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Concepts Paper 1 (75 points)
You may begin a new document or simply type into this document. Please see the syllabus
instructions for the concepts papers. Your answers should be submitted as full, grammaticallycorrect sentences using information from your textbook and/or other outside resources to
support your responses. For this paper, be sure to review the readings noted in week 2 of the
syllabus prior to answering the questions. Please use a final page to list your references in APA
format.
What is an organization? (5 points)
What is the common construct among all types of organizations? (5 points)
What are the main goals / focus areas in the field of organizational behavior? (5 points)
What is science? Briefly discuss the scientific method and its precepts. (5 points)
What is the purpose of a theory? (5 points)
Discuss two scientific models and theories that you believe are effective in the study of org.
behavior and HRM. (50 points)
Journal of Organizational Behavior Management
ISSN: (Print) (Online) Journal homepage: https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/worg20
A history of organizational behavior management
Dale M. Brethower, Alyce M. Dickinson, Douglas A. Johnson & C. Merle
Johnson
To cite this article: Dale M. Brethower, Alyce M. Dickinson, Douglas A. Johnson & C. Merle
Johnson (2021): A history of organizational behavior management, Journal of Organizational
Behavior Management, DOI: 10.1080/01608061.2021.1924340
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/01608061.2021.1924340
Published online: 14 May 2021.
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JOURNAL OF ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR MANAGEMENT
https://doi.org/10.1080/01608061.2021.1924340
A history of organizational behavior management
Dale M. Brethowera, Alyce M. Dickinsona, Douglas A. Johnson
and C. Merle Johnsonb
a
,
a
Western Michigan University, Department of Psychology, Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA; bCentral Michigan
University, Department of Psychology, Mount Pleasant, Michigan, USA
ABSTRACT
KEYWORDS
Organizational behavior management (OBM) arose as early
behavior analysts decided to use data in earnest to make the
world a better place, first through education, then workplace
training, and eventually through business and industry as
a whole. The historical roots of the field are traced through
the lessons learned by these pioneers and how their formative
experiences created the tools and techniques that are common
within the discipline today. This history also created a worldview
and conceptual system that continues to distinguish OBM from
alternative approaches and is reflected in recent publication
trends seen today. As the levels of analysis, specializations,
implementations, and problems faced continue to vary and
expand within organizational behavior management, the man­
tra of performance-based empiricism has remained as a steady
and consistent guide throughout the decades.
Organizational behavior
management; history of
OBM; programmed
instruction; behavioral
systems analysis
In order to better understand how the field of organizational behavior man­
agement (OBM) came to operate as it does today, it may be instructive to trace
our historical roots to see how the legacy of several pioneers left us with certain
tools, assumptions, and a general modus operandi. This cumulative history
created the framework that guides our current pioneers as they seek to apply
our particular brand of science to improve behavioral relations within busi­
ness. It can also serve as a point of demarcation to highlight how our field
evolved differently than other fields with similar interests, which could prove
useful as we look to our growth going forward. OBM-like work gradually
emerged during the 1950s and 1960s as individuals began to see the relevance
of the experimental work being done by behavioral psychologists to the
behavior of management and employees (Aldis, 1961). The OBM label was
formalized when the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management (JOBM)
was established in 1977. The publisher, Behavioral Systems Incorporated
CONTACT Douglas A. Johnson
behavioranalyst@gmail.com
Western Michigan University, Department of
Psychology, P.O. Box 20415, Kalamazoo, MI 49019
The authors were participants at various stages during much of the history that is described. When we say “we” in the
manuscript, it will mean one of the authors unless otherwise specified. As will be the case with any historical review
of a mature discipline, a single manuscript will inevitably leave out some important contributors to the development
of the field. In no case was this intentional and we apologize for any accidental oversights or omissions due to space
limitations.
© 2021 Taylor & Francis
2
D. M. BRETHOWER ET AL.
(BSI), was a for-profit firm started in 1971 by Aubrey Daniels and Fran
Tarkenton. Daniels is recognized as one of the pioneers of OBM, receiving
the OBM Network’s first Lifetime Achievement Award in 1988 (see Dickinson,
2000). Tarkenton is best known as a National Football League Hall of Fame
quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings.
The potential for behavioral principles and derived procedures to reshape
business and industry had already begun to be demonstrated in the decades
that preceded the formation of OBM. For example, James Lincoln (1961)
developed a system of incentives to produce lasting and economically impor­
tant effects in industry. Lincoln Electric in Cleveland operated by paying
production employees for only what they produced rather than paying
a salary. This was different than hourly pay; the approach most American
factories utilized at the time and had earned Lincoln Electric a worldwide
reputation for its management practices (Handlin, 1991). The Lincoln philo­
sophy that had guided such practices was not an inherently behavioral philo­
sophy. The company founder believed that the key to employee motivation
was to develop the workforce’s sense of pride and mutual respect, which was
best achieved by ensuring recognition was scaled to contribution (Lincoln,
1951). Although the philosophical core was different than the basis that guides
OBM, many of the resulting practices and procedures were similar. As
a businessman Lincoln believed that the fruits of business should be shared
among workers, owners, and customers. He further believed that profit shar­
ing alone was insufficient, rather there needed to be a recognition of the
individual’s performance (as Lincoln once put it, “an organization is com­
posed of individuals – not charts”). There would be individual accountability
for both quality and output with employees only being paid for good products
and correcting any defects on their own time. Although monetary incentives
were a standard part of the Lincoln approach, the company also emphasized
that money is not the only form of reward. Under incentive management,
wages went up and prices went down. At one point, Lincoln Electric won
a lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service; the IRS accused the company of
paying workers a lot to drive up costs and thereby “hide” profits. Why else, the
IRS argued, would Lincoln Electric pay workers three times as much as the
industry average? The winning defense was that piecework pay yielded about
three times the average compensation and three times the productivity. Also,
there were special incentives for working cooperatively. The first author
toured the plant in the 1970s and asked about safety. Workers got a lot done
and avoided accidents, else they did not earn any money when hurt or sick.
What events drove people to look for OBM-like applications?
“Let the data be the guide!” was a rallying cry of a handful of behaviorallyoriented graduate students at Harvard, Columbia, the University of Michigan,
JOURNAL OF ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR MANAGEMENT
3
and a few other universities during the 1960s. Rallying around the data is
essential to success in the field and discovering variables that must be managed
to improve performance. What excited us most was, “How can we revolutio­
nize education?” The answer to both finding and managing the variables, we
believed, was through “programmed learning,” which primarily involved the
careful application of fading, prompting, priming, branching, and response
requests to instructional material, along with extensive testing and revisions
(D. M. Brethower, 1963; Markle, 1969). Several publications inspired our
emphasis on this great educational revolution, particularly those by the first
author’s mentor, B. F. Skinner, and his thoughts on how automated and
individualized instruction might transform how students learn (Skinner,
1954, 1958). Skinner had noted how effective education requires a careful
analysis and sequencing of instructional content, continual engagement by the
learner, and frequent consequences closely following performance. Such an
extensive management of behavioral contingencies would require behavioral
science to adapt to serve large numbers of students at once, a problem of scale
that would prove relevant again later on as behaviorists began trying to shape
the behavior of entire workforces. Skinner’s approach to educational contin­
gencies is well-represented in a collection of his articles titled The Technology
of Teaching (Skinner, 1968).
