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Executive Education
Designing and Leading Management Teams

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Books and Articles

Deboarah G. Ancona and David A. Nadler, “Top Hats and Executive Tales: Designing the Senior Team,”  Sloan Management Review, Fall, 1989, 31(1), pp. 19-28.

Senior teams of management are emerging in many US firms in response to increasingly complex internal and external demands, as well as to the timeless problem of executive succession.  Significant differences exist between executive teams and other management structures, including: 1.  salience of the external environment, 2.  complexity of the task, 3.  intensified political behavior, 4.  fixed pie rewards, 5.  increased visibility, and 6.  the unique role of the chief executive officer as team leader.  The effectiveness of an executive team is determined by how well the processes of work management, relationship management, and external boundary management are conducted; however, these processes are influenced by the elements of team design - composition, structure, and succession.  By using these elements to create processes that meet internal and external requirements, the single most critical challenge in creating effective management teams can be accomplished.     

Christopher A.  Bartlett and Sumantra Ghoshal, “Changing the role of top management: Beyond systems to people,” Harvard Business Review, May/Jun, 1995,  73(3), pp. 132-142.

In the postwar years, planning and control systems were the tools that enabled companies to grow and helped managers deal with sprawling enterprises.  Yet many of the problems companies experience today are inherent in the strategy-structure-systems doctrine that produced those tools.  The systems that allowed managers to control employees also inhibited creativity and initiative.  Today the challenge for top-level managers is to engage the knowledge and skills of each person in the organization in order to create an "individualized corporation."  In this kind of company, managers personally develop up-and-coming leaders and deploy them strategically within the organization.  Executives may spend 1/2 or more of their time coaching their management teams.  In the individualized corporation, top-level managers do not direct and correct middle and frontline managers, they create an environment in which individuals monitor themselves.

Warren Bennis, “Leading teams,” Executive Excellence, March, 1998, 15(3), pp. 6.

The leadership trick today is knowing how to organize genius, herd cats, and work well in teams.  Four different factors have brought groups to their current performance: 1.  participative management, 2.  the rapidity and complexity of change driven by globalization and technology, 3.  seismic shifts in the geopolitical landscape, and 4.  more people are feeling alone, disaffiliated, disenfranchised, anxious, and often dyspeptic.  Empowerment and participative management are hard necessities.

Harlow B.  Cohen,  “The performance paradox,” Academy of Management Executive, August, 1998, 12(3), pp. 30-40.

Many management teams may know what they should do to improve their performance dramatically - not 5% or 10%, but 25%, 50% or 100%.  However, the management team ignores, avoids, delays or simply acts contrary to what they already know they should do.  Unfortunately, this contradiction appears to be more prevalent and common than anyone would care to admit.  Confronting one's dinosaurs or admitting that obvious improvement opportunities have been ignored, perhaps for years, takes courage.  Taking full accountability for results rather than engaging in avoidance behaviors or deferring to expedient change programs, is also not easy.  However, waiting until an organization is on its death bed might be too late to make a difference. 

Kathleen M. Eisenhardt, “Making Fast Strategic Decisions in High-Velocity Environments,”  Academy of Management Journal, September, 1989, 32(3), pp. 543-576. 

The speed of strategic decision making is explored via a multiple-case design that allows a replication logic; 8 microcomputer firms are examined.  The study also uses an embedded design focusing on each firm at 3 levels - top management team, strategic decision, and firm performance.  The 4 data sources are initial chief executive officer interviews, semistructured interviews with each member of a firm's top management team, questionnaires completed by each member of the team, and secondary sources.  Results indicate that fast decision makers use more, rather than less, information than do slow decision makers.  The former also develop more, rather than fewer, alternatives, and use a 2-tiered advice process.  Conflict resolution and integration among strategic decisions and tactical plans are also critical in regard to the pace of decision making.  Fast decisions based upon this pattern of behavior lead to superior performance.  An emergent view places crucial importance up  on top management teams.  It also emphasizes a complex perspective on cognition and highlights emotions as integral to highstakes decision making.    

Kathleen M.  Eisenhardt and L. J.  Bourgeois III, “Politics of Strategic Decision Making in High-Velocity Environments: Toward a Midrange Theory,”  Academy of Management Journal, December, 1988,  31(4), pp. 737-770.

