Behavior in Organizations
Welcome to the Behavior in Organizations Section
Welcome to the Behavior in Organizations section of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies. We invite you to interact with our site by exploring the sections below, which will be updated and revised on a continual basis. Our aim is to provide you with the resources you need to better understand how the science of behavior can be studied and applied within organizational settings.
What is OBM?
Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) is a subdiscipline of applied behavior analysis.
According to Hall (1980) in an editorial for the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, OBM “consists of the development and evaluation of performance improvement procedures which are based on the principles of behavior discovered through the science of behavior analysis. These procedures are considered to be within the scope of OBM when they focus on improving the individual or group performance within an organizational setting, whether that organization be a business, industrial setting, or human service setting, and whether that organization was established for profit or not. The goal of the field of OBM is to establish a technology of broad-scale performance improvement and organizational change so that employees will be more productive and happy, and so that our organizations and institutions will be more effective and efficient in achieving their goals (p.145).”
OBM draws upon basic and applied research in behavior analysis, as well as, the research and practice in Performance Management and Behavioral Systems Analysis.
The History of OBM
The works of Watson and Skinner have heavily influenced the field of OBM. Skinner’s applications of behavioral principles to instructional design served as a starting point for the use of the science of behavior in the workplace. Even before OBM was viewed as a field, Fredrick Taylor advocated for the use of the scientific method to improve employee and organizational performance. The Journal of Organizational Behavior Management (JOBM) began publication in 1977 and is the main outlet for the field today. By 1977 over 40 articles on OBM had been published in other journals and at least one OBM consulting firm had been established. Aubrey Daniels was the first editor of JOBM. The journal is published by Haworth Press and is in its 32nd volume. It has recently been ranked as having the third highest impact factor among applied psychology journals according to the Journal Citation Reports published by Thompson/ISI Publishers (Hantula, 2005). There are a number of graduate programs in OBM that have been established at various universities. Graduates of these programs work in the private sector as external consultant, as internal consultants for organizations, or as program managers in the health and human services industry. Graduates also work in academia.
Performance Management (PM)
Management fads brought to us by evangelistic and entertaining speakers and writers annually engulf managers, then quickly recede because there is little research to support their premise. In contrast, Performance Management is a proven and successful process used in organizations to measurably change and maintain individual and group performance.
PM offers scientific underpinnings and demonstrable results which can be replicated. It is based on the laws of human behavior discovered by behavior analysts in thousands of scientific studies using measurable, observable, and objective data. The Performance Management approach is effective with all human beings and organizations regardless of job level or education and in organizations of every type, size or world-wide location.
Behavioral Systems Analysis (BSA)
Behavioral Systems Analysis is an approach to organizational design and management. It is based on the premise that organizations are complex systems. As such, changes in one aspect of performance in an organization necessarily affects performance in other parts of an organization. A primary goal of BSA is to create a balanced applications in which areas of poor performance are improved, areas of high performance are maintained, and employee performance outcomes are directed towards organizational goals. This is done through the careful use of behavioral and systems theories, and the application of research based principles of behavior, such as reinforcement, punishment, stimulus control, discrimination and generalization.