Expertise utilization in project teams: a status-based account of process and performance

Gardner, Heidi K (2008) Expertise utilization in project teams: a status-based account of process and performance. Doctoral thesis, University of London: London Business School. OPEN ACCESS


Why do some teams fail to use their members’ knowledge effectively, even after they have correctly identified each other’s expertise? Whereas the prevailing assumption in much of the micro-sociology and small groups literature suggests that teams will automatically defer to members who are believed to be experts, I argue that certain circumstances make team members unwilling or unable to use each other’s expertise – even after they have accurately determined who knows what. In particular, my dissertation integrates micro-sociology (status characteristics theory) and small groups research to develop theory about how status dynamics in teams affect team-level expertise recognition and utilization processes and the resulting performance implications. I propose both team factors (shared representations) and task factors (performance pressure) that moderate the relationship between expertise recognition and utilization, and I identify mechanisms through which these factors either hinder or facilitate the process. I refine and test my theory with a multi-method field study across two professional service firms, including six longitudinal case studies of project teams, multi-point surveys of 104 accounting and consulting teams (500+ team members), interviews and surveys with the teams’ managing partners and their actual clients, and archival data. My dissertation advances theory in two major ways. First, I demonstrate that teams do not automatically defer to their resident experts, and I identify conditions under which status dynamics will interfere with effective team-level expertise utilization. This finding has important theoretical implications for both status characteristics theory and for small groups research, and my dissertation develops and tests theory to begin explaining why this process breaks down. Second, by relating group expertise processes to client-rated performance, my research brings a novel perspective to the study of inter-firm relations. Whereas existing literature has shown that high levels of human capital help to maintain positive client relations, I show that the appropriate utilization of team members’ expertise contributes significantly to this outcome, over and above the mere presence of knowledge.

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Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subject Areas: Organisational Behaviour
Date Deposited: 02 Mar 2022 15:33
Date of first compliant deposit: 02 Mar 2022
Subjects: Theses
Team management
Work groups
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2022 08:35

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