A midrange theory linking power, politics, and performance in the "high-velocity" microcomputer industry was induced from a study of 8 firms in the San Francisco Bay area of California.  Every member of each top management team was interviewed.  Quantitative data on political patterns within each group also were obtained from questionnaires introduced during interviews.  Results indicated that politics arise from power centralization.  It was found that autocratic chief executive officers participate in politics and create political behavior among subordinates.  It also was found that politics are not organized into temporary and shifting alliances founded on issues; instead, they are organized into stable coalitions founded on demographic characteristics, such as office location and age.  Politics within top management teams were found to be associated with poor firm performance.       

Kathleen M.  Eisenhardt, Jean L.  Kahwajy, and L. J. Bourgeois III, “Conflict and strategic choice:  How top management teams disagree,” California Management Review, Winter, 1997,  39(2), pp. 42-62.

Substantive conflict is natural within top management teams as executives struggle with making high-stakes choices under conditions of ambiguity and uncertainty.  Yet, many top management teams fail to sufficiently debate appropriate courses of action.  There are 4 managerial levers that can help executives overcome the cognitive, emotional, and political barriers to engaging in conflict: 1.  Build a heterogeneous team.  2.  Create frequent interactions within that team.  3.  Cultivate a distinct symphony of roles around fundamental tensions within managing.  4.  Use multiple-lens tactics such as competitor role playing and multiple alternatives to provide unexpected vantage points on key issues.  

Kathleen M.  Eisenhardt, “Strategy as strategic decision making,” Sloan Management Review, Spring, 1999,  40(3), pp. 65-72.

Research on entrepreneurial and diversified businesses demonstrates that successful firms in competitive markets have fast, high-quality, and widely supported strategic decision making processes.  These firms use 4 approaches to create strategy:  1.  Management teams build collective intuition.  2.  Executives stimulate conflict by assembling diverse teams, challenging them through framebreaking tactics, and stressing multiple alternatives to improve the quality of decision making.  3.  Effective decision makers focus on maintaining decision pace, not pushing decision speed.  4.  Managers on successful teams take a negative view of politicking.  Together these approaches direct executive attention toward strategic decision making as the cornerstone of effective strategy. 

David S. Friedman, “Help Wanted,” The McKinsey Quarterly, No. 1, 1998, pp. 35-44.

Americas service sector has created millions of new jobs. That’s the problem, Companies will need to segment labor markets or change the way they produce a service, Turning dead-end jobs into careers.

Jay R. Galbraith, Organizing for the Future:  The New Logic for Managing Complex Organizations, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1993.

Based on more than ten years of research conducted by staff and associates at the University of Southern California's Center for Effective Organizations, this book explores key issues of organizational design and identifies practical new approaches for managing complex organizations to add value and stay competitive in a changing global marketplace. The authors describe how to create an organization with high levels of employee involvement and new roles for managers. They detail the use of new organizational forms, including knowledge work and managerial teams, and structuring human resource systems around skill levels.

Michael George, Anthony Freeling and David Court, “Reinventing the Marketing Organization,” McKinsey Quarterly, No. 4, 1997, pp. 43-62.

A field report on how leading marketers are moving beyond their traditional organizations.

Donald C. Hambrick, “The Top Management Team:  Key to Strategic Success,” California Management Review, Fall, 1987.

The top executive who seeks strategic success will work first and foremost at assembling a managerial team well suited to formulating and implementing strategies in the particular competitive environment faced by the firm. This article presents an analytical framework for assessing and designing top management teams. The value of the framework, illustrated in the case of an actual general manager grappling with an appraisal of his top team, lies in specifying the elements of this important process and identifying the range of issues the manager must consider.

Avan R. Jassawalla and Hemant C. Sashittal, “Strategies of Effective New Product Team Leaders, California Management Review, Spring 2000.

Most leaders of new product teams are aware of the complexity of the problem they confront and the changes that must occur before cross-functional teamwork can accelerate new product development processes. Most know, for instance, that promoting cross-functional thinking, collaborative decision making, and concurrent organization of new product workflow are advantageous. Only a select few, however, consistently act on these insights and affect meaningful changes. The differences between more and less effective leaders lies less in what they espouse or profess and more in the process by which they learn and form new visions and develop new ways of defining their behaviors.

M Audrey Korsgaard and David M. Schweiger and Harry J. Sapienza, “Building commitment, attachment, and trust in strategic decision-making teams: The role of procedural justice,” Academy of Management Journal, February, 1995, 38(1), pp. 60-84.

A study examined how decision-making procedures can facilitate the positive attitudes necessary for cooperative relations in decision-making teams.  It is hypothesized that consideration of member input and members' influence on a decision affect their perceptions of procedural fairness and their commitment to the decision, attachment to the group, and trust in its leader.  An experiment with intact teams of middle- and upper-level managers was conducted.  An intact management team is a pre-existing, relatively permanent team of employees, as opposed to an ad hoc group.  The sample consisted of 20 intact management teams of a Fortune 500 company participating in its executive development program on strategic management.  The experiment indicated that perceived fairness partially mediated the impact of procedures on commitment, attachment and trust.     

