Team Leadership/Management Style

Team Leadership/Management Style

Part 1: According to the Sarin and O’Connor (2009) article, certain style and goal structures of team leaders have a strong influence on internal team dynamics.  Based on your research within the article and textbook, as well as your own experience, what team leader management style would be most effective in leading a team in which you were a member?

Part 2: DeRue, Barnes, and Morgeson (2010) found that team leadership style effectiveness depended on the level of charisma exhibited by the leader.  Drawing from the article and the textbook, have you ever worked for a charismatic leader?  What style (coaching or directing) did that leader administer?  Was he or she effective in leading you as part of the team?

First among Equals: The Effect of Team Leader Characteristics

on the Internal Dynamics of Cross-Functional Product

Development Teams�

Shikhar Sarin and Gina Colarelli O’Connor

Drawing on the path-goal theory of leadership, the present study examines the effect

of team leader characteristics on an array of conflict resolution behavior, collab-

oration, and communication patterns of cross-functional new product development

(NPD) teams. A hierarchical linear model analysis based on a survey of 246 mem-

bers from 64 NPD teams suggests that participative management style and initi-

ation of goal structure by the team leader exert the strongest influence on internal

team dynamics. Both these leadership characteristics had a positive effect on func-

tional conflict resolution, collaboration, and communication quality within the NPD

team while discouraging dysfunctional conflict resolution and formal communica-

tions. Comparatively, team leader’s consideration, initiation of process structure,

and position had a surprisingly weak effect on internal team dynamics. Further, the

findings underscore the differential effects on various dimensions of team dynamics,

the importance of controlling for project and team characteristics, and the use of

multilevel modeling for studying nested phenomena related to NPD teams. Impli-

cations of these findings are discussed.

Introduction

R ecognizing the long-term competitive advan-

tage offered by successful new product

development (NPD), organizations are rely-

ing heavily on cross-functional teams to improve their

NPD processes (Barczak and Wilemon, 1992; Griffin,

1997; McDonough, 2000; Sarin and Mahajan, 2001;

Sarin and McDermott, 2003; Ulrich and Eppinger,

1995; Wind and Mahajan, 1997). Typically these

teams, composed of individuals drawn from a variety

of functional specialties within the organization, are

responsible for taking a product from conceptualiza-

tion to commercialization.

Growing popularity and anecdotal evidence notwith-

standing, the results achieved from the use of cross-

functional teams in NPD efforts have been decidedly

mixed (Barczak and Wilemon, 1989; Katzenbach and

Smith, 1993; Sarin and Mahajan, 2001). Among other

reasons, this lack of consistent success has been at-

tributed to poor project leadership, which often fails

to appreciate the diversity of cross-functional teams

and mismanages team dynamics—essential compo-

nents to the performance of any NPD team (Henke,

Krachenberg, and Lyons, 1993; Parker, 1994; Robbins

and Finley, 1995).

Effective project leadership has been identified as

one of the most important mechanisms not only for

managing team dynamics but also for steering the

teams successfully and efficiently through the new prod-

uct development process (McDonough and Griffin,

�The authors are grateful to Tony Di Benedetto for processing this manuscript. They would also like to thank Robert Baron and Stacey Hills for their help on an earlier version of this manuscript.

Address correspondence to: Address correspondence to: Shikhar Sarin, College of Business and Economics, Boise State University, Boise, ID 83725. Tel.: (208) 426-2721. Fax: (208) 426-5384. E-mail: [email protected].

J PROD INNOV MANAG 2009;26:188–205 r 2009 Product Development & Management Association

 

 

1997). Team leaders coach team members, help de-

velop their capabilities, foster interactions and learning

within the team, and champion the team’s activities

to others in the organization (Ancona and Caldwell,

1992a; Barczak and Wilemon, 1992; McDonough and

Barczak, 1991; McDonough and Griffin, 1997; Sarin

and McDermott, 2003). Nurick Thamhain (2006) sug-

gest that effective project team leaders are social ar-

chitects who understand the interaction between

organizational and behavioral variables; suggesting

that such team leaders should be able to minimize

dysfunctional conflict and to foster a climate of active

participation.

