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History of team building & The Hawthorne Experiments
 

 

The hawthorne experiments
The Hawthorne Experiments were conducted by Professor Elton Mayo, from 1927 to 1932, at the Western Electric Hawthorne Works in Chicago. The experiments were primarily started with the intention of studying the relationship between productivity and work conditions. Professor Mayo started these experiments by examining the physical and environmental influences of the workplace (e.g. brightness of lights, humidity) and then moved on to the psychological aspects (e.g. breaks, group pressure, working hours, managerial leadership).

 

 

The Hawthorne Effect
The findings in Hawthorne Experiments have been generally described as the “Hawthorne Effect”, which can be summarized as "Individual behaviors may be altered because they know they are being studied." This is, however, only one of the many useful conclusions that Professor Mayo made. For example, Mayo also found that worker productivity increased with the psychological stimulus of being shown individual attention, feeling involved, and being made to feel important.

 

 

About the Experiment
Mayo selected two ladies from the factory, and they in turn chose another four ladies to participate in the experiment. The team worked in isolation, under the supervision of a friendly supervisor who established a working relationship with them. He took time to explain the changes that were to be introduced, asked for their feedback and listened to their complaints.
Mayo then varied the working conditions like working hours and number and duration of rest breaks in stages. The level of production is mechanically recorded, while the supervisor recorded the team’s behavior.
 

 

 

Elton Mayo's Conclusions on Team Performance
Among other findings, these conclusions made by Mayo have significantly impacted the way management ran their production plant from then on and, we believe, resulted in the eventual birth of the concept of team building:

• Relationships between supervisor and workers affected productivity. Mayo discovered that the relationships between workers and their supervisors affected production. The working relationship that the supervisor established with the workers was not a usual on at that time. Women did not have a high social status at the workplace and when the supervisor asked for the feedback from the ladies and listened to their complaints, it gave them a sense of self-worth. Mayo believed that this spurred them on to produce more even when all the privileges were taken away.
• Workgroup norms significantly affected productivity. If most people produced at a particular level after a change was made, everyone tended to produce at that level, as it was ‘a fair day’s work’ (this confirmed similar conclusions made previously by other researches)
• The workplace has a culture. A worker’s performance is affected by internal and external social demands. Informal groups within the work plant influence the habits and attitudes of the workers.
• Being taken care of. Being recognized for their work, feeling secured and a sense of belonging is more important that physical conditions at work.

 

 

Emergence of team building
One of the most crucial conclusions from the experiments is that toward the end of the tests, when all of the privileges were taken away, productivity continued to rise to an all time high. It was reasonably concluded that the production team were more motivated to work hard by the factors listed above than the physical working conditions. The researchers also noted that there was a possibility that the production team was grateful that the experiments were extended from the initial arrangement of one year to five.
In the decades that followed, employers became aware of the importance of maintaining a positive work culture and relationship with workers and probably led to the emergence of team building exercises and retreats.

 

 

Applying Lessons from the Hawthorne Experiments in team building
team building has a very broad meaning; it may mean very different things to different organizations. To some it may simply mean building cohesion among participants, while to others it may mean improving communication and sharing of information between departments. In essence, team building can mean anything that helps you improve your team’s performance.
If team building is new to your organization, you may want to use the lessons from the Hawthorne Experiments to help you identify some specific areas of team building that you can begin with.
According to the Hawthorne Experiments, these four areas of a work team that can affect productivity:

 

 

• Work relations between supervisors and workers. Do supervisors and workers have a healthy working relationship? Are the supervisors trained on skills like coaching and supervision, communication and leadership? Are there any unfair treatments in the department? Are there systems in place to ensure fair treatment of workers? If we need to address issues in this area, then the team building for your organization can focus on team bonding, leadership and communication skills.
     There are two ways to improve systems and workflow at the work place. One of them is to enlist the help of consultants who will work with you to fine tune the systems at your office. The other way is to use team building exercises like “Teams-Talk” to brainstorm for improvements at the workplace. In this way, the workers will feel that they are part of the decision making process.

 

 

• Workgroup norms in the organization. What is the standard set for the workers? How appropriate is this standard compared across industry? Do the workers perceive this as a “fair day’s work”? Historical data will provide a good gauge of what is a fair level of work to require from workers, provided that there are no major changes in the industry. Information can also be gathered when interviewing new staff from companies in similar industries or through external research agencies.
     If your workers are performing way below the industry standard, then we must find out the reason and manage the change towards healthier workgroup norms. On the other hand, if production is far ahead of competition, we must keep our workers motivated to continue the favorable situation. We must also find out about the stress level and fatigue level of the workers and manage them wisely so as not to create problems in the future.
     To get reasonably truthful feedback from your staff, you may want to consider using “änergy picasso” (a team building exercise) or an anonymous survey to assist you. Engaging external consultants to conduct these surveys on your behalf will, in many cases, get higher participation and more candid feedback from staff as it guarantees anonymity.

 

 

• Culture of the workers. What is attitude of the worker when he is first employed by the company? How has this attitude changed when he is integrated into the work teams? What brings about the change? These are questions which may help us rate the culture of our workforce.
     Education in work culture will help workers be more aware of how they can affect the morale of their team mates. Understanding the fact that being positive and supportive is contagious will not only encourage others but also motivate them as it instills a social responsibility. team building events focusing in this area serves well as an informal approach to inculcate these values.
     Reward systems that encourage desired behavior in this case will do two things: It will reinforce positive behavior; and create the “Hawthorne Effect” (bring about positive behavior in the workforce because they know that they are being monitored).

 

 

• Does management express concern toward the team- their employees? Is there freedom of speech at the workplace? Do they have avenues to make suggestions to improve working conditions or help increase productivity? Are they rewarded if they meet certain targets? Medical insurance, car allowances, bonuses, rewards, birthday celebrations or offs and team building retreats are just some common ways that organizations show concern toward their employees. How many of such measures do you have in place?

 

why not post these questions to your staff and kick start the Hawthorne Effect in your office today?