Variation in Experience and Team Familiarity: Evidence from Indian Software Services
Robert S. Huckman
Bradley R. Staats
In settings ranging from product development to service delivery, fluid teams of individuals with different sets of experience are tasked with projects that are critical to their organization's success. Although building teams from individuals with different prior experience is increasingly necessary, prior work examining the relationship between experience and performance fails to find a consistent effect of variation in experience on performance. The problem is that variation in experience improves a team's information processing capacity and knowledge base, but also creates coordination challenges. We hypothesize that team familiarity - team members' prior experience working with one another - is one mechanism that helps teams leverage the potential benefits of variation in team member experience by alleviating coordination problems that such variation may create. We use several years of detailed project- and individual-level data from an Indian software services firm, Wipro Technologies, to examine the effects of team familiarity and variation in experience on multiple measures of performance for software development projects. In most cases, we do not find evidence of a significant main effect for variation in experience on performance. However, when we examine the interaction of team familiarity and variation in experience, we see a complementary effect on measures of delivery performance (i.e., a project being delivered on time and on budget). In team familiarity, our paper identifies one mechanism for capturing the performance benefits of variation in experience and provides insight into how the broader management of experience accumulation affects team performance.
Experience, Knowledge, Software, Team Familiarity, Variation
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