The preface to an updated edition of The Technology of Teaching was
written by James G. Holland, in which he recounted how he attempted to
apply Skinner’s notion of teaching machines and a behavioral approach
with education to Natural Science 114, an undergraduate course at
Harvard University that taught about the experimental analysis of beha­
vior. These efforts involved extensive testing and refinement of instruc­
tional material in which student responding guided every decision
throughout several development cycles. Eventually the program within
the teaching machine was converted into textbook form with the publica­
tion of The Analysis of Behavior (Holland & Skinner, 1961), which would
become the most influential and well-known of the programmed learning
books, of which there were many publications over the years (with the
number of ‘m’s in programed/programmed varying across authors). Beside
Holland, other key figures in the Harvard Teaching Project included Susan
Meyer Markle, author of Designs for Instructional Designers (Markle, 1990),
and Tom Gilbert, author of Human Competence (Gilbert, 1996). Gilbert
sometimes referred to himself as “Skinner’s right-hand man” as a way of
acknowledging Skinner’s impact on his work. The field of programmed
learning developed out of enthusiasm for improving public education. The
most significant early development occurred in the early 1960s when
Professor Skinner went into the shop at the Psychological Laboratories in
Harvard’s Memorial Hall and built a teaching machine out of an old
phonograph turntable. Deficiencies in public education had caught his
4
D. M. BRETHOWER ET AL.
attention when he visited his daughter’s elementary school (Skinner, 1983).
He set out to do something about it, wrote a paper (Skinner, 1954), got
some funding, and, with the help of the members of the Harvard Teaching
Machine Project, the field of programmed learning was off and running.
There was a flurry of entrepreneurship in the programmed learning busi­
ness during the 1960s. Most of these businesses failed or transformed them­
selves into vendors in the training and human resources marketplace. Robert
Mager (1997) was one who succeeded and made significant contributions to
the field. When enthusiasm and hard work were not enough to support a great
educational revolution, many of us began to apply behavioral principles in
a variety of settings such as government agencies, institutions, private busi­
nesses, and educational organizations.
Behavioral psychologists, aware of Skinner’s (1938) three-term contingency
connecting relationships among antecedents, behavior, and consequences,
researched reinforcement, extinction, discrimination, and other fundamental
processes. Beyond that, the foundation for OBM was like loosely laid paving
stones; there were solid items and many gaps. The paving stones are important
in hindsight because organizational behavior management was influenced
historically by a variety of sources including human learning, education
research, economics, systems analysis, management, and both the experimen­
tal analysis of behavior and applied behavior analysis. For example, there was
solid evidence that:
● simply practicing intellectual tasks does not have much effect on other
tasks; transfer of training does not happen automatically (Woodworth &
Thorndike, 1901).
● basic principles of learning can be applied to:
â—‹ learning of emotions (Watson & Rayner, 1920)
â—‹ treatment of emotional disorders (Ayllon & Michael, 1959; Lazarus,
1959)
â—‹ learning by disabled humans (Fuller, 1949)
â—‹ learning of social skills (Azrin & Lindsley, 1956)
â—‹ learning of language skills (Skinner, 1957)
● simple tests can teach (Pressey, 1926)
● numerous variables influence how reinforcement works (Ferster &
Skinner, 1957; Keller, 1954; Premack, 1959; Skinner, 1953)
● how humans process information is important; there are limitations on
how much people can keep in memory at one time (G. A. Miller, 1956)
● there are serious concerns about the applications of behavioral principles
to human behavior (Rogers & Skinner, 1956)
● the “systems approach” is both relevant and important (Boulding, 1956;
Drucker, 1946; Skinner, 1938; Weiner, 1950)
JOURNAL OF ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR MANAGEMENT
5
● there are complex and important social implications related to applying
the concepts and methods of science to practical human affairs (Drucker,
1973; Mayo, 1933, 1945; Roethlisberger & Dickson, 1939; Skinner, 1948)
● there exist well-developed methodologies (Flagle et al., 1960; Sidman,
1960).
The most powerful methods, described by Sidman (1960), were well-known
to a few hundred people familiar with the work of B. F. Skinner at Harvard and
Fred Keller at Columbia. Economists called these time-series designs. These
methods were not and are not well known to psychologists, educators, social
scientists, or managers outside OBM. Part of the excitement of graduate
students of this period was the gaps we could fill. We did not know all the
answers, but we knew how to find them. Manipulate variables related to the
three-term contingency and collect data on the effects (see Sidman, 1960).
From the beginning our willingness to be guided by the data was one of the
most important biases of people working in OBM; science is more valuable
than ideology. The data bias is one of the reasons that establishing professional
journals and graduate programs is an important part of OBM history.
What lessons from Nobel Prize scientists proved important to the
assumptions of OBM?
From Percy Bridgman (Nobel Prize in Physics), we can learn that one of the
necessary tasks in doing an OBM project is enabling the client to see the world
as we see it (Bridgman, 1959, 1961). We must integrate our knowledge into the
world of the client, at least the part of the world that is within the scope of the
project. One way, maybe the best way, to achieve that integration is to partner
or work with the client.
Bridgman gave a presentation, The World as I See It, in Cambridge, MA in
the early 1960s. The first author attended and saw his point was clear: the
world as I see it is the world as I see it. He said he did not know if the point was
trivial or profound. It was years later before the first author saw that while the
point might sound trivial, nonetheless it is still profound. Getting clients and
OBM professionals to see the world the same way is necessary for success; both
the success of the project and success in getting repeat business and referrals
(see Standard 4 of the International Society for Performance Improvement
(ISPI) certification standards; ISPI, n.d.).
Different people see the world differently. Even when working with
colleagues or clients who see the world in much the way we do there will
be differences of opinion. What should we do first on this performance
improvement/OBM project? Should we try what worked last time, even
though conditions changed? There is usually no umpire to decide. Even if
there is an authoritarian leader who decides, maybe collecting more data will
6
D. M. BRETHOWER ET AL.
change the Big Boss’ mind. Not only are numbers important for changing
minds – the data often reflect matters necessary for success. Do funding
agencies consider our results good enough? Are lost time accidents decreas­
ing? Do we have enough potential customers in the pipeline to generate
enough sales to continue the business? Is the cost of production decreasing
for our products? Bankers, investors, and senior executives live in a world
where data rule.
OBM practitioners work in an environment in which we are not all
powerful; we must work with others to achieve results. Rarely are we the
ones who have the final word. “Do this because I’m the expert on
behavior” rarely works. This is one reason the ISPI adopted “Partner
with Clients” as #4 of the 10 Standards of Excellence. The mnemonic is
RSVP: Results, System, Value-added, Partner. “Results” are decided by
measures such as increases in revenues, widgets produced, profit margins,
or returns on investments. A “System” is a department, company, or
a division in which anything that happens can affect something else. All
performance occurs in a system of some sort. “Value-added” is making
things better. Getting agreement on what adds value by collecting data to
discover which results might add value.
From Georg von Békésy (Nobel Prize in Physiology) we learn that what
we must do is “first, make the analysis; second, make the synthesis; the
synthesis tells you if your analysis is correct.” The analysis identifies key
variables that must be managed to get the result we seek. The synthesis
includes building a system that manages the variables and gets results. von
Békésy (1961) gave his talk, probably in Memorial Hall at Harvard, also in
the early 1960s. The analysis/synthesis/evaluation-confirmation quote was
from the beginning of the presentation. He ended by repeating it and
saying, “You do the work; they give you the prize.” The middle concerned
how he made a model of the basilar membrane and used it to replicate
many phenomena in hearing; thus, providing evidence that his analysis
was correct. The first author left the talk glad he attended, but unaware he
had just received a summary of how to make OBM projects successful.
First do the analysis, then do the synthesis by building a system to
manage variables from the analysis to yield the result. Variants of von
Békésy’s procedure appear under several names: the experimental analysis
of behavior, applied behavior analysis, behavioral systems analysis, orga­
nizational behavior management, human performance technology, beha­
vior engineering, and the scientific method. Whatever we name it, we are
doing what von Békésy said: “First you make the analysis . . . ” The
contemporary set of standards for certifying excellence show these
remarks by two Nobel Prize recipients prophetic: ISPI 10 standards
(ISPI, n.d.).
