Managing Cost Salience and Procrastination in Projects: Compensation and Team Composition

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Abstract

The rising trend of projects with high-skilled and autonomous contributors increasingly exposes managers to the risk of idiosyncratic individual behaviors. In this article, we examine the effects of an important behavioral factor, an individual's cost salience. Cost salience leads individuals to perceive the cost of immediate effort to be larger than the cost of future effort. This leads to procrastination in early stages and back-loaded effort over the course of the project. We model the problem confronting the manager of a project whose quality is adversely impacted by such distortion of individual effort over time. Complementary to prior works focused on the planning and scheduling tasks of project management in the absence of human behavior, we find that managers should reward contributions made in earlier stages of a project. Our analysis also yields interesting insights on the project team performance: teams with diverse levels of cost salience will perform better than homogeneous teams. We also address another important facet of team composition, namely, the choice between stable and fluid teams, and find that the practice of creating fluid teams might have previously unrecognized benefits when behavioral aspects of projects are considered. We conclude with insights and organizational implications for project managers.

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