Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Structural Context of Team Learning: Effects of Organizational and Team Structure on Internal and External Learning

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Organization Science 24, 4 (2013) 1120-1139

This paper reports on a study of structural antecedents to team learning. In a study of self-managed pharmaceutical research and development teams, we first find that more team-level structure is associated with more internal learning as well as more external learning. We then establish that more organizational-level structure is negatively associated with both internal and external learning. We find that psychological safety mediates the positive relationship between team structure and team learning, and that task autonomy constraints mediate the negative relationship between organizational structure and team learning. Investigating the interaction effect between team and organizational structure, we find, unexpectedly, that organizational structure supports external team learning under conditions of less team structure. Specifically, when teams have less team structure, the relationship between organizational structure and external team learning is positive. This structure substitutability finding suggests that although more organizational structure, on average, hurts external team learning, there are situations in which it helps. An important implication of the study is that multiple levels of structure, and their interactions, should be taken into consideration when assessing structural effects on team learning.