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  Working Together Effectively Before It All Goes Downhill  Premium

O'Leary, Michael; Mortensen, Mark; Woolley, Anita
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Multiple team membership (MTM) is a reality in today’s workplace, with high-value employees lending their expertise to a variety of project teams. An estimated 65 percent of knowledge workers in the United States and Europe, for example, engage in MTM to some degree. But what is the effect of MTM on productivity and learning for individuals, teams and, ultimately, organizations? According to the authors, three mediators – context switching, temporal misalignment and intra-organizational connectivity – affect the allocation of attention and the flow of information at the individual, team and organizational levels, respectively. Understanding the role each plays is critical to ensure project success and avoid employee burnout. The authors suggest that MTM has an inverted U-shaped effect at all three levels – that is, there comes a point when the benefits derived from MTM tip over into costs. Moderation is key for managers hoping to bolster the effectiveness of MTM in their own organizations.

Tools and Frameworks:

> “Tipping the Balance” shows that if MTM is not moderated, the positive effects of MTM on productivity and learning can be undermined.

Examples Cited:

Professionals who work in MTM environments are quoted extensively throughout the article.

Research Basis:
The authors reviewed the limited existing research on MTM and conducted their own survey of more than 400 professionals about the prevalence and nature of MTM in their work. They also interviewed a sample of 13 professionals in an organization that makes heavy use of MTM.

About the Authors:
Michael O’Leary is an assistant professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.

Mark Mortensen is an assistant professor of Organization Studies at the MIT Sloan School of Management and at INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France.

Anita Woolley is an assistant professor of Organizational Behavior & Theory at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business.
This article is based on:  Working Together Effectively Before It All Goes Downhill
Publisher:  Estudios y Ediciones IESE
Year:  2010
Language:  English
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