CUTTING ACROSS TEAM BOUNDARIES: ANTECEDENTS AND IMPLICATIONS OF INDIVIDUAL BOUNDARY SPANNING BEHAVIOR WITHIN CONSULTING TEAMS

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2004-07-28

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Boundary spanning activities, or external team processes such as establishing and managing relationships with key external parties to the team, are critical to the success of many organizational work teams. Surprisingly, however, while the performance benefits of team boundary management have been documented in several seminal pieces by Ancona and her colleagues (e.g., Ancona, 1990; Ancona & Caldwell, 1992), little research has directly explored the role of the individual team members in carrying out these critical activities or if performance benefits exist for those engaging in boundary management for their teams.

My dissertation addresses these limitations by considering potential predictors and consequences of individual boundary spanning behavior within a team setting. By investigating several personal and motivational antecedents to boundary spanning, I seek to expand previous teams research by predicting why particular team members engage in critical boundary spanning behaviors. Furthermore, complementing existing support for the performance benefits accompanying boundary management at the team level of analysis, I explore the consequences of boundary spanning on individual level outcomes, namely, peer ratings of individual leadership and contributions to the team. Finally, I present two sets of alternative hypotheses postulating a mediating and a moderating role for information network centrality in the boundary spanning behavior-individual outcome relationship.

Hypotheses for this dissertation were tested using data from 27 consulting teams, comprised of 171 full-time MBA students. Data were collected primarily through surveys administered to team members at multiple points in time and were analyzed via hierarchical linear modeling, regression, and social network techniques.

Results indicated partial support for the predictive value of self-monitoring, proactive personality, and boundary management self-efficacy on an individual's engagement in boundary spanning behaviors within their team. Additionally, boundary spanning directed toward clients and general scanning / scouting of the environment showed strong relationships with peer ratings of individual leadership and contributions, revealing that those engaging in boundary spanning behaviors were highly valued team members. Interestingly, the relationships between these boundary spanning behaviors and individual outcomes were fully mediated by information network centrality. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

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