Despite the focused attention from the academic

community, much of the past research in the NPD

literature is based largely on anecdotal data (e.g.,

Jassawalla and Sashittal, 2000), case studies (e.g.,

Hershock, Cowman, and Peters, 1994), or qualitative

data (e.g., Barczak and Wilemon, 1989; Donnellon,

1993). Although some studies (e.g., McDonough,

1993; Norrgren and Schaller, 1999) have explored

NPD team leadership empirically, these studies were

limited in their scope by the univariate analyses em-

ployed. Moreover, when empirical examinations were

undertaken, few studies controlled for the character-

istics of the team or the project, which could have

profound effects on how team leadership effects the

internal dynamics and performance of the NPD teams

(Ancona and Caldwell, 1992b; Griffin, 1979; Sarin and

Mahajan, 2001; Sarin and McDermott, 2003). The

NPD literature lacks a comprehensive and robust em-

pirical examination of the influence of team leadership

on the dynamics and performance of cross-functional

new product development teams. The present study

addresses this void in the NPD literature by empiri-

cally examining the effect of team leaders’ manage-

ment styles and position on an array of internal NPD

team dynamics. Such a comprehensive examination

is critical for understanding the inherent trade-offs

and synergies involved between various dimensions of

team dynamics.

Drawing on the path-goal theory of leadership

(e.g., Evans, 1970; House, 1971), this study focuses

on the team leader’s management style in terms of his

or her interactions with team members, style prefer-

ences for organizing work, and position and power in

the organization (Yukl, 1994). The effects of these

team leader characteristics on three broad areas of

internal team dynamics are examined: (1) conflict res-

olution behavior; (2) collaboration; and (3) commu-

nication behavior. In addition, the study controls for

key NPD team characteristics such as team size and

functional diversity and for project characteristics in-

cluding project length, complexity, and risk. Hierar-

chical linear modeling (HLM) is used to analyze the

data, which affords a number of analytical and inter-

pretive advantages over methods previously employed

in research on NPD teams.

Theoretical Background

Team Leader Characteristics

The team leader plays a pivotal role in setting the

work climate within the team, motivating team mem-

bers and affecting their behavior (Burke et al., 2006;

Norrgren and Schaller, 1999). Team leaders direct the

manner in which the NPD team presents itself and its

ideas to achieve personal and organizational goals

(Barczak and Wilemon, 1989; McDonough, 2000;

Sarin and McDermott, 2003).

Yukl (1994) suggests that leaders’ effectiveness is

derived from four sources: (1) the level of power and

influence possessed by the leader; (2) how the leader

interacts with others; (3) the leaders’ personal quali-

ties; and (4) the situation in which the leader is asked

to lead. Given their managerial controllability, this

research focuses on the first two sources of leader

effectiveness: (1) the NPD team leader’s power and

influence (as reflected by position in the organization);

and (2) interactions with the members of the NPD

team, as reflected by his or her management style

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES

Dr. Shikhar Sarin is the Kirk and Marsha Smith Professor of Mar-

keting at Boise State University. His research and teaching interests

include marketing strategy, new product development, marketing of

high-tech products, and electronic commerce. He has published in

the Journal of Marketing, Decision Sciences, Journal of the Academy

of Marketing Science, Journal of Product Innovation Management,

Industrial Marketing Management, Journal of Marketing Theory and

Practice, and Engineering Economist.

Dr. Gina Colarelli O’Connor is associate professor of marketing at

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Lally School of Management and

Technology. She previously worked for McDonnell Douglas Cor-

poration and Monsanto Chemical Company. Her teaching and re-

search efforts focus on how large established firms link advanced

technology development to market opportunities, how they create

new markets, and how they develop sustainable capabilities for

breakthrough innovation. Dr. O’Connor has published more than

30 articles in refereed journals and is coauthor of the book Radical

Innovation, How Mature Firms Can Outsmart Upstarts (Harvard

Business School Press, 2000) and Grabbing Lightning: Building a

Capability for Breakthrough Innovation (Jossey-Bass, 2008).

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(Muczyk and Reimann, 1987; Sarin and McDermott,

2003). The path-goal theory of leadership (e.g., Evans,

1970; House, 1971) is used to help explain the

dynamics of these effectiveness dimensions.

The basic premise of the path-goal theory of lead-

ership is that a primary function of the leader involves

clarifying and outlining the kinds of paths and be-

haviors that will lead to goal attainment and valued

rewards (Griffin, 1979). Four distinct characteristics

or behaviors of the team leader related to his or her

management style can be identified based on this

framework (Antonioni, 1996; Burke et al., 2006;

Evans, 1970; House, 1971; Griffin, 1979; Yukl, 1994):

1. Participative leadership or participation: Participa-

tion is the degree to which the team leader invites

members’ involvement in the decision-making pro-

cess. Participative leaders consult with the mem-

bers of their teams, solicit their input, and take

these suggestions into account when making deci-

sions. Participation represents the way the leader

behaves toward others as well as his influence over

the team members.

