Organizational behavior management

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Organizational behavior management (OBM) is a form of applied behavior analysis (ABA) which applies psychological principles of organizational behavior and the experimental analysis of behavior to organizations to improve individual and group performance and worker safety.[1] The areas of application may include: systems analysis, management, training, and performance improvement.[2][3] OBM resembles human resource management, but places more emphasis on ABA and systems-level focus.

Various OBM interventions have included working with therapists on increasing billable hours[4][5][6]

OBM takes principles from many fields, including behavioral systems analysis and performance management, although there is some debate[by whom?] as to whether taking principles from fields outside of behavior analysis meshes within the definition of OBM.[7] Related fields include behavior-based safety and behavioral engineering.[8][9]


The history of this field is under some debate. Dr. Alyce Dickinson published an article in 2000 detailing the history of the field.[10] The article states that the field emerged from within the field of behavior analysis. The first organized application of behavioral principles in business and industry was programmed instruction, however this application was before OBM emerged as a field. The first university to offer a graduate program in OBM and systems analysis was Western Michigan University. The first teacher to teach the course was Dr. Dick Malott.

Another early program in OBM was initiated at the University of Notre Dame in 1975 with the arrival of Martin Wikoff, the first graduate student in the program. Prior to attending Notre Dame, Wikoff, with University of Washington professors, Bob Kohlenberg (Psychology) and Terrance Mitchell (Foster School of Business) conducted one of the first controlled studies of applied behavior analysis in business; in this case, to improve Grocery Clerk performance. That study was presented at the 1976 MABA Convention in Chicago and the application to business was so novel, the research was assigned to the topic category of "Experimental Living Arrangements" confirming its status as one of the pioneering OBM documented applications. The Wikoff-Crowell-Anderson Notre Dame OBM research team was born.

Journal of Organizational Behavior Management (JOBM)[edit]

The first journal was published in 1977. The first editor was Aubrey Daniels. The name of the field originates from this journal publication. The field of OBM publishes a quarterly journal. This journal was ranked the third most influential of its kind in a 2003 study.[11]

Upon a review of the articles by Nolan et al. (1999), It showed that:

  1. The top three topics are productivity and quality, customer satisfaction, and training and development.
  2. 95% of the articles published were experimental and 5% were correlation.
  3. 80% of the articles published were done in the field and 20% were done in the laboratory.
  4. The research question was 57% theoretical and 45% applied.
  5. The research method used most is a within subjects design.

Scientific management[edit]

OBM might be seen as one of the distant branches of scientific management, originally inspired by Taylor.[12] The principal difference between scientific management and OBM might be on the conceptual underpinnings: OBM is based on B.F. Skinner's science of human behavior.[13] Because different people behave differently in the same situation, studies from multiple disciplines using multiple research methods create confusion, hindering a unified concept of organizational behavior.[14] For example, the Hawthorne Studies, where sociologists attempted to improve worker productivity by changing the lighting in the work space, they found that the productivity of the workers had improved just by being observed, not because of the improved lighting but because somebody was taking an interest in them.[15] Yet, this study can also point to the social stage in Maslow's Hierarchy of needs, specifically the social need to belong[16]

Quality management[edit]

The parallel between OBM tools and the process and procedures common to the so-called Quality Movement (SPC, Deming, Quality Circles, ISO, etc.) was documented by Wikoff in his ISPI Article of the Year, The quality movement meets performance technology, <Performance + Instruction, Volume 33, Issue 8, pages 41–45, September 1994>.


  1. ^ "What is OBM?". Organizational Behavior Management Network. Archived from the original on September 8, 2016. Retrieved September 9, 2016.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Olson: (2003) Organizational Culture Putting the Organizational Culture Concept to Work – The Behavior Analyst Today, 3(4), 473–478 BAO
  4. ^ Michael C. Clayton & Linda Hayes (2004) Using Performance Feedback to Increase the Billable Hours of Social Workers: A Multiple Baseline Evaluation, Different Effects of Individual and Small Group Monetary Incentives On High Performance. The Behavior Analyst Today, 3(1), 88–103 [1]
  5. ^ Abernathy, William B. (2001) Focused vs. Consolidated Measures In Performance Pay Systems. The Behavior Analyst Today, 3(1), 7–12 [2]
  6. ^ Gilbreath & Harris (2002) Performance-Based Pay in the Workplace: Magic Potion or Malevolent Poison? The Behavior Analyst Today, 3(3), 311–316 BAO
  7. ^ Hyten (2002) On the Identity Crisis in OBM. The Behavior Analyst Today, 3(3), 301–315 BAO
  8. ^ Roman, H.R. & Boyce, T.E. (2001) Institutionalizing Behavior-Based Safety: Theories, Concepts, And Practical Suggestions. The Behavior Analyst Today, 3(1), 76–82 BAO
  9. ^ Geller, E-S. (2001) Behavioral Safety: Meeting the Challenge of Making a Large-Scale Difference. The Behavior Analyst Today, 2(2), 64–75 BAO
  10. ^ Dickinson, A. M. (2000). The historical roots of Organizational Behavior Management in the private sector: The 1950s - 1980s. Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, 20 (3/4), 9-58.
  11. ^ "JOBM Takes the Bronze!". Archived from the original on 2007-11-04.
  12. ^ For example, Taylor's Principles of Scientific Management is listed on the OBM Network recommended books page "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-12-29. Retrieved 2007-12-24.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ Bucklin, Barbara; Alvero, Alicia; Dickinson, Alyce; Austin, John; Jackson, Austin (2000). "Industrial-organizational psychology and organizational behavior management: An objective comparison". Journal of Organizational Behavior Management. 20 (2): 27–75. doi:10.1300/J075v20n02_03.
  14. ^ Michael Beer. Organizational Behavior and Development. Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 98-115, June 1998. [3]
  15. ^
  16. ^ McLeod, S.A.. (2014) Maslow's Hierarchy of needs retrieved from

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