JOURNAL OF ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR MANAGEMENT
7
What are some of the other basic lessons learned during the history of
OBM?
Analysis is always part of our work, but what is it? Analysis is nothing more
nor less than finding answers to questions. An economist might analyze by
asking, “How did supply and demand vary to change prices of seed corn in
Iowa during the 1930s?” A performance analyst might ask, “What are the
salient differences between what our best machine operators do and what
our typical operators do?” “What results are we not getting that we should
be getting?” Each discipline has its own tailored analysis questions. It was
years into doing “subject matter analysis” for programmed learning and
doing “behavior analysis” that we began to figure out differences between
variables that bring about excellent performance and variables that bring
about average performance. Finally, we figured out two insights that felt
startling: First, analysis is always about asking questions, and second, dif­
ferent disciplines have tailored analysis questions. All of them. The key to
performance analysis is asking the right questions. Different gurus all ask
good questions. In addition, all successful gurus are good at value sharing.
They have a subtext: “You and I have some of the same values; we can work
together.” The subtext is not: “I’m an expert and will show you peasants
what to do.”
Second, do the synthesis. Teach the average performer to do what the best
performer does. For example, find out what happens when you introduce the
production techniques used in the best performing manufacturing plant into
an average performing plant. Crawley et al. (1982) demonstrated this
approach when they recorded the top 65 sales performers’ behaviors for
four months (1000 hours). Then they trained these techniques to 450 sales
agents across the country. This improved performance for average sales
agents and the company. Gilbert’s (1996) “PIP” (potential for improving
performance) model of computing the ratio of top performers’ accomplish­
ments, compared to average performers, demonstrates the utility of this
OBM technique. Large PIP ratios indicate opportunities to improve overall
performance; small ratios suggest spending time and resources elsewhere.
Third, test the synthesis. Collect performance data, then revise and fine tune
until it works. Does it always work? No. Get suggestions from performers and
others, make changes, and measure the results. Call this “re-engineering,”
“trial-and-error,” or “persistence.” Discover that when the people involved
get involved (the ISPI Standard 4 on Partnering) this improves overall orga­
nizational performance (ISPI, n.d.). We are biased toward science and engi­
neering and practical matters. We tend to rely on data, often data obtained by
counting such as students graduated, products sold, exam questions answered
correctly, number of responses, etc.
8
D. M. BRETHOWER ET AL.
What were the early jobs as the field tried to find opportunities?
There were and are three main markets for our sources of income: academics,
consultants, and salaried personnel such as trainers, safety experts, and in
more recent years, organizational development specialists and quality
improvement specialists. We had to market our skills and perform useful
work as best we could. We all had a common set of principles, an entrepre­
neurial tendency, and a reliance on data to guide our work.
Academics typically work in a publish-or-perish environment in which we
earn our base pay by teaching courses, providing service to universities and
organizations, and conducting research. We earn advancements and avoid
perishing by publishing articles and books. Securing grants and contracts is
important for major research universities. We sometimes moonlight as con­
sultants and, occasionally, leave academia to start or work in consulting
businesses. Consultants are free lancers or small business owners and employ­
ees thereof. Some are profiled in Dickinson (2000) and have informative
websites. Earning a living as a trainer – now called Human Resource
Developer – became the most common because of our early roots in pro­
grammed learning. The National Society for Programmed Instruction was
started in 1962 and became ISPI. Several of the founding members, such as
Tom Gilbert, had connections to Skinner’s Harvard Teaching Machine pro­
ject. The Programmed Learning Workshop at the University of Michigan
contributed to the development of the field by helping businesses that sent
people to the workshop develop effective self-instructional programs.
How was the OBM infrastructure built through journals and training
programs?
The Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior was established in 1958;
an applied outgrowth periodical, Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, was
established a decade later in 1968. Performance Improvement Journal, started
in the 60s as the Programmed Learning journal, evolved into Performance
Improvement Quarterly. As mentioned earlier, the Journal of Organizational
Behavior Management was established in 1977. Academic programs specializ­
ing in analysis of behavior were simply non-existent in the early 60s. Students
learned by falling within the orbit of individual faculty members. That chan­
ged gradually as faculty were able to recruit colleagues. That is how all our
applied behavior analysis and OBM graduate programs started. Early on,
several people collected in various parts of universities such as the
University of Michigan, University of Kansas, University of Nevada-Reno,
West Virginia University, North Texas State University, and Western
Michigan University. Some started masters and doctoral programs
(Dickinson, 2000).
JOURNAL OF ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR MANAGEMENT
9
How did OBM move from programmed learning to workplace and
organizational performance?
Influences from the Harvard Teaching Machine Project showed up at the
University of Michigan in the early 1960s. Harlan Lane, a newly minted
Harvard Ph.D. and author of critically acclaimed The Wild Boy of Aveyron
(Lane, 1976), later received a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant. He
teamed with F. Rand Morton on a U.S. Office of Education project. The
purpose? Build programmed learning for 5 languages. The first author went
to Michigan to help. Part of the reason for joining the project was that pundits
were saying the complex material could not be taught with programmed
learning. Teaching languages by programmed learning was part of the proof
that the pundits were wrong. Morton wrote the Spanish program. Faculty
members from other universities wrote programs in French, German, and
Chinese. The first author, with a couple of Thai graduate students, wrote the
program in Thai. Geary Rummler, working for the University of Michigan
Office of Research Administration, was assigned to monitor the project.
Lane and Morton also started the Institute for Behavioral Research and
Programmed Instruction (IBRPI) with funding from a private company.
IBRPI had a lofty motto, written on a medallion. Read one way the medallion
said: “To Change Man to Change the World.” Read another way it said: “To
Change the World to Change Man.” What it meant is: “to improve the
performance of individuals and change the world for the better” (A very
similar motto is seen throughout the works of Dick Malott, who helped
pioneer the early dissemination and adoption of OBM/behavioral systems
analysis and introduced these topics to generations of behavior analysts).
The IBRPI mottos refer to small goals that might have a huge impact. IBRPI
worked toward a small goal and initiated a workshop to train people from the
private sector to write self-instructional programs. IBRPI failed as a business,
but the workshop was a success. The workshop was the beginning in a series of
important developments in the history of OBM. These small but impactful
developments are described in detail below.
George Odiorne (primarily known for advocating “management by objec­
tives”), Rummler’s mentor in the College of Business, brought the IBRPI
workshop into the University of Michigan. Odiorne opined that the new
programmed learning workshop should distinguish itself from the competi­
tion by training people better, faster, and cheaper. To do that it should use
programmed instruction and have workshop participants actually write pro­
grams to prove in the marketplace that the faster and cheaper (one week rather
than 2 to 6 weeks) was also better. Participants in competing workshops
learned a lot about programmed learning but practiced little actual writing
during workshops. There was much to learn that was not put into practice.
Participants went through a self-instructional program and Rummler
10
D. M. BRETHOWER ET AL.
managed them. The first author wrote the instructional material and then hid
so participants would not know how very young he was. Rummler sent out
a brochure advertising the workshop which would now be offered by the
“Center for Programmed Learning for Business” of the College of Business
at the University of Michigan. There was one problem; there was no such
center. Odiorne received a phone call from the Business College Dean who
chastised Odiorne and explained that such a center must go through a review
process that could last years. Odiorne was properly contrite and asked “OK,
but what should I do with all the checks?” “What checks?” “People have
already enrolled and I have checks here from . . . ” Odiorne then listed several
of the largest corporations in Michigan, including Ford, General Motors, and
Michigan Bell. The Center for Programmed Learning for Business became the
only Center at Michigan ever established by press release. Rummler learned
another lesson in entrepreneurship from his mentor; it truly is easier to get
forgiveness than permission.
