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The Effect of Organizational Context on Individual Performance

  • Robert S. Huckman
  • Gary P. Pisano

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.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10027.

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Date of creation: Oct 2003
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10027
Note: HC
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  1. Martin B. Zimmerman, 1982. "Learning Effects and the Commercialization of New Energy Technologies: The Case of Nuclear Power," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 13(2), pages 297-310, Autumn.
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  7. Paul Ingram & Tal Simons, 2002. "The Transfer of Experience in Groups of Organizations: Implications for Performance and Competition," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 48(12), pages 1517-1533, December.
  8. Gary P. Pisano & Richard M.J. Bohmer & Amy C. Edmondson, 2001. "Organizational Differences in Rates of Learning: Evidence from the Adoption of Minimally Invasive Cardiac Surgery," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 47(6), pages 752-768, June.
  9. Kenneth Arrow, 1962. "Economic Welfare and the Allocation of Resources for Invention," NBER Chapters, in: The Rate and Direction of Inventive Activity: Economic and Social Factors, pages 609-626 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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