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Hawthorne Experiments by Elton Mayo. Illumination Studies – 1924-1927. Funded by General Electric Conducted by The National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences with engineers from MIT Measured Light Intensity vs. Worker Output

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Hawthorne Experimentsby Elton Mayo


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Illumination Studies – 1924-1927

  • Funded by General Electric

  • Conducted by The National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences with engineers from MIT

  • Measured Light Intensity vs. Worker Output

  • Result – Each change (including decreases) resulted in higher output and reported greater employee satisfaction

  • Conclusions:

    • Light intensity has no conclusive effect on output

    • Productivity has a psychological component – Researchers interaction with the workers influenced higher performance

  • Concept of “Hawthorne Effect” was created


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Relay Assembly Test Experiments1927-1929

  • Western Electric wanted more information

  • Harvard researchers brought in to analyze the results – Elton Mayo & Fritz Roethlisberger

  • Group of 6 Women – (5) Assemblers and (1) Layout Operator

  • One Observer – Explained every incremental change and recorded results

  • Manipulated factors of production to measure effect on output:

    • Pay Incentives

    • Length of Work Day & Work Week

    • Use of Rest Periods

    • Company Sponsored Meals

  • Management Visits / Special Attention

  • Result – Most changes resulted in higher output and reported greater employee satisfaction

  • Conclusions:

    • Experiments yielded positive effects even with negative influences – workers’ output will increase as a response to attention

    • Strong social bonds were created within the test group. Workers are influenced by need for recognition, security and sense of belonging


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Relay Assembly Room #2 - 1928-1929

  • Measured output changes with pay incentive changes

    • Special observation room

    • Relay Assemblers changed from Departmental Incentive to Small group – 1st Session

    • Adjusted back to Large Group Incentive – 2nd Session

  • Results

    • Small Group Incentive resulted in new Highest sustained level of production – 112% over standard output base

    • Output dropped to 96.2% of base with return to large group incentive

  • Conclusion: Pay incentives were a relevant factor in output increases but not the only factor.


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Mica Splitting Test Group - 1928-1931

  • Measured output changes with changes in work conditions only:

    • Special Observation Room

    • Length of Work Day

    • Use of Rest Periods

    • Workers stayed on established Piece-rate compensation

  • Result - Productivity increased by 15% over standard output base

  • Conclusions:

    • Productivity is affected by non-pay considerations

    • Social dynamics are a basis of worker performance


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Plant Interview Program – 1925-1932

  • 1925-1927 – Objective Questions

    • Work Conditions

    • Work Relationships

    • Yes/No Answers

  • 1928-1932 – Conversational / Non-directive

    • Attentive Sympathetic Listening

    • Concern for personal needs

    • Increased in time from 30-90 minutes

  • Result – Remarkable positive employee perceptions:

    • Working Condition Improved (no real changes)

    • Better Wages (no real changes)

  • Conclusions:

    • New Supervisory Style improved worker morale

    • Complaints reflected personal and/or social barriers that needed attention in order to raise productivity


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Bank Wiring Observation Group – 1931-1932

  • 14 Male Workers

  • Few Special Conditions

    • Segregated work area

    • No Management Visits

    • Supervision would remain the same

    • Observer would record data only – no interaction with workers

  • New incentive pay rate was established for the small group

  • Any increases in output would be included in departmental pay incentives

  • Result – No appreciable changes in output

  • Conclusions:

    • Well established performance norms existed in the group

    • Informal Social Organization dictated little deviation from established production standards – Systemic Soldiering

    • Informal Social Organizations protect workers from managers who

      • Raise production standards

      • Cut pay rates

      • Challenge workplace norms


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Sources of Information

  • Wren, Daniel A., and Arthur G. Bedeian. The Evolution of Management Thought. 6th ed. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2009. Print.

  • "History of Management." ManagementGuru supports management studies and is maintained by Dr.Makamson. Web. 16 Nov. 2009. <http://www.mgmtguru.com/mgt301/301_Lecture1Page10.htm>.

  • "Baker Library Chronicles Human Relations Movement." Harvard Business School. Web. 16 Nov. 2009. <http://www.hbs.edu/news/releases/092407_hawthorne.html>.

  • "ProvenModels hawthorne effect - Elton Mayo." ProvenModels - Management Models | Management Theory | Business Models | Michael Porter | Henry Mintzberg | Management Model | Business School. Web. 15 Nov. 2009. <http://www.provenmodels.com/6/hawthorne-effect/elton-mayo>.