2. Supportive leadership or consideration: Consider-

ation is the degree to which the team leader is

friendly and approachable and demonstrates inter-

est in the well-being of the team members. It indi-

cates his or her respect for others and conveys cues

about his or her own personal qualities. By treating

others with respect considerate team leaders create

a pleasant work environment.

3. Achievement-oriented leadership or initiation of goal

structure: Goal structuring is the degree to which

the team leader conveys to the members what out-

come or objective is expected of them. By goal

structuring team leaders set challenging goals for

the team members, expecting them to assume re-

sponsibility and perform to their highest level.

Through the use of such behavior team leaders

show confidence that the members of the team will

put forth the level of effort necessary to attain the

goals set for them.

4. Directive leadership or initiation of process struc-

ture: Process structuring is the degree to which the

team leader organizes and directs the activities of

team members. Process structuring by team leaders

gives specific guidance to the team members re-

garding what needs to be done and how it should

be done. The team leader schedules the work to be

done, lays out the rules and regulations to be fol-

lowed, and maintains standards of performance.

Finally, an additional source of team leaders’ effec-

tiveness identified by Yukl (1994) is considered: the

level of power/influence possessed by the leader:

5. Team leader’s position: The team leader’s position

is a measure of the formal as well as informal

power and influence enjoyed by the team leader

within the organization. Team leaders in high po-

sition enjoy a high stature in the organization and

are well respected for their management or techni-

cal skills. Such leaders tend to be politically savvy

and well networked within the organization. As a

result they are able to acquire needed resources, to

promote the team’s project within the organiza-

tion, and to shield the team from unwanted inter-

ference and pressures when needed.

Following Sarin and McDermott (2003), these five

team leader characteristics were considered because

they are not only managerially controllable but also

are strongly supported by established theoretical

frameworks (Evans, 1970; House, 1971; Yukl, 1994).

Internal Dynamics of NPD Teams

Healthy internal dynamics are essential for effective

cross-functional NPD teams and, consequently, for

the successful development of new products (e.g.,

Burke et al., 2006). Specifically, the conflict resolu-

tion behaviors (e.g., Pinto, Pinto, and Prescott, 1993;

Song, Xie, and Dyer, 2000), collaboration (e.g., Jassa-

walla and Sashittal, 1998; Pinto et al., 1993), and com-

munication behaviors (e.g., Ancona and Caldwell,

1992b; Griffin and Hauser, 1992) of cross-functional

NPD teams have been shown to have a tremendous

impact on their performance. However, the misman-

agement of these internal dynamics is among the most

often cited barriers to effective NPD team functioning

(Henke et al., 1993). In the present study three types

of internal team dynamics is considered: (1) conflict

resolution strategies; (2) collaboration; and (3) com-

munication behaviors.

Conflict resolution strategies. Individuals from

different functional backgrounds develop different

thought worlds and perspectives (Dougherty, 1992;

Maltz and Kohli, 1996; Sarin and McDermott, 2003).

Besides developing different worldviews, differences

can also result from variety in procedures or termi-

nology followed by each functional area, differences in

information processing techniques used, or differences

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S. SARIN AND G. C. O’CONNOR

 

 

in task/role ambiguity tolerated (Kolb and Rubin,

1990). These differences may create conflict, which is

inherent in all cross-functional teams (Parker, 1994;

Sarin and Mahajan, 2001). It is not the existence of

conflict, per se, but rather the mechanisms used to

resolve it that is of interest in terms of the effective

functioning of NPD teams (Amason, 1996; Pinto

et al., 1993).

Research on conflict management (e.g., Blake and

Mouton, 1964; Song et al., 2000; Thomas, 1977) iden-

tifies different mechanisms for resolving conflicts:

� Confronting: open discussion of the disagreement. � Compromising: mutual bargaining amongst the

disagreeing parties; smoothing, meaning building

on the areas of agreement.

� Forcing: the coercive imposition of a solution by an individual or a group on others.

� Withdrawal: refusal to deal with the conflict. Cross-functional NPD teams may exhibit all of

these forms of conflict resolution to varying de-

grees.

Amason (1996) suggests that depending on how it is

resolved, conflict can either be functional (productive)

or dysfunctional (disruptive). Dysfunctional forms of

conflict resolution such as forcing or withdrawal com-

pel one disagreeing party to concede, either involun-

tarily or under duress, to eliminate further conflict.

Such a win–lose situation is ineffective and can de-

crease team morale, productivity, and satisfaction

(Muczyk and Reimann, 1987; Thomas, 1977). The

preferred or more functional mechanisms for resolv-

ing conflict include confronting, compromising, and

smoothing. These may enhance team operations by

bringing together the ideas of all parties and may aid

in reaching a solution that satisfies or benefits all par-

ties involved in the conflict (Kolb and Rubin, 1990;

Song et al., 2000; Thamhain and Nurick, 1994).

