I recently participated in a great discussion with a group of Black Belts in my SSBB exam review class. We were talking aboutthe importance of “walking the process” to understand it. Several BBs had the experience of managers trying to create a process map in a back room somewhere – these managers swore that their map represented reality, until they actually were forced to go out onto the “shop floor” (however that translates to a particular environment) and had their “aha” moment.

One of the things we discussed was the so-called “Hawthorne” effect, which is generally used these days to describe the way workers will do their best, or the expected, while being observed for time studies. This abnormal performance may skew observational data when only a few workers are being observed over a short period of time.

However, one of the BBs pointed out that they had seen the reverse – workers slowing down or doing things inefficiently while they were being watched. Why would that happen?

It turns out that it hinged on the workers’ perceptions of why they were being watched. If they felt that their own performance was being rated, they tended to do their best to appear worthy of a possible raise, promotion, or other reward.

If, however, they felt that the management was doing time studies to try to increase productivity, or justify fewer employees, the workers tended to slow down so they wouldn’t be responsible for layoffs of themselves or others. In these cases, the workers assumed that the ultimate goal of the Six Sigma project was being done to reduce the number of employees, so why should they jeopardize their own jobs?

I’d never run into the second scenario before, in my experience in healthcare. I wondered whether other Belts had seen different scenarios while making time studies or observations for their projects, and how it affected their “Measure” phase. I also wonder how to be sensitive to either effect when measuring for my next project.

Would any of you like to sharerelated experiencesfromprojects that you have been involved in?

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