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External Communication and Project Performance: An Investigation into the Role of Gatekeepers


  • Michael L. Tushman

    (Columbia University)

  • Ralph Katz

    (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)


Research indicates that certain boundary spanning individuals, labelled gatekeepers, can be an important linking mechanism between organizations and their external environments. This study investigates the role of gatekeepers in the transfer of information in a single R&D setting by comparing directly the performance of project groups with and without gatekeepers. Results indicate that gatekeepers perform a linking role only for projects performing tasks that are locally oriented, while universally oriented tasks were most effectively linked to external areas by direct project member communication. Evidence also suggests that gatekeepers do more than mediate external information; they appear to facilitate the external communication of their more local project colleagues. Direct contact and contact mediated by gatekeepers, then, are two contrasting ways to link project groups with their external areas. The relative effectiveness of these linking mechanisms is contingent on the nature of the project's work.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael L. Tushman & Ralph Katz, 1980. "External Communication and Project Performance: An Investigation into the Role of Gatekeepers," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 26(11), pages 1071-1085, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:26:y:1980:i:11:p:1071-1085

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