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Vanderbilt’s Owen School faculty combines academic prestige with the real-world experience of top practitioners in a uniquely intimate and collaborative learning environment. From global finance and marketing to specialized areas such as health care and HR, Owen students learn from among the world’s best and in the process build relationships that last a lifetime.

Research Seminars

Pacing work in knowledge intensive services in a non-stationary environment: Goal-gradient, Deadline and Fatigue

Sarang Deo
Indian School of Business
Tuesday, Oct 14, 2014 at 11:20AM | Room 204

There is a growing interest in understanding how work pace in service systems is regulated by workload. The main effect, found in lab experiments as well as field studies is that workers speed up in response to high amount of unfinished workload. We contribute to this literature by specifically investigating the role of fixed deadlines and goals associated with the overall workload in regulating work pace. We base our empirical study on a large operational and clinical dataset on patient appointments and visits in the outpatient department of a tertiary eye care hospital. While analyzing the performance across days, we do not find any evidence of speed up or slowdown in response to the goal (anticipated patient load). However, when investigating the performance within a day, we find that work pace increases as the distance to the goal reduces (goal-gradient effect) and as one approaches the end of the day (deadline effect). Further, we find that the goal-gradient effect is stronger closer to the deadline compared to farther from the deadline. In addition, we also uncover a fatigue effect - work pace reduces as the cumulative output increases - attributable to the knowledge intensity of the tasks. These results have implications for designing critical elements of service systems such as the length of the work shift and setting of intermediate goals during the course of a shift.

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