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Fluid Tasks and Fluid Teams: The Impact of Diversity in Experience and Team Familiarity on Team Performance

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  • Robert S. Huckman

    () (Harvard Business School, Technology and Operations Management Unit)

  • Bradley R. Staats

    () (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

Abstract

In this paper, we consider how the structures of tasks and teams interact to affect team performance. We study the effects of diversity in experience on a team's ability to respond to task changes, by separately examining interpersonal team diversity (i.e., differences in experience across the entire team) and intrapersonal team diversity (i.e., whether individuals on the team are more or less specialized). We also examine whether team familiarity - team members' prior experience working with one another - helps teams to better manage challenges created by task changes and greater interpersonal team diversity. Using detailed project- and individual-level data from an Indian software services firm, we find that the interaction of task-change with intrapersonal diversity is related to improved project performance, while the interaction of task-change with interpersonal diversity is related to diminished performance. Additionally, the interaction of team familiarity with interpersonal diversity is related to improved project performance in some cases. Our results highlight a need for more nuanced approaches to leveraging experience in team management.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert S. Huckman & Bradley R. Staats, 2009. "Fluid Tasks and Fluid Teams: The Impact of Diversity in Experience and Team Familiarity on Team Performance," Harvard Business School Working Papers 09-145, Harvard Business School, revised Aug 2010.
  • Handle: RePEc:hbs:wpaper:09-145
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    Cited by:

    1. Jonathan R. Clark & Robert S. Huckman & Bradley R. Staats, 2013. "Learning from Customers: Individual and Organizational Effects in Outsourced Radiological Services," NBER Working Papers 18723, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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    Keywords

    Diversity; Knowledge Work; Project Flexibility; Task Change; Team Familiarity;

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