The Effect of Organizational Context on Individual Performance

34 Pages Posted: 14 Oct 2003

See all articles by Robert S. Huckman

Robert S. Huckman

Harvard Business School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Gary P. Pisano

Harvard Business School

Date Written: October 2003

Abstract

Several observers have suggested that highly skilled workers convey little in the way of competitive advantage for firms due to their mobility. Implicit in this view is the belief that organizations are not important in determining the performance of such individuals. In this study, we address this issue by examining skilled individuals who work within multiple organizations roughly simultaneously. Specifically, we consider the performance of cardiac surgeons, many of whom perform operations at multiple hospitals during the course of a given year. Using patient mortality as an outcome measure, we find that the quality of a surgeon's performance at a given hospital improves significantly with increases in his or her annual procedure volume at that hospital but does not significantly improve with increases in his or her volume at other hospitals. Our findings suggest that surgeon performance is not fully portable across hospitals (i.e., some portion of performance is firm specific). We consider the implications of our results for settings beyond health care.

Suggested Citation

Huckman, Robert S. and Pisano, Gary, The Effect of Organizational Context on Individual Performance (October 2003). NBER Working Paper No. w10027. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=457549

Robert S. Huckman (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School ( email )

Technology & Operations Management
435 Morgan Hall
Boston, MA 02163
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Gary Pisano

Harvard Business School ( email )

Technology & Operations Management Unit
Morgan Hall
Boston, MA 02163
United States
617-495-6562 (Phone)
617-496-5265 (Fax)

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