James Dillon is a PhD candidate in Organizational Behavior at Harvard Business School. His current research examines strategy-formulation processes within the ranks of senior management. It explains how CEOs use multiple “strategy teams” to impose discipline on an unwieldy stream of strategic issues, while simultaneously creating an adaptive strategy process and superior innovation and competitive outcomes. This team-based view of strategic work in top management offers new insights into the activities, tasks, and routines of strategic leadership.
James's research merges insights from studies of work-team effectiveness with research on organizational strategy processes to describe how the design of group work in top management shapes strategic and organizational outcomes. This research builds on his prior work on learning in teams and the process of leadership development, including the effects of career experiences on the performance of leadership teams and their firms.
Long term, James’s research program is devoted to understanding how organizing practices can foster adaptive processes in organizations.
Prior to joining the doctoral program at Harvard, he worked as a strategy consultant at Monitor Group and a research associate at Harvard Business School. He continues to advise companies on the relationship between organizing and strategizing in the context of competitive and technological change. James holds a degree in accounting from Brigham Young University and masters degrees in social psychology and in education from Harvard University.
Three Perspectives on Team Learning: Outcome Improvement, Task Mastery, and Group Process.
The emergence of a research literature on team learning has been driven by at least two factors. First, longstanding interest in what makes organizational work teams effective leads naturally to questions about how members of newly formed teams learn to work together and how existing teams improve or adapt. Second, some have argued that teams play a crucial role in organizational learning. These interests have produced a growing and heterogeneous literature. Empirical studies of learning by small groups or teams present a variety of terms, concepts, and methods. This heterogeneity is both generative and occasionally confusing. We identify three distinct areas of research that provide insight into how teams learn to stimulate cross-area discussion and future research. We find that scholars have made progress in understanding how teams in general learn, and propose that future work should develop more precise and context-specific theories to help guide research and practice in disparate task and industry domains.
Groups and Teams;
Edmondson, Amy C., James R. Dillon, and Kate Roloff. "Three Perspectives on Team Learning: Outcome Improvement, Task Mastery, and Group Process." In The Academy of Management Annals
, edited by James P. Walsh and Arthur P. Brief, 269–314. Psychology Press, 2007.
Career Patterns and Organizational Performance
Traditional research on careers examines how organizations and individuals affect career outcomes. This chapter reviews several specific ways in which career histories have been found to influence organizational outcomes. While we incorporate both upper echelons research and insights from other streams of research that bear on senior executive mobility, we also examine emerging research that takes a finer-grained look at careers as patterns of experience that influence organizations and their industries. We suggest several mechanisms that link executive career histories to organizational outcomes: (1) the strategic decision-making process of management teams (affected by the diversity of its members' career backgrounds); (2) the substance or resources that executives carry with them (including human capital, such as international or industry experience, and social capital, such as relationships with potential investors or clients); and (3) the signals that prestigious career histories send to external constituencies, such as potential investors, creditors, and alliance partners. We end the chapter with three directions for future research: studying dynamic career patterns, the influence of key organization members outside a firm's upper echelon, and the symbiotic relationship between careers and organizations.
Higgins, Monica C., and James R. Dillon. "Career Patterns and Organizational Performance." Chap. 21 in Handbook of Career Studies
, edited by M. Peiperl and H. Gunz, 422–436. Sage Publications, 2007.
Teams at the Top: Revisiting the Structure and Effects of Strategic Work in Top Management
This paper examines the usage and effects of small work groups by top management in the course of guiding an organization's strategy process. Reviewing evidence from research literatures on strategy process, strategic leadership, and small groups, I propose that a more fluid set of team boundaries among executives may represent a tool deliberately used by executives to structure their work and manage the strategy process, rather than being a methodological or managerial roadblock. Then, using qualitative field data from two large companies, I develop a typology of strategy teams and their impact on the organization and the strategy process itself. The resulting image of team-based, strategic work in top management suggests novel insights into the activities, tasks, and routines of strategic leadership, and thus contributes to burgeoning work on the microfoundations and practice of strategy.
Keywords: Management Teams;
Management Analysis, Tools, and Techniques;
Dillon, James R. "Teams at the Top: Revisiting the Structure and Effects of Strategic Work in Top Management." Paper presented at the Transatlantic Doctoral Conference, London Business School, 2010.
Antecedents of Boundary Spanning in Cross-functional NPD Teams
Boundary spanning has been shown in prior research to enhance innovativeness and performance of product development teams. In this study, we examine team conditions that foster boundary spanning behavior. We analyze survey data from 207 members of 54 cross-functional product development teams in 5 high-tech companies to examine the effects of product characteristics, team composition, and context on boundary spanning. Results of hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) show that boundary-spanning behavior is greater when teams face more product complexity, when the team leader has positional power and an inclusive leadership style, and in organizational contexts that support cross-functional integration.
Keywords: Product Development;
Innovation and Invention;
Groups and Teams;
Power and Influence;
Dillon, James R., Shikhar Sarin, and Amy C. Edmondson. "Antecedents of Boundary Spanning in Cross-functional NPD Teams." Paper presented at the Product Development and Management Association Annual Global Conference on Product Innovation Management, Orlando, FL, September 2007.
Team-based strategic work among senior executives
My research centers on a study of organizational design for senior-executive work on strategy. I examine the role of small groups that are tasked with resolving strategic issues, and I consider the effects of such team-based organizing models on strategic innovation and performance. Primary data about organizing practices for this comparative case study comes from interviews---with senior executives and other managers---that I am conducting at 6 large corporations. Outcome data comes from public filings, financial databases, and qualitative assessments made by interviewees.