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

34 Pages Posted: 18 Jun 2009 Last revised: 22 Sep 2012

See all articles by Robert S. Huckman

Robert S. Huckman

Harvard Business School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Bradley R. Staats

University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School

Date Written: August 12, 2010

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.

Keywords: Diversity, Knowledge Work, Project Flexibility, Task Change, Team Familiarity

Suggested Citation

Huckman, Robert S. and Staats, Bradley R., Fluid Tasks and Fluid Teams: The Impact of Diversity in Experience and Team Familiarity on Team Performance (August 12, 2010). Harvard Business School Technology & Operations Mgt. Unit Working Paper No. 09-145. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1421867 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1421867

Robert S. Huckman

Harvard Business School ( email )

Technology & Operations Management
435 Morgan Hall
Boston, MA 02163
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Bradley R. Staats (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School ( email )

McColl Building, CB#3490
Chapel Hill, NC 27599
United States

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