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Speaking Up in the Operating Room: How Team Leaders Promote Learning in Interdisciplinary Action Teams


  • Amy C. Edmondson


This paper examines learning in interdisciplinary action teams. Research on team effectiveness has focused primarily on single-discipline teams engaged in routine production tasks and, less often, on interdisciplinary teams engaged in discussion and management rather than action. The resulting models do not explain differences in learning in interdisciplinary action teams. Members of these teams must coordinate action in uncertain, fast-paced situations, and the extent to which they are comfortable speaking up with observations, questions, and concerns may critically influence team outcomes. To explore what leaders of action teams do to promote speaking up and other proactive coordination behaviours - as well as how organizational context may affect these team processes and outcomes - I analysed qualitative and quantitative data from 16 operating room teams learning to use a new technology for cardiac surgery. Team leader coaching, ease of speaking up, and boundary spanning were associated with successful technology implementation. The most effective leaders helped teams learn by communicating a motivating rationale for change and by minimizing concerns about power and status differences to promote speaking up in the service of learning. Copyright Blackwell Publishing Ltd 2003.

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  • Amy C. Edmondson, 2003. "Speaking Up in the Operating Room: How Team Leaders Promote Learning in Interdisciplinary Action Teams," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 40(6), pages 1419-1452, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:jomstd:v:40:y:2003:i:6:p:1419-1452

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Deborah Dougherty, 1992. "Interpretive Barriers to Successful Product Innovation in Large Firms," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 3(2), pages 179-202, May.
    2. Ruth Wageman, 2001. "How Leaders Foster Self-Managing Team Effectiveness: Design Choices Versus Hands-on Coaching," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 12(5), pages 559-577, October.
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    1. repec:kap:asiapa:v:34:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s10490-016-9495-7 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Venkataramani, Vijaya & Zhou, Le & Wang, Mo & Liao, Hui & Shi, Junqi, 2016. "Social networks and employee voice: The influence of team members’ and team leaders’ social network positions on employee voice," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 132(C), pages 37-48.
    3. Lisbeth Brøde Jepsen, 2013. "Information Sharing in a New Product Development Project - The Role of Core Actors," Working Papers 115/13, University of Southern Denmark, Department of Environmental and Business Economics.
    4. Masaki Matsunaga, 2017. "Voicing Is Costly, but Team Can Change That: A Three-Wave Study on Employee ¡°Voice¡± through the Lens of the Theory of Planned Behavior," Management and Organizational Studies, Management and Organizational Studies, Sciedu Press, vol. 4(1), pages 10-29, January.
    5. Doherty, Carole & Saunders, Mark N.K., 2013. "Elective surgical patients' narratives of hospitalization: The co-construction of safety," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 29-36.
    6. Finn, Rachael & Learmonth, Mark & Reedy, Patrick, 2010. "Some unintended effects of teamwork in healthcare," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 70(8), pages 1148-1154, April.
    7. Proudfoot, Devon & Kay, Aaron C. & Mann, Heather, 2015. "Motivated employee blindness: The impact of labor market instability on judgment of organizational inefficiencies," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 108-122.
    8. Hsin-Hua Hsiung, 2012. "Authentic Leadership and Employee Voice Behavior: A Multi-Level Psychological Process," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 107(3), pages 349-361, May.
    9. David Whiteside & Laurie Barclay, 2013. "Echoes of Silence: Employee Silence as a Mediator Between Overall Justice and Employee Outcomes," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 116(2), pages 251-266, August.
    10. Walumbwa, Fred O. & Hartnell, Chad A. & Misati, Everlyne, 2017. "Does ethical leadership enhance group learning behavior? Examining the mediating influence of group ethical conduct, justice climate, and peer justice," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 14-23.
    11. van Riel, C.B.M. & Berens, G.A.J.M. & Dijkstra, M., 2005. "The Influence of Employee Communication on Strategic Business Alignment," ERIM Report Series Research in Management ERS-2005-060-ORG, Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM), ERIM is the joint research institute of the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University and the Erasmus School of Economics (ESE) at Erasmus University Rotterdam.
    12. Cees B. M. van Riel & Guido Berens & Majorie Dijkstra, 2009. "Stimulating Strategically Aligned Behaviour Among Employees," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 46(7), pages 1197-1226, November.
    13. repec:eee:tefoso:v:120:y:2017:i:c:p:163-175 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Ariel C. Avgar & Julie Anna Sadler & Paul Clark & Wonjoon Chung, 2016. "Labor–Management Partnership and Employee Voice: Evidence from the Healthcare Setting," Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 55(4), pages 576-603, October.
    15. Li-Yueh Lee & Veasna Sou, 2013. "The Antecedents of Innovation Climate: Cross-Level Mediation Perspectives," Diversity, Technology, and Innovation for Operational Competitiveness: Proceedings of the 2013 International Conference on Technology Innovation and Industrial Management, ToKnowPress.
    16. Hassan Jorfi & Hashim Fauzy Bin Yaccob & Ishak Mad Shah, 2011. "The Relationship between Demographics Variables, Emotional Intelligence, Communication Effectiveness, Motivation, and Job Satisfaction," International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences, Human Resource Management Academic Research Society, International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences, vol. 1(1), pages 38-62, April.
    17. repec:bla:stratm:v:38:y:2017:i:5:p:1041-1061 is not listed on IDEAS

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