Doctoral Student

Patricia Satterstrom

I am a doctoral candidate in Management at Harvard Business School. I study how individuals in teams collaborate despite power differences due to professional and demographic boundaries. I use longitudinal inductive field methods to examine the micro-processes people use to challenge traditional power structures in teams to facilitate improved collaboration. In the lab, I study the influence of multicultural experience and diversity on team members’ interactions and performance. I also explore the factors that influence perceptions of team success. Taking a multi-method approach, I explore and test the multifaceted and complex underpinnings of teams, power, and collaboration.


My dissertation is based on a 31-month longitudinal inductive study of “change teams” in primary health care clinics. These teams were specifically charged with moving their organization from a hierarchical structure to a more team-based structure. Through close observation of their weekly team meetings, coupled with extensive interviews and examination of archival data, I identify the in situ moments in a team’s life when members provide information that could, over time, undermine taken-for-granted assumptions about power distribution. My dissertation extends and generates theory about power, voice, and power transitions in teams. It also has practical implications for how team members experience and engage with power differences, how they alter power structures in their own teams, and how they can help their organizations engage more fluidly with power.

Committee: Jeff Polzer (chair), Leslie Perlow, Andrew Knight, Heidi Gardner, Sara Singer


I also have projects that focus on how to improve collaboration between people from diverse demographic or professional backgrounds. My lab studies test the factors that impact creativity and performance in cross-cultural groups. My field study looks at the processes and factors that help engage and integrate people from diverse professional roles so that they can successfully carry out change efforts.


Before entering the doctoral program at Harvard Business School, I was a Research Associate, assisting with research and cases on globally distributed teams. I have also worked as an Organizational Change consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton and as an intern at Insight Partners, a conflict management firm. I have taught undergraduates, MBAs, and executives at Harvard and abroad and have been awarded a Certificate of Distinction in Teaching from Harvard.

I graduated cum laude in Psychology from Harvard College where I was a student fellow at the Center for International Development and an intern at the Carr Center for Human Rights at the Kennedy School of Government. I also studied and worked in South Korea for a year on the Yenching fellowship.

I have a black belt in Taekwondo and enjoy participating in a Masters Swim Club.

  1. Microwedges: Challenging power one small opening at a time [Dissertation, job market paper]

    by Patricia Satterstrom

    Based on a 31-month qualitative inductive study of multidisciplinary change teams, I introduce the concept of the “microwedge”—a small action or series of actions by team members that allows the team to examine their own assumptions so that they can begin to engage differently with each other and their work. Over time, these actions create broader changes in the team’s power structure such that the team begins to rely less on hierarchy and more on individuals’ skills, experience, and interests to guide their interactions. Microwedges may also allow some teams to start challenging hierarchy more broadly in their organizations. I propose a process model describing how changes in power can occur in teams. This model challenges our understanding of power and voice in the following ways: 1) lower-power members play a leading role in creating the change (instead of team leaders and managers), 2) microwedges generally have negative effects in the moment while planting a seed that creates change later, and 3) microwedges work not by directly challenging hierarchy but rather by creating dissonance about how people understand each other’s contributions and how they enact, or fail to enact, that understanding.

  2. Finding their voice: Time and the conditions that elevate participation of lower-power members in teams [Dissertation, data analysis and writing]

    by Patricia Satterstrom

    This dissertation paper develops theory about how gaining voice and “speaking up” by low-power members is not sufficient to create changes that benefit them and their low-power colleagues; that, in fact, speaking up when the team is not ready to listen results in greater dissatisfaction and exit by low-power members. I suggest that changes to the team structure that favor lower-power members can help create spaces for members to behave in ways that diverge from the preexisting power structure.
  3. Mapping temporal associations among conflict, participation, and changes in teams [Dissertation, data analysis]

    by Patricia Satterstrom

    This dissertation paper looks at how communication patterns in teams map on to moments of conflict, participation, and changes in the teams’ power structure. I use approximately 240 hours of meeting transcripts (analyzed in STATA, displaying speaking turns by speaker and meeting), the teams’ electronic communication, and the detailed lists of project work they proposed and engaged in to better understand teams’ communication patterns during moments when lower-power team members are able to exert influence on the team’s decisions.
  4. Thin Slices of Groups [Under Review]

    by Patricia Satterstrom

    In this paper with Jeff Polzer, Lisa Kwan, Wannawiruch Wiruchnipawan, and Marina Miloslavsky, we extend research on “thin slices” by testing and determining that perceivers are able to accurately judge the effectiveness of small, task-performing groups based on short observations of group interaction. We discuss implications for social perception and group functioning.

    In creating this study, we generated a great deal of stimuli that can be used to further explore questions of status in teams. For example, we found that in addition to performance, perceivers are highly accurate in accessing individual’s status from very brief excerpts of team discussions. In future work, we will explore how differences in team members’ status (i.e., steepness and distribution) affect how teams are perceived.

  5. Integrating: A managerial practice that enables implementation in fragmented healthcare environments [Under Review]

    by Patricia Satterstrom

    In this paper with Michaela Kerrisey, Sara Singer, Nicholas Leydon, and Gordon Schiff, we identify the factors that enabled primary care clinics to overcome implementation barriers and explain how clinic managers can integrate those factors across roles. Our embedded case study followed sixteen primary care groups implementing process improvements over 15 months. Our qualitative analysis allowed us to develop a conceptual framework of the managerial practice of integrating in the implementation process in healthcare. Through our approach, we were able to contribute to the integration and middle management literatures. We also highlighted the critical role of clinic managers—a role often overlooked in health services research—and the specific actions they took to foster collaboration across highly fragmented groups.