Article | Management Science | January 2009

Team Familiarity, Role Experience, and Performance: Evidence from Indian Software Services

by Robert S. Huckman, Bradley R. Staats and David M. Upton


Much of the literature on team learning views experience as a unidimensional concept captured by the cumulative production volume of, or the number of projects completed by, a team. Implicit in this approach is the assumption that teams are stable in their membership and internal organization. In practice, however, such stability is rare, as the composition and structure of teams often changes over time or between projects. In this paper, we use detailed data from an Indian software services firm to examine how such changes may affect the accumulation of experience within, and the performance of, teams. We find that the level of team familiarity (i.e., the average number of times that each member has worked with every other member of the team) has a significant positive effect on performance, but we observe that conventional measures of the experience of individual team members (e.g., years at the firm) are not consistently related to performance. We do find, however, that the role experience of individuals in a team (i.e., years in a given role within a team) is associated with better team performance. Our results offer an approach for capturing the experience held by fluid teams and highlight the need to study context-specific measures of experience, including role experience. In addition, our findings provide insight into how the interactions of team members may contribute to the development of broader firm capabilities.

Keywords: Experience and Expertise; Learning; Performance Improvement; Projects; Groups and Teams; Familiarity; Information Technology Industry; India;


Huckman, Robert S., Bradley R. Staats, and David M. Upton. "Team Familiarity, Role Experience, and Performance: Evidence from Indian Software Services." Management Science 55, no. 1 (January 2009): 85–100.