The program used in the workshop was later published by the first author
(D. M. Brethower, 1963; there was a Japanese translation in 1965), which
covers the core techniques and uses of programmed instruction. The program
taught enough so that workshop participants could describe what they were
trying to do; doing it was difficult because the program did not provide enough
examples of material similar to what they were trying to program. The work­
shop staff corrected that by collecting examples from participant programs
and publishing another programmed book of what we called the lean pro­
gramming process and expanded the scope of the previous publication by
examining how to first analyze various subject matters, then break the content
down to manageable sizes, and then conduct empirical testing and revision (D.
M. Brethower et al., 1965). The Center for Programmed Learning for Business
workshop ran once per month for twenty years or so, long after Rummler and
Brethower had earned their Ph.D.s and left the University of Michigan. Each
workshop included an exercise in “subject matter analysis” in which we tried
to analyze what every participant’s program would teach. Not just general
“business math,” but “computation of the production costs of new products.”
The program required specific outcomes so that we knew what computations
learners would master by the end of the program. We could work backwards
from the computations to determine what was to be taught. Seeing 20 or so
examples each month we noticed patterns in subject matter analysis. The
analysis questions were quite similar regardless of the subject matter we
were analyzing (e.g., “What will they do with what they learned? Examples,
please!”).
Our questions focused on results; the results added measured value to the
organization (system) as a whole. The results required partnering, that is, other
people in the company also must perform well. Many years later an ISPI Task
Force codified essentially the same pattern as the first 4 of 10 Standards for
JOURNAL OF ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR MANAGEMENT
11
Excellence in performance improvement projects: Results, Systemic, Value
Adding, and Partnering (see D. M. Brethower, 2008).
The programmed learning workshop spawned others at the Center: one on
advanced programmed learning, a management of behavior change, and
a training systems workshop. The story of how this occurred further illustrates
the entrepreneurial spirit of the time and adherence to the rallying cry “Let the
data guide!” We believed that workshop graduates would be successful only if
they practiced applying the developmental testing process. But there was
a serious problem; participants did the developmental testing on Friday. To
accomplish that we used available technology; typewriters operated by paid
typists who stayed up late Thursday night so that programs would be ready to
test Friday. Participants had Thursday nights off, having worked until 9 or 10
PM Sunday through Wednesday. They complained and we explained that they
had to work in our workshop. Participants took advantage of their free time to
experience Ann Arbor’s night life; some came in bleary eyed Friday morning
and not ready to learn developmental testing. Rummler successfully solved the
problem by scheduling a session for Thursday evening. Under the title Applied
Learning Theory, the first author lectured about behavioral theory and told
them stories to hold their attention. These included folklore from students at
Harvard, Columbia, and Michigan in which students had changed professor
behaviors. For example, Harvard students reported shaping a chemistry pro­
fessor to lecture holding onto both faucets on a sink at the front of the lecture
hall. Whenever the professor approached the sink they “looked alert” and took
notes; when he lectured from anywhere else they sat back looking like other
bored students. Within the first hour the professor touched the faucets with
one hand, then both, and lectured from there. The first author told workshop
participants that such antics were unethical unless students obtained the
professor’s permission in advance. Part of the workshop fee included followup telephone conversations with workshop graduates. These calls turned out
to be extremely important because we learned from their successes and failures
and improved the workshop. Years later a colleague published a book describ­
ing very similar techniques (Brinkerhoff, 2003).
Some graduates reported their own behavior change examples, some work
related and some personal. The first author was delighted since it showed his
lectures did not bore people too much; Rummler was delighted since it
suggested an entrepreneurial opportunity. He sent brochures offering
a 3-day workshop in “Applied Learning Theory.” Participants said they had
trouble convincing their bosses that 3 days of theory was worth the money. We
let the data be our guide and changed to “Management of Behavior Change” so
that participants could justify “management” over “theory.” We ran the work­
shop quarterly for several years. The effort Rummler made to stay in touch
with workshop graduates paid off in another offering: The Training Systems
Workshop. Programmed Learning and Behavior Change graduates reported
12
D. M. BRETHOWER ET AL.
a variety of organizational problems on the job from their programs including
managers with other priorities or other workers who scoffed and performed in
a different way. Such problems were no surprise to us; we discovered them
while doing subject matter analyses in the programmed learning workshop.
We tried to show participants how to deal with such problems, but partici­
pants told us we were not successful. People wiser than we were said organiza­
tional problems were easy to discover but quite difficult to solve or even
ameliorate. We offered advice, “If you can’t maintain it, don’t train it!” (K. S.
Brethower, 1967). We set out to design a workshop to practice what we were
preaching. Two tools helped participants analyze behavior change problems
and create (synthesize) solutions.
The first tool guided what we called a balance of consequences analysis. The
workshop experiences forced us to place a greater emphasis on the mainte­
nance of performance after training via programmed instruction (K. S.
Brethower, 1967). As we move around on the chessboard of life, every move
we take has more than one consequence–some environmental outcomes will
strengthen the reoccurrence of trained behavior and some outcomes will
weaken the reoccurrence of trained behavior. The net effect of these daily
consequences will determine whether the performers will persist in emitting
that behavior beyond training. If the problem is with maintenance via con­
sequences, then training will not be successful as an intervention, at least for
the subordinate (although training for supervisors in how to provide support
may be warranted). Some consequences are immediate, some are delayed.
Immediate consequences, perhaps small, have more power than delayed con­
sequences, even if the delayed consequences are larger. This had been demon­
strated many times in the behavioral research literature and, for several years
later on, was a mainstay of Dick Malott’s teaching and public lectures at
Western Michigan University. Multiple authors began to present this notion
graphically as a pharmacist’s set of scales balancing reinforcing and punishing
consequences (see Figure 1 as an example) for desired and undesired behavior
and began to classify the consequences by category (Connellan, 1978; Petrock,
1978). Consequences were classified according to their frequency-altering
effect (reinforcing or punishing), magnitude (large or small), impact (personal
or organizational & other), timeliness (immediate or delayed), and probability
(certain or uncertain). Unhealthy organizations will typically have powerful
reinforcers and weak punishers for undesired behavior and/or weak reinfor­
cers and powerful punishers for desired behavior. The balance of conse­
quences can be thrown off in other ways, such as with “dangerous”
organizations in which both desired and undesired behaviors are excessively
punished or “silly” organizations where all behaviors are met with noncontin­
gent reinforcement (Brown, 1982). Eventually, the balance of consequences
analysis was adapted into tools such as the PIC/NIC model or ABC Analysis,
which focused on consequence characteristics of frequency-altering effect
JOURNAL OF ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR MANAGEMENT
13
Figure 1. Balance of consequences representing an unhealthy organization.
(now labeled as positive or negative), timeliness, and probability (Braksick,
2007; Daniels & Bailey, 2014). Unfortunately, the important considerations of
magnitude and whether the consequence impacts the individual, the organiza­
tion, or both were lost along the way. Eventually, more prescriptive assessment
tools at the performer level began to emerge over time (see Gravina et al.,
2021).
One of the other products that emerged from the Training Systems
Workshop was a second tool called the Total Performance System (TPS)
diagram (see Figure 2). It captured the functioning of the organization at
a level broader than the individual performer. General Systems Theory and
Information Theory were hot topics for a few years so Center staff looked for
Figure 2. Total performance system map.
