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Applied behavioural analysis in management

This study aims to map supervisory behaviour of managers in Swedish workplaces. Among the questions at issue can be mentioned what managers do during the time they consider themselves to be supervising, and what effect this has on the employees’ or team’s work and performance.

The activities of an organization consist of a large number of behaviours, chains of actions and reactions which together create the company's activities and results. Behaviours are situational and must be viewed in the situation where they occurred. The scientific area called Behavioural Analysis typically belongs to the research field Experimental Psychology but can also be classified under Organizational Theory, Supervising and Leadership/Management.
Studying behaviours requires observations, measurements and analysis of the factors that start and affect the emergence and maintenance of behaviours. Examples of such factors present at our workplaces are the surrounding environment, supervisors, colleagues, tasks, contacts with third parties or other person with influence on the workplace.
In 2010 a study was started with the intention to identify and map supervisory behaviour among managers in Swedish workplaces. One important question is what managers do when supervising, and how this affects the employees’ or team’s work and performance. The study will include data collection from approximately 200 field observations, video documentation, behavioural analysis of supervisors, development of analytical methods and measurement techniques, as well as categorization of the effect of the supervisors' behaviours. The workplaces have been chosen from a wide range of municipal activities such as schools and home care services, governmental organizations and private industrial, construction and service companies. The work will continue for about five years and contain four distinct studies forming the basis of four scientific publications, all of which constitute the elements of a thesis at the KTH School of Technology and Health.

This is a scientific survey of what managers say and do on a daily basis, this which we call "supervising". It is an attempt to find methods to observe, measure, categorize and prioritize supervisory behaviour, based on the effects on the employees' performance and achievement. The study also partly addresses how management can work with changing and developing supervisors’ behaviours to get more effect on the activities, and which factors are critical for creating changes in supervising. The previous research on this subject, applying observations of behaviour during current work, is unique in the world and the methodology has been developed from basic research in behavioural observations from the United States.

Simon Elvnäs, Industrial doctoral student, Behavioural Analyst

Jörgen Eklund, Professor in Industrial Ergonomics
Ned Carter, Senior lecturer in Experimental Psychology and Occupational and Environmental Medicine
Judith Komaki, Professor Emeritus, Experimental Psychology (USA)

Additional participant:
Leif Lund, Registered Psychologist (CBT)

Search words: Supervising, Management, Operational Management, EBA (Experimental Behaviour Analysis), ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis), OBM (Organizational Behaviour Management), Performance Management, Operant Psychology.