Collaboration. Collaboration is defined as the de-

gree to which the members of the NPD team work

together to accomplish specific tasks (Jassawalla and

Sashittal, 1998; Pinto et al., 1993). Collaboration is

indicative of effective team dynamics and an anteced-

ent to improved team performance (Ancona and

Caldwell, 1992a; Pinto et al., 1993). Although some

researchers (e.g., Thomas, 1977) consider collabora-

tion as yet another form of functional conflict reso-

lution strategy, others (e.g., Jassawalla and Sashittal,

1998; Pinto et al., 1993) suggest that it as a much

broader construct indicative of general integrative and

supportive interpersonal cooperation among team

members. Though some overlap is expected with func-

tional conflict resolution strategies, collaboration is

considered to be a distinct but related component of

the internal dynamics of NPD teams.

Communication. Poor communication among

team members has long been considered a detriment

to effective operation (Wilemon and Thamhain, 1983;

Henke et al., 1993), whereas effective communication

among team members has been linked to greater NPD

productivity and performance (Ancona and Caldwell,

1992b; Griffin and Hauser, 1992). Much of the focus

in the extant literature has been on the frequency of

communication between team members, with the gen-

eral consensus being that higher communication

frequency is positively associated with NPD perfor-

mance (e.g., Ancona and Caldwell, 1992b; Gladstein,

1984). Maltz (2000), however, notes that there is an

inherent and erroneous assumption in the NPD liter-

ature that all types of cross-functional communication

are equally important or that increased communica-

tion frequency equals good information quality.

Meanwhile, the focus on communication frequency

has resulted in other important dimensions of com-

munication remaining underexplored (Maltz, 2000;

Van de Ven and Ferry, 1980).

Although important, frequency is not the only rel-

evant aspect of NPD team communication that needs

to be considered. Team communication is a broad

concept that encompasses additional attributes. For

example, communication quality has been suggested

as a critical element in improving communication

(Bauer and Green, 1996), especially across different

functional areas (Maltz, 2000). Communication qual-

ity can be measured in terms of its accuracy, clarity,

detail, relevance, and timeliness (Van de Ven and

Ferry, 1980).

Similarly, information exchanges take place not

only through formally designated channels (e.g.,

meetings, memos, letters) but also through informal

mechanisms (e.g., impromptu meeting, hall talk)

(Maltz and Kohli, 1996; Van de Ven and Ferry,

1980). Maltz and Kohli (1996) suggest that although

informal communication may be more timely, formal

communication tends to be more accurate and detail

oriented. Therefore, in instances where speed and in-

novation are important, more informal channels of

communication may be desirable, whereas in other

cases where adherence to budget and schedule and

product quality are important, more formal channels

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of communication might be preferable. As such, com-

munication formality may be regarded as another

appropriate indicator of team interaction and com-

munication (Kezsbom, 2000).

What is needed in the literature is an examination

of a broad set of leader characteristics on a compre-

hensive array of conflict resolution behaviors, collab-

oration, and communication behaviors of NPD teams

to gain insights that can translate to actionable pre-

scriptions for NPD managers. Particularly, the simul-

taneous consideration of a variety of internal dynamics

can help understand how the characteristics of the

NPD team leaders differentially affect various aspects

of internal team dynamics.

Conceptual Framework

The conceptual framework proposed in this study

is shown in Figure 1. The following section discusses

the effects of specific team leader characteristics

on the internal dynamics of cross-functional NPD

teams.

The Effect of Team Leader Participation and Consideration on Internal Team Dynamics

Participation and consideration are perhaps the most

visible indicators of a team leader’s management style.

Participative team leaders consult their team mem-

bers, solicit their input, and involve them in the deci-

sion-making process (Antonioni, 1996; Burke et al.,

2006; Evans, 1970; House, 1971; Griffin, 1979; Yukl,

1994). Thomas (1977) suggests that the key to resolv-

ing conflicts in a group is to understand the underly-

ing power structure within the group. A participative

team leader creates an environment in which power is

dispersed more evenly among the team members.

Such power equity limits the ability of individuals or

subgroups to unduly dominate the conflict resolution

process in the team at the expense of others, thereby

creating a more open and productive approach to

resolving conflicts as they occur (Burke et al., 2006;

Norrgren and Schaller, 1999). Participation sets the

tone in which the leader exerts his or her influence

over the team and has been shown to be positively

related to learning within NPD teams (Sarin and

McDermott, 2003). Thus participative leadership in

NPD teams should therefore be positively related to

the use of functional conflict resolution strategies and

negatively related to the use of dysfunctional conflict

resolution strategies within the team.

