Many operations are characterized by a trade-off between speed and quality. This calls for an exploration of effective strategies to balance the two metrics. This study investigates the separate and joint effect of quantity and quality feedback on both performance metrics in order picking. We collected data from two real-effort experiments with in total 212 participants, who conducted an order picking task in an experimental warehouse. The results of the main experiment show that giving only quantity feedback improves productivity performance, without compromising on quality. No significant effects of quality feedback were identified. Furthermore, combining quantity and quality feedback does not create a synergistic or a weakening effect on both performance dimensions. The second experiment was used as a robustness check in a different setting, and its results show that quantity feedback not only positively impacts productivity, but can also improve quality. We further decompose the aggregate productivity improvement into the separate impact on pickers who perceive different relative positions. We find that the top-ranked and middle-ranked workers in their group accelerate less relative to themselves than the bottom-ranked workers do, and the acceleration gap between the top-ranked and the bottom-ranked pickers is smaller when quantity feedback is present. Our findings show that managers can achieve both fast and faultless performance by carefully designing the performance feedback to their employees.
The authors thank the editors and anonymous reviewers for their helpful and constructive suggestions that substantially improved the paper. Co‐author XiaoLi Zhang gratefully acknowledges the financial support from the China Scholarship Council (CSC), co‐author Jelle de Vries is funded by Dutch Research Council (NWO) VENI Project 016.Veni.195.292, and co‐author ChenGuang Liu is funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant no: 71671139).
© 2021 The Authors. Production and Operations Management published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Production and Operations Management Society