Read the working paper
INSEAD Working Paper 2014/42/TOM/OBH revised version of 2012/65/TOM/OB
This paper investigates how the structure of the informal communication network that results from efforts to coordinate task interdependence between design teams in complex product development projects moderates the effect of task interdependence on inter-team communication. Drawing on theoretical mechanisms from the social network and knowledge transfer literature, as well as on recent empirical advances in exponential random graphs models of social networks, we examine how the presence of a common third party in the communication network affect the likelihood of technical communication between interdependent teams designing the components of a large commercial aircraft engine. Task interdependence is a significant predictor of communication between the teams, but its effect is moderated by the presence of common-third parties. The nature of this moderation depends on the position of the common third party within the triadic communication structure. When the common third party falls in the middle of a communication chain between the potential source and the potential recipient of technical communication, its presence increases the likelihood of communication between these two teams, creating a classic transitive structure. However, when the communication between the source and recipient can trigger cyclic exchanges between the three teams, the presence of the third party hinders the probability of communication between the two interdependent teams. We discuss the implications of our findings to the literature of intra-organizational networks in new product development.