Studies of high-involvement leadership suggest that

when leaders delegate decision-making authority,

team members become more actively engaged in dis-

cussions and communication among them improves

(Kidd and Christy, 1961; Wilemon and Thamhain,

1983). In contrast, low-involvement or autocratic

leaders discourage team members from actively

communicating and participating in team activities

(Bolman and Deal, 1993; Stewart and Manz, 1995).

When a team leader actively engages team mem-

bers in the decision-making process, members have an

opportunity to make a contribution to how a new prod-

uct development project should proceed (McDonough,

2000). As they seek to make their contributions in a

well-informed manner, the relevance and reliability of

the information exchanged increases (Kidd and

Christy, 1961; Peterson, 1997), increasing the com-

munication and cooperation within the team (Maltz,

2000). Participation by the team leader sets a more

inclusive work environment, which encourages team

members to interact with each other using informal

rather than formal channels of communication.

Therefore participative behavior by team leaders is

likely to be related to greater frequency and quality of

communication within NPD teams and greater team

collaboration. Greater participation is also likely to

be associated with the use of less formal channels of

communication.

Considerate team leaders demonstrate concern and

interest for the well-being of their team members.

They are friendly and approachable and treat others

with respect. In so doing, they not only convey cues

about their own personal qualities but also create a

pleasant work environment in general (Antonioni,

1996; Burke et al., 2006; Evans, 1970; House, 1971;

Conflict Resolution Behavior

• Confronting • Compromising • Smoothing • Forcing • Withdrawal

Collaboration

Communication Behavior

• Frequency • Formality • Quality

Participation

Consideration

Initiation of Goal Structure

Initiation of Process Structure

Team Leader Position

Figure 1. Conceptual Framework of the Effect of Team Leader Characteristics on the Internal Dynamics of NPD Teams

192 J PROD INNOV MANAG 2009;26:188–205

S. SARIN AND G. C. O’CONNOR

 

 

Griffin, 1979; Yukl, 1994). By being perceived as

approachable and empathetic, a considerate team

leader creates an environment of psychological safety

that encourages team members to openly voice dis-

senting opinions without fear of reprisal or backlash

(Edmondson, 1999). This allows the team members to

pursue constructive approaches to settling disagree-

ments within the team (Burke et al., 2006; Norrgren

and Schaller, 1999; McDonough, 2000). Thus team

leader consideration is expected to be positively re-

lated to collaboration and the use of functional con-

flict resolution strategies and negatively related to the

use of dysfunctional conflict resolution strategies

within NPD teams.

Additionally, due to the cultural norms set by his

or her own behavior as a model, considerate team

leaders encourage more frequent communication, fos-

ter a nurturing environment, and instill a willingness

among team members to listen to one another. As a

result, team communication tends to be more honest,

spontaneous, and unstructured (Peterson, 1997). Thus

consideration by NPD team leaders is expected to be

positively related to communication frequency and

quality and negatively related to the formality of in-

ternal communication.

The Effect of Initiation of Goal and Process Structure on Internal Team Dynamics

In general, initiation of structure is conceptualized as

the degree to which supervisors assign tasks, prescribe

behaviors, and focus actions and expectations toward

process performance or goal achievement. In the

NPD context, initiation of structure is often used to

influence team member behavior and performance via

the work environment (Antonioni, 1996; Porter and

Lilly, 1996). Extant literature (e.g., Cleland, 1999;

Teas, 1981, 1983) suggests that initiation of structure

can take two distinct forms: (1) structuring that is

focused on outlining the goals and expectations of the

end result of the project (goal structuring); and (2)

structuring that is focused on outlining the activities

and behaviors for achieving the desired results (pro-

cess structuring).

Goal structuring is defined as the degree to which

the team leader conveys to the members what out-

come or objective is expected of them. In so doing, the

team leader sets challenging goals for the team mem-

bers and expects them to take responsibility for de-

livering on those goals (Antonioni, 1996; Burke et al.,

2006; Evans, 1970; House, 1971; Griffin, 1979; Yukl,

1994). By engaging in goal structuring, the team

leader demonstrates confidence that the members of

the team will perform to a high level and will put forth

the effort necessary for attaining the goals outlined

(Teas, 1981, 1983).

