Unpacking Team Familiarity: The Effects of Geographic Location and Hierarchical Role

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Abstract

Examination of team productivity finds that team familiarity, i.e., individuals' prior shared work experience, can positively impact the efficiency and quality of team output. Despite the attention given to team familiarity and its contingencies, prior work has focused on whether team members have worked together, not on which team members have worked together, and under what conditions. In this paper, I parse overall team familiarity to consider effects of geographic location and the hierarchical roles of team members. Using data on all software-development projects completed over 3 years at a large Indian firm in the global outsourced software services industry, I find that team familiarity gained when team members work together in the same location has a significantly more positive effect on team performance compared with team familiarity gained while members were collaborating in different locations. Additionally, I find that hierarchical team familiarity (a manager's experience with front-line team members) and horizontal team familiarity (front-line team members' experience gained with one another) have differential effects on project team performance. These findings provide insight into the relationship between team experience and team performance.

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