Hawthorne Studies

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BACKGROUND
During the early part of the century, American businesses were swept by Scientific Management, a school of thought largely developed by Frederick Taylor. He pioneered the use of time and motion studies, in which management would carefully break down tasks into simple chunks, then work out the best way for a worker to execute the chunks (all the way down to how long a step to take, how often to break, how much water to drink, etc.). The worker then executed their jobs exactly as they were told.

As part of the Scientific Management regime, companies routinely studied the effects of the physical environment on their workers. For example, they varied the lighting to find the optimum level of light for maximum productivity. They piped in music, varied the temperature, tried different compensation schemes, adjusted the number of working hours in a day,

Hawthorne Studies, a series of studies conducted at the Western Electric Company Works in Cicero, Illinois. These studies, started in 1924 and continued through the early 1930s, were initially designed by Western Electric industrial engineers as a scientific management experiment. They wanted to examine the effect of various illumination levels on worker productivity.

The Hawthorne studies were conducted during the 1920s and '30s, at the Hawthorne plant of Western Electric. The studies led to the human relations view of management, i.e., a behavioral approach that emphasizes concern for the worker. The popular management theory of the day was something called "scientific management." (I really have learned something in my coursework.) The focus of this school of thought was to seek greater efficiency by improving the tools and methods of work through scientific investigation. Accordingly, along with other electric companies, the General Electric Company wanted to sell more light bulbs. Consequently, there was an interest in the relationship between lighting and...
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