A clear exposition of expectations and expected

outcomes by the team leader helps focus the team on

a superordinate goal and helps the team members

develop a stronger sense of the team mission and

identity (Antonioni, 1996; McDonough, 2000; Sethi,

2000). Such goal structuring encourages team mem-

bers to share problems and to work cooperatively to-

ward the common overarching goal (McDonough,

2000), creates a learning environment within the team

(Sarin and McDermott, 2003), and encourages func-

tional conflict resolution strategies over dysfunctional

ones (Antonioni, 1996). Thus initiation of goal struc-

ture by the team leader is expected to be positively

related to collaboration and the use of functional con-

flict resolution strategies and negatively related to the

use of dysfunctional conflict resolution strategies

within the NPD team.

By explicitly stating goal expectations, team leaders

empower members to seek information related to

their own activities, to confer with others to achieve

their objectives (Bolman and Deal, 1993), and to by-

pass traditional and more formal channels of com-

munication, if necessary (Sarin and McDermott,

2003). Antonioni (1996) suggests that implementation

of a goal-focused structure is likely to increase pro-

ject-related communication. Therefore, initiation of

goal structure by the team leader is expected to be

positively related to the frequency and quality and

negatively related to the formality of internal com-

munication within the NPD teams.

Process structuring, on the other hand, is defined as

the degree to which the team leader organizes and di-

rects the activities of team members, by giving them

specific guidance as to what needs to be done and how

it should be done (Antonioni, 1996; Burke et al., 2006;

Evans, 1970; House, 1971; Griffin, 1979; Yukl, 1994).

Initiating of process structure involves scheduling of

the work to be done, clarifying the rules and regula-

tions to be followed, and maintaining performance

standards (Teas, 1981, 1983).

While process structuring ensures that the behav-

iors and activities of the team members are in sync

with project goals, it can limit opportunities for new

direction (Floyd, 1992). Excessive structuring of pro-

cesses can undermine the flexible, autonomous, and

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decentralized nature of the team approach to NPD,

innovation, and creativity (McDonough, 2000; Par-

ker, 1994). However, a lack of process structure can

create ambiguity about the roles, activities, and re-

sponsibilities of team members, leading to confusion

and chaos (Wilemon and Thamhain, 1983). A lack of

structure regarding workable plans and daily activities

of the NPD team increases the potential for conflict

and dysfunctional conflict resolution (Porter and

Lilly, 1996). Therefore, initiation of process structure

is expected to be positively related to collaboration

and the use of functional conflict resolution strategies

and negatively related to the use of dysfunctional con-

flict resolution strategies within NPD teams.

Process structuring favors a management style that

is more definite and focused on achieving positive

results through a process of formal delineation (Pe-

terson, 1997). Many team leaders see such a directive

management style as an approach to reducing the un-

certainty inherent in the NPD process. Tightly struc-

tured organizational environments make interactions

within groups less frequent, less spontaneous, and

more formal (Carzo 1963). However, Maltz and Kohli

(1996) indicate that with greater formality, informa-

tion becomes more reliable, more accountable, and

more relevant, improving the quality of communica-

tion. Therefore, initiation of process structure by

the team leader is expected to be positively related

to the quality and formality and negatively related to

the frequency of internal communication in NPD

teams.

The Effect of Team Leader Position on Internal Team Dynamics

The team leader’s position within the organization

indicates the level of power and influence he or she

enjoys (Sarin and McDermott, 2003). The team lea-

der’s position may serve as a legitimizing force for the

team’s activities (Gilmore, 1982). A higher level of

perceived power may also enhance the trust team

members have in their leader (Maltz and Kohli,

1996). Thus, a team leader with greater position

power is likely to be viewed as someone who can get

things accomplished on behalf of the team. Given the

time constraints placed on them, these leaders create a

learning environment within the team by delegating

authority and decision making to team members

(Sarin and McDermott, 2003). This is not only likely

to result in increased interactions between team mem-

bers but may also encourage the team to operate in a

more collaborative manner.

The stature and political clout of team leaders in

high positions suppresses distracting activities and

helps focus the team on the job at hand (Sarin and

McDermott, 2003). However, a high position in the

organization limits the availability of these team lead-

ers for informal interactions. As such the communi-

cation within the team is expected to take a more

formal tone when team leaders hold more senior-level

positions. Much of the interactions are likely to occur

in a planned rather than spontaneous manner. Thus

the team leader’s position is expected to be positively

related not only to collaboration but also to the fre-

quency and formality of the communication within

the NPD team.

Control Variables

Extant literature suggests that in addition to the char-

acteristics of the team leader, the internal dynamics of

the NPD team are likely to be effected by the char-

acteristics of the team itself. Clearly, the management

styles that work well for small teams are not as likely

to succeed for larger ones. Similarly, the functional

makeup (diversity) and size of the team are well

known to influence the internal dynamics of NPD

teams. Therefore following earlier research on NPD

teams (e.g., Ancona and Caldwell, 1992b; Sarin and

McDermott, 2003), size and functional diversity of the

team are controlled for in this study. Similarly project

characteristics such as length, complexity, and risk

have been identified as having a significant impact on

the internal dynamics and performance of the NPD

teams (e.g., Sarin and Mahajan, 2001; Sarin and

McDermott, 2003) and are therefore added as con-

trol variables as well.

