My research program seeks to identify leadership and organizing practices that foster positive change in organizations: personal growth, strategic learning, organizational renewal.
I am currently studying (1) the organization of senior management work on strategy and innovation (and adding firms to the study, so contact me if you are interested), as well as (2) an investigation of individual- and team-level actions that enable organizations to adapt to their environments.
Executive Strategy Teams
My primary line of research investigates how senior management teams organize their work on strategy to enable strategic innovation as well as execution of existing strategy.
I begin by examining an organizing practice that is almost absent from the academic literature, but is familiar to any senior manager: the use of ad-hoc working groups at the highest levels of the strategy process. These executive-level project teams are formed to deal with a variety of strategically important issues that surface at the top of a company. I call such groups episodic strategy teams (ESTs).
This research study includes about 30 such teams in six large businesses, drawing on detailed interviews with managers at those firms. The focus on multi strategy teams has opened a new window into strategy making at the top of companies. It reveals a dispersed, adaptive learning process that can result in not only deliberate decisions by the top management team, but also (a) emergent decisions, (b) changes to the future process of strategy-making, and (c) changes to the organizational structure itself.
This novel perspective on executive teams allows me to merge insights from studies of work-team effectiveness with research on strategy processes to understand how the design of group work in top management shapes strategic and organizational outcomes.
Taking a team-based view of strategic work in top management offers new insights into the activities, tasks, and routines of strategic management. My findings have implications for the academic study of top management teams, the strategy process, and organizational learning.
Equally important are implications for CEOs and other executives who will learn how to use multiple “strategy teams” to impose discipline on an unwieldy stream of strategic issues, while simultaneously creating an adaptive strategy process and superior innovation and competitive outcomes. Such teams, both of the episodic and permanent variety, are a powerful tool that CEOs can use to shape the strategic conversation and organization in their firms.
Learning and Adaptation in Organizations
My secondary line of research considers the micro-and meso-level actions that enhance or constrain an organization’s ability to adapt. A theory paper — grounded in a wide range of literature on organizational learning, professional development, and adaptation — is in draft form. The paper integrates the results of empirical studies on adaptation from multiple levels of analysis; ultimately, it addresses concepts that are central to existing theories about organizational learning and evolution, managerial agency, and dynamic capabilities. It will be followed by a targeted empirical study.
Additional information about previous work, now published or presented at conferences, can be found on my publications page. These include the following:
A review of research on learning in work teams from scholars in operations effectiveness, organizational behavior, and social psychology. It suggests a variety of ways teams can become more effective performing units over time, and factors that make them more effective for different task types, such as innovation versus routine work. We also consider the large number of ways in which teams can be considered to “learn” or improve over time.
A review of work explaining how career history shapes the impact an individual has on an organization. Most careers research considers how organizations affect individuals’ careers. We look at the opposite effect, and discuss the range of ways the work experience of individuals shapes their firms: through the skills, connections, and reputation they bring from their past work to their future work. Moreover, careers and organizations can have a recursive effect on one another, creating the so-called “GE effect,” where a firm shapes it’s managers’ career experience in profound ways that later effect the trajectories of companies or entire industries.