Friday, January 6, 2012

Constructing the Team: The Antecedents and Effects of Membership Model Divergence
INSEAD Working Paper 2012/01/OB

Scholars have established that team membership has wide-ranging effects on cognition, dynamics, processes, and performance. Underlying that scholarship is the assumption that team membership – who is and who is not a team member – is straightforward, unambiguous, and agreed upon by team members. In this study, I argue that this is not the case. I build on theories of social construction and shared mental models to suggest that team members’ models of team membership are socially-constructed and, due to changing environmental conditions, increasingly do not align across a given team’s members. In a study of 38 formally-defined software and product development teams, I identify drivers of “membership model divergence” and the effects of such divergence on the teams in which it occurs. In additional analyses I compare the effects of membership model divergence among team members with divergence between team members’ and team managers’ models and explore the indirect impact of membership model divergence on performance. I conclude by addressing the implications of membership model divergence for theory, methods and management practice.