14
D. M. BRETHOWER ET AL.
guidance as we designed the workshop. General Systems Theory could be
applied by people with common sense, such as a Ph.D. in economics, and
a penchant for thinking out of the box. The material crossed discipline lines
and organizational boundaries. Our training systems workshop was designed
for a broader chunk of the marketplace, so we applied programmed learning
logic and tactics to the design. We had participants devise many diagrams
during workshop exercises. Two turned out to be quite important: flow charts
and total performance system diagrams. The idea behind flow charting is to
discover how work flows better, faster, and cheaper. This became process
mapping; Hammer and Champy (1993) helped that effort (see McGee &
Crowley-Koch, 2021, for a discussion of various systems tools). The reason
we called it the Total Performance System diagram was because clever people
could use it to capture all of the most essential variables participants in the
Training Systems Workshop would have to capture to manage critical business
issues in their organizations. Later, Geary Rummler earned a living with
process mapping and the TPS diagram expanded into the core of his
Anatomy of Performance (AOP) diagram. Similarly, Maria Malott (2003)
showed the world how the TPS could be applied to multiple levels of organiza­
tions. Some participants learned in the training systems workshop that
Rummler should be hired as a consultant to work on strategically as well as
tactically significant problems. During this time Tom Gilbert made several
trips to Ann Arbor, appearing in workshops and talking with staff. Tom,
Geary, and a third partner formed the Praxis Corporation headquartered in
Manhattan. Geary completed his Ph.D. in adult learning and moved to New
Jersey. The decade of the history of OBM in the 1960s was ending.
What are the lessons we can learn from the work at the University of
Michigan?
One lesson is that innovators sometimes fail but keep on trying. Life is full of
intermittent reinforcement. Jonas Salk, who discovered the polio vaccine,
stated, “There is no such thing as failure, there’s just giving up too soon.”
The IBRPI founders and staff had not found a market for programmed
language learning. IBRPI failed, but Rummler and Odiorne kept programmed
learning workshops. Innovators in OBM learn from both successes and
failures.
Marketplace forces are more powerful than the innovators’ intentions. To
market a new product or service, offer it, sell it, and use the revenue to fund
additional products/services. Geary knew that in advance; the first author did
not. The analysis, synthesis, and test process applied to all the work at the
Center for Programmed Learning for Business. We did subject matter analysis
in the programmed learning workshop, followed by synthesis (writing pro­
grams) and testing (by the Friday developmental testing work). We did
JOURNAL OF ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR MANAGEMENT
15
balance of consequence analysis in the Behavior Change Workshop and had
participants devise (synthesize) practical management systems to create bal­
ances that supported improved performance. Testing occurred when they
returned to their workplaces and implemented the designs. Did the designs
work? It was not hard to find out; some did not work fully and needed revision.
The Total Performance System diagram helps people capture complex inter­
actions of variables in complex organizations. Some call the diagram
a “model.” We do not, instead preferring to call it a tool. The first author’s
dissertation validated the tool (D. M. Brethower, 1970).
OBM developed from practical issues in the world. The practical issues
always involved improving performance in various organizations: schools,
workplace, or the home. The development of the field is well chronicled
(Dickinson, 2000). Participants in our workshops always focused on practical
problems and these were great sources of learning for us. The performance
might be reducing accidents, improving time on-task, reducing inventory
shrinkage, reducing time to market for new products, or increasing prosocial
behavior/reducing anti-social behavior among prison inmates. Every realworld issue had professionals eager to improve performance.
How did OBM the field start to mature as it moved from the 1960s to
1970s?
It seems the way the Center for Programmed Learning for Business grew and
developed continued into the current era as new markets were discovered, new
clients found, and new technology developed. For example, process mapping
evolved from small flow-charting exercises to major tools in the business press.
Once the idea of process mapping – drawing flow charts of the revenue
producing processes – became a hot item in business there was an upsurge
in demand for these services (Hammer & Champy, 1993; Rummler & Brache,
2013). Programmed learning faded as a movement over the years, but artifacts
remained as “job aids.” Costly training could be avoided by crafting tools such
as a procedural checklist, labeled diagram, or computer-aided artificial intelli­
gence program that show workers how to do specific tasks. The familiar “ToDo” list can be part of documentation for work completed. Some job aids are
just part of the job; the airline pilot’s pre-flight checklist is one example
(Gawande, 2009; Rantz et al., 2009). The analysis tools – diagrams like the
Total Performance System, the Behavioral Engineering Model, Rummler’s
Anatomy of Performance, Langdon’s Language of Work, and Binder’s Six
Boxes are job aids for very complex tasks (Binder, 1998; D. M. Brethower,
1972; Gilbert, 1996; Langdon, 2000; Rummler, 2007). By the time the 1970s
arrived, the number of business-minded individuals inspired by Skinner’s
general approach dramatically increased as they saw the potential for using
behavioral technology to solve the concerns of business and industry. Joe
16
D. M. BRETHOWER ET AL.
Harless (1970) textbook explicitly suggested that behavioral concepts and
procedures should be applied to the management of others so that one could
become a better parent, teacher, or supervisor. Corporations such as General
Motors published management textbooks that were essentially behavior ana­
lysis textbooks (General Motors Institute, 1971). The relevance of operant
techniques for a better understanding of classic organizational psychology
events such as the Hawthorne studies began to emerge (Parsons, 1974),
although myths about those studies still persist decades later in traditional
textbooks as a form of academic folklore (Olson, Hogan, & Santos, 2006).
Lawrence Miller published multiple books (L. M. Miller, 1974, 1978) that
introduced readers to how behavioral concepts could apply to topics such as
performance management, systems analysis, training, and self-management,
making extensive use of case studies to illustrate his points. One of the betterpublicized case studies, involving Edward J. Feeney’s efforts to use feedback
and reinforcement to improve sales training and save millions of dollars at
Emery Air Freight, was featured in multiple textbooks, such as Organizational
Behavior Modification (Luthans & Kreitner, 1975) and Behavior Modification
in Business, Industry, and Government (Brown & Presbie, 1976). Before the
1970s ended, the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management would see
its first publication.
What was happening in the field during the 1980s and 1990s?
Dickinson (2000) asserted that OBM fully matured as a field by the 1980s;
there were undergraduate and graduate programs, OBM jobs in academia and
in consulting firms, and jobs in both profit and nonprofit organizations.
Multiple handbooks dedicated to OBM had been published in the early
1980s (Frederiksen, 1982; O’Brien et al., 1982). As in former decades, there
were many publications in journals beyond the OBM-centric periodicals. ISPI
grew – by the time the first author was elected President for 1999–2000 there
were a dozen or so thriving chapters and about 10,000 members. The
Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) also prospered;
Executive Director Maria Malott assured that OBM technology was applied
to manage the annual conference and the entire operation. The Journal of
Organizational Behavior Management celebrated 20 years of success by pub­
lishing a special edition of invited articles. Major books published OBM work,
or Human Performance Technology as it was often called by ISPI members.
One example was the edited book by Kaufman et al. (1997), The Guidebook for
Performance Improvement: Working with Individuals and Organizations. The
title indicates that the focus grew to include both individuals and organiza­
tions. One development in the 1990s foreshadowed major events that occurred
at the beginning of the 21st Century. Rummler and Brache (2013; original
work published 1990) released a book full of tools they used in their work,
JOURNAL OF ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR MANAGEMENT
17
Improving Performance: How to Manage the White Space on the Organization
Chart. Rummler’s fans recognized his humor; the white spaces in the org chart
are the cracks that problems fall through rather than being solved.
What is the status of OBM looking backwards from the 21st Century and
how do we compare to similar approaches?
