dust overnight, this is a victory for the publishing industry — seem’s like its time for a new edition of Management 101…