| HBS Working Paper Series
Fostering Organizational Learning: The Impact of Work Design on Workarounds, Errors, and Speaking Up About Internal Supply Chain Problems
A potential avenue for organizational learning is frontline employees' experience with internal supply chain problems. However, extensive research has established that employees rarely speak up to managers about problems. They tend to work around problems without additional effort to create organizational learning. This paper tests the premise that managerial action, via work design, can alter this dynamic. We use laboratory experiments to test the impact of three work design variables on proactive, improvement-oriented behaviors, workarounds, and errors. We find that two out of the three work design variables were effective at inducing proactive improvement-oriented behavior. Our results suggest that small changes in job design can reduce employee silence about organizational problems. Furthermore, we test the impact of the variables on risky workarounds and errors to account for unanticipated negative effects of work design to facilitate speaking up.
Keywords: health care;