Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Specialization and Variety in Repetitive Tasks: Evidence from a Japanese Bank


Author Info

  • Bradley R. Staats

    (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

  • Francesca Gino

    (Harvard Business School, Negotiation, Organizations & Markets Unit)

Registered author(s):


    Sustaining operational productivity in the completion of repetitive tasks is critical to many organizations' success. Yet research points to two different work-design related strategies for accomplishing this goal: specialization to capture the benefits of repetition or variety to keep workers motivated and allow them to learn. In this paper, we investigate how these two strategies may bring different benefits within the same day and across days. Additionally, we examine the impact of these strategies on both worker productivity and workers' likelihood of staying at a firm. For our empirical analyses, we use two and a half years of transaction data from a Japanese bank's home loan application processing line. We find that over the course of a single day, specialization, as compared to variety, is related to improved worker productivity. However, when we examine workers' experience across days we find that variety, or working on different tasks, helps improve worker productivity. We also find that workers with higher variety are more likely to stay at the firm. Our results identify new ways to improve operational performance through the effective allocation of work.

    Download Info

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Harvard Business School in its series Harvard Business School Working Papers with number 11-015.

    as in new window
    Length: 34 pages
    Date of creation: Aug 2010
    Date of revision: May 2011
    Handle: RePEc:hbs:wpaper:11-015

    Contact details of provider:
    Postal: Soldiers Field, Boston, Massachusetts 02163
    Phone: 617.495.6000
    Web page:
    More information through EDIRC

    Related research

    Keywords: Job Design; Learning; Productivity; Specialization; Turnover; Variety; Work Fragmentation;

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.



    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.


    Access and download statistics


    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:hbs:wpaper:11-015. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Soebagio Notosoehardjo).

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.