The field has clearly grown; less obvious and perhaps as important is that
history has performed an experiment about the folly of drifting away from
evidence-based practice. ISPI has drifted and lost vitality; ABAI, including the
OBM Network, remained close to the data. This can be demonstrated in
a number of ways. For example, one could look at the peer-reviewed flagship
journals for the two organizations: Performance Improvement Quarterly (PIQ)
for the ISPI and Journal of Organizational Behavior Management (JOBM) for
the OBM Network. If one excludes editorials and book reviews, the two
journals published a comparable number of articles (183 for PIQ and 192
for JOBM) during the most recent decade (2011–2020; volumes 24–33 for PIQ
and volumes 31–40 for JOBM). The overlap between topics covered during
this decade was also comparable. For example, PIQ covered topics such as
employee engagement, organizational culture, coaching, gamification, instruc­
tional design, feedback, employee incentives, performance appraisals, transfer
of training, and team performance over the past decade (Ellis & Brown, 2020;
Ghosh et al., 2019; Goksoy & Alayoglu, 2013; Gray et al., 2015; C. L. Miller et
al., 2018; Norberg, 2016; Pousa & Mathieu, 2014; Song, 2011; Yelon et al.,
2013; Zingoni, 2017). JOBM covered topics such as employee engagement,
organizational culture, coaching, goal setting, rapport-building, feedback,
employee incentives, performance appraisals, transfer of training, and safety
over the past decade (Arnold & Van Houten, 2020; Curry et al., 2019; Gil &
Carter, 2016; Gravina & Siers, 2011; Hagge et al., 2017; D. A. Johnson, 2013;
Krapfl & Kruja, 2015; Ludwig & Frazier, 2012; M. V. Miller et al., 2014; Tilka &
Johnson, 2018). However, the philosophical assumptions and standards for
empiricism are very divergent in these two publication outlets. To illustrate
this, we classified every article according to one of three categories: 1) collected
data based on survey, interview, or other form of self-report (without any
accompanying performance data), 2) collected data based on original perfor­
mance data (summarizations of data previously published elsewhere did not
qualify as original), or 3) other types of data or no data collected (e.g.,
literature reviews, qualitative case studies, theoretical arguments, metaanalyses, etc.). Original performance data could include actual changes in
behavior or the results of behavior (e.g., sales made, units completed, etc.),
including the data from customers, employees, supervisors, and/or laboratory
participants. If survey data were collected in addition to performance data, this
18
D. M. BRETHOWER ET AL.
was classified as “performance data” only (i.e., no multiple category
classifications).
In regard to PIQ, 56.3% of the articles were based on self-report data, 9.8%
of the articles were based on performance data, and 33.8% of the articles did
not fall into either prior category. The theoretical orientations, models, and
framework employed are quite varied within this journal, including concep­
tualization such as psychological ownership (Chai et al., 2020), self-efficacy
(Howard, 2019), equity theory (Kang et al., 2012), social exchange theory (De
Guzman & Teng-Calleja, 2018), organizational knowledge creation theory
(Kang et al., 2012), motivation-hygiene theory (Chyung & Vachon, 2013),
mental models (Toker & Moseley, 2013), group-efficacy (Eatough et al., 2015),
emotional intelligence (Nafukho et al., 2016), implicit mind-set (Zingoni,
2017), and cognitive load theory (Darabi & Kalyuga, 2012). In regard to
JOBM, 3.6% of the articles were based on self-report data, 66.1% of the articles
were based on performance data, and 30.2% of the articles did not fall into
either prior category. Figure 3 shows the comparisons between the journals.
The theoretical orientation, model, and framework employed within JOBM
were consistently based on behavior analysis, sometimes in combination with
general systems theory, economics theory, or another hybrid approach.
It is clear that PIQ (and by extension ISPI) has long since drifted from its
behavioral roots. One survey (Roy & Pershing, 2012) of ISPI members found
only 20% of members identified “behavior analysis” as an area that is part of
100%
90%
Percentage of Publications
80%
70%
60%
50%
PIQ
JOBM
40%
30%
20%
10%
0%
Self-Report
Performance
Article Types
Figure 3. Comparison of PIQ and JOBM publication types.
Neither
JOURNAL OF ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR MANAGEMENT
19
their research or practice (note: respondents were free to identify multiple
areas), outpaced by areas such as cognitive science, educational research,
learning theory, and systems theory. Furthermore, respondents categorized
behavior analysis as a low-tier application. This drift away from an emphasis
on behavior-environmental relations may help explain why verbal reports are
used as a substitute for actual performance data, such as when Frino and
Desiderio (2012) asked salespeople about their performance but never mea­
sured that performance directly. One interesting observation from a reading of
recent PIQ articles is how often the publications acknowledge the importance
of looking at performance data and the pitfalls of relying on self-report. For
example, Farrington (2011) warned that self-report data are often flawed.
Duan (2011) lamented that little application of performance measurement
existed, instead being eclipsed by stories, anecdotes, and single cases. Several
publications (Howard, 2019; Marshall & Rossett, 2014; Williams & Nafukho,
2015) bemoan the fact that studies of training rarely go beyond Kirkpatrick’s
first level of evaluation (i.e., reactions of trainees) and neglect higher levels of
evaluation (i.e., actual learning, changes in work performance, changes in
results). While there is value in self-report research (e.g., employee burnout,
customer perception of service, etc.), it should not be forgotten that what
people say (derived from techniques such as questionnaires, interviews, focus
groups, etc.) and what people actually do (derived from observations or
demonstrations of performance) are not equivalent.
In contrast to this acknowledgment, one could not be faulted if they
mistakenly thought ISPI stood for “Interviews and Surveys about
Performance Improvement” given the overreliance on asking people about
performance rather than measuring performance. Despite assertions that
improving performance is the primary concern of the field (Kang &
Molenda, 2018), the publications suggest that perceptions, constructs, and
model-building may be the actual primary concern. If we only relied on selfreported perceptions in other sciences, we would still believe that the Earth is
flat and that the rest of the universe moves around our stationary world.
However, the empirical data told us that our perceptions were wrong, that
we actually live on a rotating round planet that is flying through the universe.
Data must rule, whether in deciding questions of the cosmos or how to best
manage a business. It is difficult to “let the data be the guide” when there are no
data available.
Although the current JOBM publications reflect a stronger interest in
measuring performance rather than inferring it, the possibly of a discipline
losing focus on foundations in favor of fads should serve as a cautionary tale
for the OBM community. Although the creation of models and tools is a fine
endeavor and can be a useful guide in practice, they are not intended to replace
data. OBM successes typically have data guided analysis, data guided synthesis,
and continuous data guided management of value adding performance. In
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D. M. BRETHOWER ET AL.
addition, OBM practitioners typically maintain allegiance to science through
education, networking, and research, especially the B. F. Skinner style science
of human behavior. In 2000, ISPI had roughly 10,000 members. Two decades
later that number dwindled by more than 80%. Several Past-Presidents, and
Honorary Members for Life attribute much of the decline to ISPI’s failure to
remain close to evidence-based practice (D. M. Brethower, 2012; Wallace,
2012). Despite such decline, there still remains good work by many ISPI
members. For example, Guy Wallace has collected dozens of interviews and
publications by ISPI thought leaders (see https://hpttreasures.wordpress.com/
). ABAI, including the OBM Network, has grown in membership and visibility
in the world during this same period. OBM still emphasizes the performance
of individuals but has expanded its reach to include product lines and total
organizations.
OBM is very similar to what can be found in conventional business or
management textbooks. The OBM contribution is to apply a science and
engineering mind-set to real problems and opportunities in real settings.