Methodology

Study Context, Sample Selection, and Data Collection

This study was conducted as part of a larger examin-

ation of NPD teams. Given their extensive use of

cross-functional teams in new product development

activities, the high-tech industries were chosen as a

context for this study (Ancona and Caldwell, 1992a,

1992b; Sarin and Mahajan, 2001; Sarin and McDer-

mott, 2003). Data were collected in two phases. In

194 J PROD INNOV MANAG 2009;26:188–205

S. SARIN AND G. C. O’CONNOR

 

 

Phase I, in-depth qualitative field interviews were con-

ducted with team members and managers of nine

Fortune 1000 companies. These data were used to

better understand the issues involved and to help de-

velop measures for constructs where scales were not

available in the literature. In Phase II, a survey in-

strument was used to collect data collected from

13 divisions of six Fortune 1000 firms to test the

model proposed in Figure 1. The revenues of the par-

ticipating divisions ranged from $100 million to more

than $1 billion. Four of these six organizations were

drawn from Phase I organizations. The remaining five

organizations were unable to participate due to either

the sensitivity of new product information or lack of

time. Therefore, two new organizations were recruited

to participate in Phase II of the study.

Through personal contacts and referrals, a key li-

aison was identified in each organization and was

asked to identify both successful and unsuccessful

NPD projects for possible inclusion in the study. To

be included in the study, projects were required to

meet three criteria. First, to control for noise due to

interorganizational factors, only intraorganizational

NPD projects were considered. Second, only NPD

projects with products bound for the open market

were considered. Third, projects introduced only

within the previous 12 months or at an advanced stage

of development were considered. In the final sample,

survey data were collected from 246 members of

64 cross-functional new product development teams.

The average duration of the sampled NPD projects

was 24 months. Size of the project teams ranged from

3 to 22, with the average team consisting of a little

more than 7 members. Responses were obtained from

individuals representing various functional back-

grounds and hierarchical levels.

Measures

Wherever possible, existing scales were used to mea-

sure the constructs outlined in the study. In cases

where no existing scales were available, measures were

adapted from the literature or the closest applicable

scales. The operational definitions and scale items

used to measure the constructs in this study are pre-

sented in the Appendix. Unless otherwise stated, all

constructs were measured using multi-item five-point

Likert scales (15 strongly disagree, 55 strongly

agree). The conflict resolution strategies were mea-

sured using a five-point Likert-type scale, where re-

spondents indicated the extent to which one or more

members of their team carried out listed activities

(15 very infrequently, 55 very frequently). Functional

diversity of the team was measured using an entropy

index developed by Ancona and Caldwell (1992b).

Standard procedures were used to refine the scales

and to assess their psychometric properties (Nunnally,

1978). First, exploratory factor analyses were used to

establish the unidimensionality of each scale. Second,

the internal consistency of each scale was assessed

using Cronbach’s alpha. Last, confirmatory factor

analyses were used to establish the convergent and

discriminant validity of the scales using procedures

outlined in the literature (Venkatraman, 1989).

The reliability coefficients for the scales are also pre-

sented in the Appendix. All scales (except two) dem-

onstrated satisfactory psychometric properties. The

reliability coefficients for initiation of goal structure

(.66) and smoothing (.62) were below the .70 threshold

recommended by Nunnally (1978). However, consis-

tent with past studies (e.g., Sarin and Mahajan, 2001;

Sarin and McDermott, 2003) coefficients in this range

were considered close enough to be acceptable.

Model Description and Analysis

Traditionally research on NPD teams has analyzed

either the data at the individual level or aggregated

responses from the team members to obtain a team-

level response. While analyzing nested data at the in-

dividual level ignores the interdependence between

observations, averaging individual responses loses

valuable variation at the lower level (Kreft and de

Leeuw, 1990). For nested data, such as NPD teams,

analyses using hierarchical linear modeling (HLM)

provide a more accurate perspective (Kreft and de

Leeuw, 1998; Sarin and McDermott, 2003).

The HLM methodology is particularly well suited

to analyzing nested data in which microlevel obser-

vations (e.g., individuals) are present within macro-

level observations (e.g., group/team) (Kreft and de

Leeuw, 1998; Hoffman, Griffin, and Gavin, 2000).

