Doctoral Student

Patricia Satterstrom

Patricia Satterstrom is a doctoral candidate in Management at Harvard Business School. Her dissertation proposes a model of dynamic hierarchy and explores the role multi-disciplinary groups can play in creating a more flexible power structure in organizations. In addition to her field work in health care, Patā€™s lab projects explore people's perceptions of teams, communication in multilingual groups, and creativity in diverse groups. Pat is very interested in understanding how to improve collaboration, in particular collaboration that includes the contribution of those in traditionally low-power roles, in complex, diverse, and under-resourced settings.

Pat received her A.B. cum laude in Psychology from Harvard College in 2004. As an undergraduate, she was a student fellow at the Center for InternationalĀ Development and at the Carr Center for Human Rights at the Kennedy School of Government. After graduating, Pat studied and worked in South Korea on the Yenching fellowship. She was a Teaching Fellow for the Psychology of Leadership course at Harvard College, for which she received a Distinction in Teaching award. She has worked as a management consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton and as an intern at Insight Partners, a conflict management firm. Prior to starting the Management program at HBS, Pat was a Research Associate, assisting with research and cases on globally distributed teams.


  1. PROMISES: Proactive Reduction in Outpatient Malpractice: Improving Safety Efficiency and Satisfaction (w/ MA Dept of Public Health, MA Coalition for the Prevention of Medical Errors, Brigham Hospital, HSPH, HMS, IHI)

    by Patricia Satterstrom

    This study aims to improve patient safety and decrease malpractice risk in ambulatory practice. The study has three aims: 1) using a randomized control trial, this project will test a series of interventions at 16 demonstration sites, focusing on medication management, test ordering and results management, and follow-up and referral management; 2) it will test new approaches to improve communication between patients and doctors to address patient concerns as early as possible; 3) will develop tools and packages to disseminate the learning from this project so it can be shared throughout Massachusetts and beyond.

    I am working closely with Sara Singer and members of the improvement and evaluation groups to systematically capture short- and long-term learning around collaboration in ambulatory settings.

  2. The Project as a School: Individual Learning in Teams (w/ Brad Staats and Amy Edmondson)

    by Patricia Satterstrom

    Team members must effectively draw on their prior experience and the knowledge management systems of their organization in order to meet a customer’s requirements. However, teams with similar backgrounds on comparable projects may generate wildly different results. A team with all of the requisite skills may fail, while a team that lacks experience and faces an insurmountable challenge may succeed. Why? In this study we use a series of surveys and interviews with employees at a large Indian company to investigate how individual, team, and leadership dynamics shape the progression of a project and eventually lead to its success or failure.
  3. When it gets bad it gets better: curvilinear effect of communication difficulty in collaborations (w/ Tsedal Neeley and Michael Norton)

    by Patricia Satterstrom

    Our study explores how communication difficulties impact groups’ outcomes. Using a group simulation in a laboratory setting and a randomized control method, we look at the relationship of communication difficulties with individual and group process, performance, and experiential outcomes. Collecting data in a highly controlled environment with randomized conditions allows us to see whether communication difficulties lead to a steady decline in outcomes due to increasing tension between subgroups, or if there is in fact a turning point at which communication difficulties become so severe that they are treated as external challenges, enabling group members to work together more effectively. Our study builds on findings in the field and seeks to contribute to the distributed teams literature by providing insights into how communication difficulties can have differential impact on groups and can, at times, help bring people together.
  4. Perceiving Groups and Collaborative Potential (w/ Jeff Polzer, Lisa Kwan, Wannawiruch Wiruchnipawan)

    by Patricia Satterstrom

    Collaboration is fraught with difficulty as people strive to achieve collective and individual goals. One source of difficulty is that some specific pairs of individuals are simply not compatible along one or more relevant dimensions, even though each of the individuals may work well with others. Part of the challenge, then, is to accurately predict whether particular individuals will work together effectively before they attempt to collaborate. This is a common challenge faced by managers, coaches, teachers and others who regularly decide which people to pair up or group together. Yet, work on how people evaluate the potential effectiveness of a collaboration is very limited. In this study we compare Complementarity Theory using behavioral dominance cues with Status Characteristics Theory using demographic characteristics. We explore the nonverbal cues that influence people’s perceptions of whether others will collaborate effectively.