Constructing the Team: The Antecedents and Effects of Membership Model Divergence

64 Pages Posted: 7 Jan 2012 Last revised: 9 Mar 2013

See all articles by Mark Mortensen

Mark Mortensen

INSEAD - Organisational Behaviour

Date Written: March 08, 2013


Scholars have established that team membership has wide-ranging effects on cognition, dynamics, processes and performance. Underlying that scholarship is the assumption that team membership – who is and who is not a team member – is straightforward, unambiguous and agreed upon by all members. Contrary to this assumption, I posit that mental models of membership increasingly diverge within teams as a result of changing environmental conditions. I build on the literatures on membership and on shared mental models to explore such “membership model divergence”. In a study of 38 formally defined software and product development teams, I test a model of structural and emergent drivers of membership model divergence, and examine its effect on performance operating through team-level cognition. I use the findings of this study to explore its implications for both management theory and managerial practice.

Keywords: Teams, Membership, Composition, Boundaries, Perception, Mental Models, Project-based Work

Suggested Citation

Mortensen, Mark, Constructing the Team: The Antecedents and Effects of Membership Model Divergence (March 08, 2013). INSEAD Working Paper No. 2013/37/OB, Available at SSRN: or

Mark Mortensen (Contact Author)

INSEAD - Organisational Behaviour ( email )

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