Donald C.  Hambrick, “Fragmentation and the other problems CEOs have with their top management teams, “ California Management Review, Spring, 1995,  37(3), pp. 110-127.

Deficiencies within a top management team (TMT) can gravely impair a firm's performance and vitality.  Based on interviews with 23 CEOs of major companies in the US and Europe, an analysis identifies the 5 major problems CEOs have with their TMTs: 1.  inadequate capabilities of a single executive, 2.  a common team-wide shortcoming, 3.  harmful internal rivalries, 4.  groupthink, and 5.  fragmentation.  Fragmentation, the most critical problem, is the case of the team that is not a team at all, but rather a mere constellation of senior executives pursuing their own agendas, with a minimum of collaboration or exchange.  Fragmentation often stems from success, and a fragmented team may operate adequately under conditions of stability.  But, in the face of a major environmental shift affecting the whole firm, the fragmented team is slow, acts in a piecemeal fashion, and is generally maladaptive.  Suggestions for overcoming the problem of TMT fragmentation are offered.   

Donald C.  Hambrick, “The Top Management Team: Key to Strategic Success,” California Management Review, Fall, 1987,  30(1), pp. 88-108.

A framework for systematically evaluating and reshaping top management teams is proposed.  The framework is illustrated by the case of a general manager who applied it for team analysis as part of an overall effort to reverse the performance of an ailing business.  The framework includes: 1.  understanding the context in which the team will operate, 2.  developing an ideal profile for the team, 3.  assessing the current team carefully and fairly, and 4.  developing a plan for closing the gaps between ideal and actuality.  Broad areas in which the general manager will want to develop a customized set of profiling dimensions are: 1.  values, 2.  aptitudes, 3.  skills, 4.  knowledge, 5.  cognitive style, and 6.  demeanor.  A plan for closing or narrowing the gaps between the ideal and actual team profile must be constructed.  Options involve bringing new people onto the team or efforts to secure more types of contributions from existing members.  If the needed changes are infeasible, the manager must loop back in the analysis and rethink the context in which the team will operate.    

Lynda C. McDermott, William W. Waite and Nolan Brawley, World Class Teams: Working Across Borders, New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1998.

Companies who want to compete successfully in the global marketplace must be able to develop innovative products and services that will have healthy markets throughout the world. To meet these demands, companies are relying on teams made up of individuals from diverse backgrounds who pool their expertise in order to complete specific projects. World Class Teams addresses the issues which surround the task of creating and managing successful cross-cultural teams. The authors draw heavily on their experiences with such international firms as Pfizer, Compaq, AT&T, Coca-Cola, and Motorola to offer the most current and complete information on managing diverse teams.

Susan Mohrman, Jay R. Galbraith, Edward E., Lawler III, Tomorrow’s Organization:  Crafting Winning Capabilities in a Dynamic World, San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 1998.

This book is a comprehensive examination of the changing nature of work and the changing character of the workplace. The role of human resources management is depicted in an expanded role that assumes a cross-functional position in the modern organization. Training is seen as a process of continuous learning rather than a preparation process. Teamwork is shown as an essential facet of technology as projects are too complex to be assigned to individuals. The authors describe an organizational architecture that combines market, social, and technical skills. The individual is described in a nested position within a group, within a business unit, within an organization.

David A. Nadler, and Michael Tushman, Competing by Design:  The Power of Organizational Architecture, New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

The search for competitive advantage, write management consultants and educators David Nadler and Michael Tushman, is "the defining goal of modern-day business." Competing by Design: The Power of Organizational Architecture, is their guide to reaching that goal through total integration of corporate structure, workplace culture, and employee motivation. Bringing all such processes together into one unified organization, they contend, is as important to a company's future as the architectural unity of the building that houses it.  

Wm Gerard  Sanders and Mason A.  Carpenter, “Internationalization and firm governance:  The roles of CEO compensation, top team composition, and board structure,” Academy of Management Journal, April, 1998,  41(2), pp. 158-178.

Using the complementary lenses of information-processing and agency theories, a study tests the proposition that the complexity resulting from a firm's degree of internationalization will be accommodated by its governance structure.  Results from a sample of large US firms support this perspective, suggesting that firms manage and cope with the information-processing demands and agency issues arising from internationalization through higher, longer-term CEO pay, larger top management teams, and the separation of chairperson and CEO positions

Benson Shapiro, “Functional Integration:  Getting All the Troops to Work Together,” Harvard Business Review, November, 1989

Explains the need for functional integration and the four ways to obtain it.

