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Improving Screening Decision Making through Transactive Memory Systems: A Field Study


  • Wafa Hammedi,

  • Allard C. R. van Riel,

  • Zuzana Sasovova

  • This article benefitted from comments on previous drafts by Leonie Houtman and participants of the EaSt research seminar at the VU University Amsterdam. We would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers and Prof. Anthony Di Benedetto for the editorial guidance. The first author gratefully acknowledges financial support of the Belgian National Bank.

Address correspondence to: Wafa Hammedi, Louvain School of Management, University of Namur (FUNDP), Rempart de la Vierge 8, B-5000 Namur, Belgium. E-mail: Tel: 32 81 72 48 73.


In screening decisions, senior managers from various disciplines need to collaborate to evaluate innovation project proposals and decide about the allocation of scarce resources to selected projects. Screening decisions are complex and made under high levels of uncertainty, and are considered to be one of senior management's most challenging tasks. In the present field study, screening decision making is investigated from the perspective of a Transactive Memory System (TMS). TMS theory explains how cross-disciplinary groups of people in interdependent relationships gain, store, combine, and utilize their knowledge in solving complex problems. According to this theory, a TMS emerges to the extent that team members manage to synchronize three core socio-cognitive processes—specialization, building credibility, and coordination—to achieve team objectives. A theoretical model summarizing antecedents and consequences of the emergence of a TMS in a screening context is proposed and investigated using structural equation modeling. Data from 136 screening committees were used. Results show that the degree to which a committee acts as a TMS is positively related to decision-making effectiveness as well as efficiency in a screening context. Transformational leadership and an open organizational climate are shown to act as antecedents of TMS emergence. Theoretical and managerial implications of these findings are discussed.