Doctoral Student

Patricia Satterstrom

I am a doctoral candidate in Management at Harvard Business School. I study how individuals in teams collaborate across professional and demographic boundaries. A major barrier to collaboration is power. To understand how team members can change the power structures in which they are embedded, I use longitudinal inductive methods to examine the micro-processes that unfold in organizational teams. In the lab, I study team members’ multicultural experience and teams’ interaction patterns to understand their relationship with performance. I also explore the factors that lead people outside the team to perceive the team as successful. I bridge field and lab methods in the tradition of full-cycle organizational research, which allows me to explore 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. This dissertation extends and generates theory about power, empowerment, and heterarchy (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 induce the construct of microwedges—a small action or series of actions by team members that allow the team to form a different understanding of how they can engage with each other and their work. Over time, these actions build towards 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. Microwedges may also allow some teams to start challenging hierarchy more broadly in their organizations. Microwedges and the process of creating changes to the power structure that I propose challenge our understanding of power and empowerment because they rely on lower-power members (instead of team leaders and managers), they generally have negative effects in the moment while planting a seed that creates change later, and they work by creating dissonance about power instead of directly challenging the hierarchy.

  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 how 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. Temporal mapping of 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 real-time 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 [In preparation for submission; working paper available]

    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 [in preparation for submission; working paper available]

    by Patricia Satterstrom

    In this paper with Sara Singer, Michaela Kerrisey, Nicholas Leydon, and Gordon Schiff, we were interested in identifying the factors that enabled primary care clinics to overcome implementation barriers as well as understanding how those factors worked over time. 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.