There are often several reasons to improve internal performance. It may come from pure ambition among leaders or from pressure from external stakeholder. Change is by people in general felt as improvement, if the individuals feels they are important and are acknowledged.
There is a famous study about what effect changes may have on workforce performance. In 1950 Henry A. Landsberger analyzed earlier experiments at the Hawthorn Works, a factory outside Chicago. The Hawthorne Work had done a study to find out what could improve worker productivity. Level of light was increased, and level of light was decreased, work places where relocated, etc. The not foreseen result of this study was that performance increased at any changes. As an example performance improved both when light was increased as well as when it decreased. And in the end when the study ended, the performance of the workers was after a short while back to what it was before. By analyzing the result from the Hawthorne Work study Henry Landsberger suggested that the productivity gain occurred as a result of the motivational effect. As long as the workers felt important and acknowledge for the work the performance improved. When it was “back to business” the effects disappeared. This effect was named the Hawthorne Effect by Henry Landsberger.
I have two main reflections drawn from the Hawthorne Effect. First of all sustainable changes has to come from “real changes” to the Management System. That is changes has to be done in one or several of the Management System Building Blocks, like Organization Structure, Processes, etc. Secondly, it is important to measure performance to be sure that changes are for real. Often we face or drive changes in Organizations. Most often they are motivated as important, very often they are regarded as positive, often positive effects are reported right after the change is done. But how often can you say, after a longer time that the change actually resulted in sustainable change effects?
The structure and design of a Management System is complex. It is seldom one single change that made the big difference. And the Organizations acts in its External Environments and the Management System is an open system with complex interdependencies. Performance can hardly be measured by one single performance indicator. My strong believe is that we have to measure performance to understand where we are and if we improves. At the same time I have experienced both too complicated ways to measure performance as well as too vaguely defined measuring methods. In both cases use of the measurements had no real impact on behavior, it was more about management authority and power than fact based management. But I have as well experienced very strong positive impact from well-designed performance indicators, used to manage Organization Changes.