Our work helps put into practice what is easy to say in textbooks. We know
why it is difficult to put good ideas into practice. Different folks have
different ideas about what should be done. Getting to agreement on actions
to improve performance is difficult for potential clients/customers (some say
it is harder than herding cats). OBM methods can be used to gain agreement
and get worthy results. However, we should remember that our clients/
customers have been quite successful serving their clients and customers.
They have expertise in areas we may not exhibit; we offer expertise in
analyzing the behaviors to get them where they want to go. They may be
the cats we are trying to herd, but we must never forget that it is their habitat
we wandered into.
OBM practitioners focus sharply on performance, especially in what we
measure and what variables we manage. Our focus is on what many called the
ABCs of performance: Antecedents (what happens before) Behaviors (what
performers do to get results) and Consequences (what good and bad things
happen as a consequence of the behavior). Knowing the ABCs we can focus on
training and maintenance: how can performers learn to perform? And what
must the organization provide to maintain high levels of performance? For
example, safety experts know that “unsafe conditions” yield accidents so part
of managing antecedents (A), is reducing “unsafe conditions” as much as we
can. Safety experts know that many lost time accidents result from behavior
(B), especially lifting by bending the back rather than lifting with a straight
back and bended knees. Safety experts and “safe lifters” also know that lifting
light loads with bended back can lead to the set of consequences (C) of faster
and easier lifting. That tells OBM practitioners that some serious effort will be
required to maintain safe lifting.
JOURNAL OF ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR MANAGEMENT
21
We don’t have any magic but OBM practitioners know that unless we get
the ABCs right for the immediate situation (lifting this box) and the rest of the
time (lifting all the boxes by the entire shift today and every day), there will be
instances of improper lifting. And we know that the ABCs apply, over longer
time spans, to the organization as a whole (e.g., to at least a few key managers
who can keep the “safe lifting” system in place). Before, during, and after are
the 3 salient time periods – that is common sense that has been fully verified in
practice. We are biased toward science, engineering, and practical matters. We
tend to rely on data, often data obtained by counting things such as students
graduated, products sold, exam questions answered correctly, etc. There are
many examples throughout OBM history (D. M. Brethower, 2016).
What major books were published in the 21st century and what “tools of
the trade” from them are likely to be important in the future?
Many noteworthy and influential books focused on performance improve­
ment have been published during the 21st century. These books contain
numerous job aids that capture essential variables that enable client organiza­
tions to agree about what key players must do to achieve and maintain high
levels of performance. Aubrey Daniels continued his pioneering OBM efforts
into the 21st century, publishing books aimed at leaders (Daniels & Daniels,
2007), students (Daniels & Bailey, 2014), and people in general interested in
understanding the business of behavior (Daniels, 2001, 2009, 2016). His books
represent a continual quest to push supervisors away from an emphasis on
aversive control and the latest management fads to instead find reinforcementbased approaches built upon decades of scientific understanding. Diagnostic
tools such as the PIC/NIC analysis (the descendent of the earlier balance of
consequences model) are used to identify why employees are only putting in
the minimal effort and how to bring out discretionary effort. He is quick to
operationalize commonly thrown around words like trust, vision, loyalty, and
engagement so that readers are left with a blueprint of actions to take (as
opposed to vague and vacuous truisms you might get from other management
books that left readers inspired but directionless). As always, he uses a friendly
and approachable voice that still makes readers well aware of the wealth of
business consulting experiences and management stories that Aubrey has
collected over the years.
Bill Abernathy published his final book, The Liberated Workplace
(Abernathy, 2014) which was one part homage to the utopia of Walden Two
(Skinner, 1948) and one part distillation of his years of consulting efforts to
dissect typical compensation practices. Like his classic Sin of Wages book
(Abernathy, 1996), he highlights how typical wage-and-salary system reinforce
the wrong behaviors and disconnects the performer contingencies from the
organization contingencies. Instead, he proposes performance scorecards and
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D. M. BRETHOWER ET AL.
associated profits systems to motivate performers to work toward the health of
the business. Of course, if a reader wants an in-depth guide to building
measurement and compensation systems, he also published books to guide
such endeavors (Abernathy, 2011, 2012).
Leslie Wilk Braksick published an update of her popular book Unlock
Behavior, Unleash Profits (Braksick, 2007). This is another book exploring
how antecedents and consequences drive employee performance and she
walks the reader through the process of measurement, pinpointing, environ­
mental redesign, and the maintenance of behavior change. A stronger empha­
sis on executive decision making and coaching than most, using the diagnostic
tool of E-TIP (her particular descendant of the balance of consequences
model) to guide behavior change. Roger Kaufman’s work is also devoted to
strategic planning; he illuminates the path toward engineering the connec­
tions. Two useful books provide tools and notions that help close the gap
between “our world now” and “the way we’d like our world to be.” (Kaufman,
2006; Kaufman et al., 2003). These are important examples of Kaufman’s
leadership in closing the gap.
Dick Grote released books on discipline systems and performance appraisal.
Although not full of technical terms, both books embody the Skinnerian spirit
of building a better organizational culture, especially one that tries to minimize
aversive control. In his Discipline without Punishment book (Grote, 2006), he
presents an alternative to the typical progressive discipline system to focus on
how to salvage chronic problem employees through collaboration and pro­
blem-solving. Despite writing at length about disciplinary efforts, at the core of
his approach is how to use analysis and recognition to build the desired
performance. This theme is seen in his performance appraisal book as well
(Grote, 2002), which focuses on the importance of clear expectations and
feedback during the supervision process, loaded with many tips for dealing
with the specific issues that may arise during implementation.
Danny Langdon published Aligning Performance (Langdon, 2000) to con­
tinue advancing his “language of work” model, also described in his earlier
book The New Language of Work (Langdon, 1995). Langdon’s key point across
these publications is powerful and simple: organizations are created to do
work. That is what any organization does. Langdon’s other key point is that to
be managed well, work must be described well. He offers an unabridged
language of work dictionary that describes all work in an organization. The
dictionary has 6 entries, which are fundamentally the same as the labels on the
Total Performance System diagram (D. M. Brethower, 1972). Langdon con­
siders that the simplicity and consistency of language is essential if we are to
understand the complexity of organizations. Langdon and Langdon (2018)
wrote three short books (The Business Model, The Managing Model, & The
Working Model) that show how the new language of work model matches the
roles that three levels of an organization should perform in managing work.
JOURNAL OF ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR MANAGEMENT
23
Rummler (2007) published a book about consulting, because he wanted to
be clear that he could not speak for all consultants. The book is a fictional case
study that faithfully follows actual case studies in Rummler’s files. The book is
intellectually honest. It shows how the work in classics such as Gilbert’s (1996)
Human Competence and Rummler and Brache (2013) Improving Performance
(currently in its 3rd edition) books was done. Rummler’s entire career was
devoted to tackling worthwhile practical problems the way a good scientist/
engineer/thought leader does. He learned and shared. Fortunately, in another
book published posthumously, White Space Revisited: Creating Value through
Process (Rummler et al., 2010), he shared a chockfull of diagrams and charts
that are tools used to add value to clients, helping them create value for
customers, employees, and investors. The tools in Revisited are off-putting to
some who do not like technology. It may help folks by pointing out that
Rummler’s tools are like children’s art. Anyone can make them with a little
practice, yet no one knows what they mean until they talk with the artist.
Geary described his art making process this way: “I’ll sit down and talk with
several people about the matters you’ve said are issues. I’ll take notes and then
go away and noodle a while. When I get my notes organized, I’ll come back
and show them to you, and you can tell me where I’ve gotten it wrong. We’ll
work together a bit and get it right.” (First, make the analysis, then the
synthesis, then test it.) When talking and noodling and talking again is finished
there are complex-looking diagrams that transform the confused into the
manageable. One other point: Geary and his colleagues at Performance
Design Lab divided projects into phases so the client did not have to clarify
everything in the first round. Or pay a huge fee for something they did not
know would help their organization. There is a shorter book for executives
without the detail (Rummler et al., 2011).