HLM allows one to investigate both lower-level and

higher-level variance in the outcome variable while

maintaining the appropriate level of analysis for the

independent variables (Hoffman et al., 2000, p. 471;

Klein and Kozlowski, 2000). In the two-level HLM

analysis used in this study, the lower level of analysis

(individual team member) is referred to as Level 1

(L1), and the higher level of analysis (team) is referred

to as Level 2 (L2).

TEAM LEADER CHARACTERISTICS AND INTERNAL DYNAMICS J PROD INNOV MANAG 2009;26:188–205

195

 

 

To test the model in Figure 1, each dimension of

internal team dynamic (e.g., confronting, collabora-

tion, communication quality) was regressed on to the

five team leader characteristics while controlling for

team characteristics (i.e., size and functional diversity)

and project characteristics (i.e., complexity, risk, and

length). The level of analysis of each independent

variable was determined by decomposing the total

variance of the construct into its within- and between-

group components using intraclass coefficients (ICC).

ICC is described as the ratio of between-group vari-

ance in construct to its total variance and has impli-

cations for the level at which a particular construct

may be analyzed (Hoffman et al., 2000).

Though there are few hard and fast standards to

determine an acceptable level of aggregation (Klein

et al., 2000, p. 518), aggregation to the higher level is

justified if a significant amount of the variance in the

constructs lies between groups (Klein and Kozlowski,

2000). Using this rule of thumb, independent variables

with 90% or more of their variance within groups

(i.e., ICCo.10) were estimated at the individual level (L1), whereas those with at least 10% of the total vari-

ance between groups (i.e., ICC � .10) were estimated at the group level (L2). Table 1 shows the intraclass

coefficient and level of analysis for the independent

and control variables used in this study. Based on the

ICCs, all independent and control variables were ag-

gregated to the group level, with the exception of the

initiation of goal and process structure variables.

Results

Results (unstandardized coefficients) of the HLM

analysis presented in Table 2 show strong support

for the conceptual model proposed in Figure 1. Over-

all, it was found that after controlling for team and

project characteristics, the team leader’s characteris-

tics explain a significant amount of variance in the

internal dynamics of the team, especially in the con-

fronting (.39), collaboration (.65), communication

quality (.42), and formality (.52) outcome variables.

Of the characteristics examined in this study, part-

icipative behavior and initiation of goal structure by

the team leader appear to have the most influence on

the internal dynamics of NPD teams. In particular

and as expected, team leader participation has a

strong positive relationship with functional conflict

resolution behaviors such as confronting (g5 .38, p � .001) and smoothing (g5 .30, p � .001) and a strong negative relationship with dysfunctional con-

flict resolution behaviors like forcing (g5 � .34, p � .001) and withdrawal (g5 � .33, p � .01). NPD teams with participative leaders also displayed greater

collaboration (g5 .31, p � .001), communication fre- quency (g5 .16, p � .01), and quality (g5 .22, p � .001). Also consistent with expectations, part- icipative behavior was seen to lead to less formal

communication within the team (g5 � .06, p � .05). In contrast to past research (e.g., Antonioni, 1996;

McDonough, 2000; Norrgren and Schaller, 1999) the

present study’s results indicate that, after controlling

for team and project characteristics, the influence ex-

erted by team leader consideration on the internal

team dynamics was surprisingly weak. Consideration

was positively related to functional conflict resolution

behaviors like confronting (g5 .11, p � .05) and com- promising (g5 .15, p � .001) but little else. Further, members of teams led by considerate team leaders

were likely to communicate with one another less fre-

quently (g5 � .01, p � .01). Similar weak effects were seen for the initiation of

process structure by the team leader. Although previ-

ous research differed on the expected directionality of

the influence of process structure (e.g., Antonioni,

1996; McDonough, 2000; Parker, 1994; Peterson,

1997; Porter and Lilly, 1996; Wilemon and Thamh-

ain, 1983), they nonetheless predicted a significant

effect on team dynamics. However, as in the case of

consideration, it was found that after accounting for

team and project characteristics, the influence exerted

by the initiation of process structure by the team

leader was surprisingly sparse. Process structure was

positively related to compromising (g5 .11, p � .05) and communication formality (g5 .03, p � .05); it did not have a significant effect on any other aspect of the

internal dynamics of NPD teams.

Table 1. Intraclass Coefficients (ICC) and Level of Anal- ysis of the Independent and Control Variables

Variable ICC Level of Analysis

Participation .107 L2 Consideration .203 L2 Goal Structure .074 L1 Process Structure .004 L1 Leader Position .211 L2 Team Size .187 L2 Functional Diversity .643 L2 Project Length .257 L2 Project Complexity .277 L2 Project Risk .300 L2

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