James B. Thomas and Reuben R.  McDaniel Jr., “Interpreting Strategic Issues: Effects of Strategy and the Information-Processing Structure of Top Management Teams,” Academy of Management Journal, June, 1990, 33(2), pp. 286-306.

Understanding how managers interpret strategic issues is important to understanding strategic action, organizational change, and learning.  However, little is known about how the context in which strategic issues are interpreted relates to the nature of interpretation.  A study of 151 hospital chief executive officers (CEO) employed a cross-sectional analysis to investigate how 2 organization-level factors - strategy and the information-processing structure of the top management team - related to how CEOs in different organizations interpreted the same situation.  The results indicated that both factors are related to how CEOs label strategic situations and the range of variables they use during interpretation.  The findings suggest that, if CEOs want to alter their interpretation of their environment and the range of variables they consider in interpretation efforts, they may wish to manage their top management team's capacity to gather, process, and convey information. 

Margarethe F. Wiersema and Allan  Bird, “Organizational demography in Japanese firms: Group heterogeneity, individual dissimilarity, and top management team turnover,” Academy of Management Journal, October, 1993, 36(5), pp. 996-1025.

Demography theory's focus is on how compositional characteristics influence interpersonal dynamics within a group.  It is demonstrated how demography theory can be extended to non-US settings by developing a comprehensive model of factors that vary across nations and may moderate the link between demographic characteristics and organizational outcomes.  It is proposed that constraints on variation as well as sociocultural and organizational processes moderate the attention people pay to individual differences, thereby influencing demographic effects.  By examining the effects of the composition of top management teams in Japanese firms, it is found that heterogeneity on age, team tenure, and the prestige of the university attended were significant correlates of team turnover.  Moreover, these findings were substantially stronger than those of comparable studies in the US, suggesting that factors associated with changes in ethnological context mediate demographic effects.   

Margarethe F.  Wiersema and Karen A.  Bantel, “Top Management Team Demography and Corporate Strategic Change, “ Academy of Management Journal, March, 1992,  35(1), pp. 91-121.

The relationship between the demography of top management teams and corporate strategic change, measured as absolute change in diversification level, was examined via a sample of Fortune 500 companies.  Controlling for prior firm performance, organizational size, top team size, and industry structure, it was found that the firms most likely to undergo changes in corporate strategy had top management teams characterized by lower average age, shorter organizational tenure, higher team tenure, higher educational level, higher educational specialization heterogeneity, and higher academic training in the sciences than other teams.  The results suggested that top managers' cognitive perspectives, as reflected in a team's demographic characteristics, are linked to the team's propensity to change corporate strategy.     

Jeanne M.  Wilson and Richard S. Wellins, “Leading teams,” Executive Excellence, June, 1995,  12(6), pp. 7-8.

Moving to a team-based culture is not so difficult if leaders learn the new skills.  Five new realities include: 1.  Empowered teams need good leaders.  2.  Leaders gain power in the transition to teams.  3.  Most leaders are capable of making the transition successfully.  4.  New leaders must be direct.  5.  Leaders need to relax - it is okay to make mistakes.  Once leaders have discarded the myths and embraced the new realities, they still find that becoming a high-involvement leader is a whole new game.  New skills fall into 2 categories: 1.  tactical skills that must be mastered by participative leaders, and 2.  strategic skills essential for leading in high-involvement, team-based organizations.

Case Studies

Maurice  Hardaker, Bryan K. Ward, “How to Make a Team Work,” Harvard Business Review, Nov/Dec, 1987,  65(6), pp. 112-120.

IBM Corp.  uses a technique called Process Quality Management (PQM) to help ensure that managers understand where the firm is heading and agree on steps necessary for success.  Like other planning processes, PQM identifies goals and the activities critical to their attainment and provides a way to measure success.  However, PQM demands an intensive 1- or 2-day session at which all the key managers concerned agree on what must be done and accept specific responsibility.  The first step in the PQM effort is to develop a clear understanding of the management team's mission.  The team then identifies critical success factors (CSF).  Next, a list of what must be done to meet the CSFs is compiled and ranked according to each process' impact on the team's mission.  Follow-through also is required; after deciding on the nature of the improvement needed, relevant process measurements should be established and resources applied to make the appropriate adjustments.  The CSF list should be reviewed about once a year, or whenever a significant change has taken place in a team's mission, its makeup, or the marketplace.  Illustration.



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