Capability Traps and Self-Confirming Attribution Errors in the Dynamics of Process Improvment

56 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2002

See all articles by Nelson Repenning

Nelson Repenning

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management

John Sterman

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management

Date Written: June 2002

Abstract

To better understand the factors that support or inhibit internally-focused change, we report the results of an inductive study of one firm's attempt to improve two of its core business processes. Our data suggest that the critical determinants of success in efforts to learn and improve are the interactions between managers' attributions regarding the cause of poor organizational performance and the physical structure of the workplace, particularly delays between investing in improvement and recognizing the rewards. Building on this observation, we propose a dynamic model capturing the mutual evolution of those attributions, managers' and workers' actions, and the production technology. We use the model to show how managers' beliefs about those that work for them, workers' beliefs about those who manage them, and the physical structure of the environment can coevolve to yield an organization characterized by conflict, mistrust, and control structures that prevent useful change of any type

Suggested Citation

Repenning, Nelson P. and Sterman, John, Capability Traps and Self-Confirming Attribution Errors in the Dynamics of Process Improvment (June 2002). MIT Sloan Working Paper No. 4372-02. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=320380 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.320380

Nelson P. Repenning (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )

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John Sterman

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )

E62-436
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States
617-253-1951 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://jsterman.scripts.mit.edu/

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