Another important book is Maria Malott’s (2003), Paradox of
Organizational Change: Engineering Organizations with Behavioral Systems
Analysis. Organizations are full of complexities, contradictions, and incon­
sistencies. Paradoxically, organizations are formed out of simpler, coherent,
consistencies. She describes the simpler parts in coherent language that
demonstrates the consistencies among the parts. Find the consistencies and
we can build effective and manageable organizations. “If you don’t see how
crazy this place is, you don’t understand it.” True. “If you view this place as
a system you can engineer the craziness out and the productivity in.” True.
Mostly. We would be remiss if we did not highlight her contributions to
advancing not just the knowledge of our field, but the professional organiza­
tion that supports the field of behavior analysis as a whole. Maria Malott
doesn’t just give lip service to “practicing what we preach,” she makes sure that
ABAI does it. In her role as the long-serving Executive Director, she applies
OBM principles, practices, and technology to the operation of ABAI. She
keeps the cost of the annual conference low and affordable by academics,
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D. M. BRETHOWER ET AL.
including students. She sponsors interns who do OBM-type projects that
develop job aids for running a high-quality conference and an efficient society.
Board meetings feature performance data Maria provides. ABAI is managed
through evidence-based practices, guided by data, and guided by the science of
behavior. She proves that the science isn’t just an intellectual exercise for the
books, but a better way of doing business.
Finally, the 21st century saw the publication of handbooks such as the first
Handbook of Organizational Performance (edited by C. M. Johnson et al.,
2001) and Organizational Behavior Management: The Essentials (edited by
Wine & Pritchard, 2018). Also, the Journal of Organizational Behavior
Management continues to publish volumes of articles every year full of per­
formance-based empiricism and guidance for best practices. Of course, there
are many other books not mentioned, especially if one starts to expand the list
to sub-specializations within OBM such as safety, consumer behavior, etc. It
does not matter whether readers begin with books by Daniels, Rummler,
Malott, etc.; they all say fundamentally the same things – just from different
perspectives. That is not obvious to most readers.
What gaps in our knowledge are important to fill in the future?
When the Michigan group began using the Total Performance System diagram
in the 1960s, we always drew the Receiving System box with a missing corner. It
is a visual reminder that the Receiving System is not completely known.
Rummler’s Anatomy of Performance diagram requires us to specify more detail,
to make more of it known. The version of the AOP diagram in Figure 4 shows
where the inputs to the Processing System begin (Capital Markets and Customer
Markets), where the outputs go, and where the external feedbacks derive. It calls
attention to the competitive environment organizations face and to the impor­
tance of both “close” and “distant” external influences. “My Enterprise,” the
processing system, must navigate through all those important, often unknown,
and always changing influences if an enterprise is to continue and prosper. The
AOP diagram visually demands strategic planning and far-sighted management.
It helps managers, executives, and small business owners develop the plans and
tools they need to navigate successfully. Please notice that the arrows at the top
pointing down to the enterprise box from the “close” and “distant” influences
boxes do not quite touch. The gap exists because Rummler never engineered the
connections. The arrows signal “be aware of” and “consider as much as you can,”
not “Here is how to devise goals, policies, and procedures to engineer these
important connections.”
Two points illustrate both the scope and success of this work should become
increasingly known and influential in the future. First is the work at the
Technological Institute of Sonora to establish a program to “get your company
a Ph.D.” The faculty included Mariano Bernardez, Roger Kaufman, Ingrid
JOURNAL OF ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR MANAGEMENT
25
Figure 4. Anatomy of performance.
Guerra-Lopez, Geary Rummler, Dale Brethower, and a few others. The idea
was that students would learn and do by starting a new business or a new
product line. They did that for several years before the program foundered due
to opposition from traditional academics during an economic downturn in
Mexico (Guerra & Rodriguez, 2005).
Second is work primarily organized by Mariano Bernardez in the Spanish
speaking world. Most of the material can be found online in both Spanish and
English (http://www.piionline.org/or http://www.ispiglobal.org/) There are
also links to some of this work on Kaufman’s web site (https://megaplan
ning.com/). This work is important to OBM Network people who want to
see what is being done in the Spanish speaking part of the globe and/or those
who wish to know more about the increasing scope of our work. Kaufman’s
notion is that the people running an enterprise should start by agreeing on
their ideal vision for the world they are helping create (think meaningful vision
statements focused on the AOP world of distant influences). This is Mega
Thinking. The Kaufman vision idea that may work best is, “We are creating
a better world for tomorrow’s child.” Are we creating a worse world? Ignoring
the plight of children? How can we operate our enterprise to create a better
world for our own children? For our customers and other stakeholders’
26
D. M. BRETHOWER ET AL.
children? It is not hard to imagine that discussion, one-on-one, in every
organization with which we work. It is easy to imagine Roger Kaufman,
Maria Malott, or any one of a dozen or so OBM people known to us leading
that discussion with a group of managers or executives. To those that know
her, it is easy to imagine Maria flipping open her computer and saying, “OK, if
that’s our goal, what’s our plan?” and hammering out a draft on the spot, using
some of the OBM tools.
There is certainly a need to disseminate OBM even more broadly, including
beyond its American roots, to be a more inclusive discipline. Much important
work has been done by OBM researchers and practitioners working in places
such as Brazil, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Norway, South Korea, and the
United Kingdom (Aljadeff-Abergel et al., 2017; Chae et al., 2020; Fagerstrøm et
al. 2015; Lebbon & Sigurdsson, 2017; O’Hora & Maglieri, 2006; Porto & Foxall,
2019; Tosolin et al., 2005), but many opportunities still remain elsewhere (and
more extensively in the places we have already been). Our job, after all, is to
make the world a better place. Of course, there always more topics and
research lines to pursue. Basically, if something matters to the world of work
and the vision of tomorrow, it should matter to us as well. The topics in our
books and journals will probably never exhaust the range of important ideas
because the workplace is always evolving and sometimes rediscovering old
lessons.
Is that your last word about the history of OBM?
Almost. One way to assess the status of OBM in the 21st century is to think
about the publications within this series. The evidence-based material could
not have been written 50 years ago. Another way to assess the status is to
search the internet and to look into the behaviorally oriented set of academic
programs in the world. In the United States, they can be found at Western
Michigan University (said with a bit of bias from the authors who spent
much of their careers at WMU), Florida Institute of Technology, University
of Florida, University of Kansas, University of Nevada-Reno, Appalachian
State University, California State University (Fresno, Northridge, and
Sacramento campuses), Portland State University, and more (the OBM
Network maintains a list of training programs that interested students
should consult). The list of schools and programs is often in flux as faculty
retire, are hired, or transition to practice or other schools and programs. But
the work continues because the work is needed and will continue to be
needed in the world of tomorrow. OBM grew through the work of many
people who were willing to work hard to make the world a better place. They
started by working in their own sandbox, then continued to work in almost
every imaginable organization. They encountered a great variety of real
human/organizational performance problems and attempted to improve
JOURNAL OF ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR MANAGEMENT
27
the performance using what they already knew, a body of knowledge and
common sense. If they did not already know how to do the job, they
analyzed, synthesized, and tested until they got the job done. They developed
tools to help. They used these tools to improve performance wherever they
were. They wrote about the work, shared technology, and shared stories of
successes and failures. Undoubtedly these stories will grow as OBM turns
from yesterday and continues on its journey into tomorrow.
Disclosure statement
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author(s).
ORCID
Douglas A. Johnson
http://orcid.org/0000-0002-7802-3566
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