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Archive for September, 2014


Organizational Psychology – Team Structure

Answers the Question

What the pros and cons of the four types of interdependence in teams?

How it Began

Individuals have their own identity, but they are interdependent when working within a team, which means that the team itself is has a holistic identity of its own, this creates a ‘ground paradox’.  Weick, 1976 developed the concept of loosely structure systems which has lead to literature exploring the operationalization of four specific dimensions of structural interdependence a) Task Allocation Structure b) Decision Making Structure c) Reward Structure d) Communication Structure.


Key Terminology

  • Interdependence –  A dependence on 2 or more people, things, events or entities on each other.
  • Team Structure – Organized individuals that constitute unity, composed of correlated elements
  • Decision Making – Deciding between alternatives.

In Brief

Task Allocation Structure (Horizontal interdependence)

Where task allocation structures are team based often where jobs are complex and have fairly high levels of autonomy, high level of cognitive ability are needed.  In these situations Ellis et al (2004) discovered that decentralized team members who have authority to make individual decisions, increase their ease of learning and adapting, are more innovative and is conducive to demands for speed or learning.  In functional structures, where roles are fragmented and there are high levels of interdependence, coordination becomes very important which is supported by team members with an agreeable personality trait.  Ellis et al (2004) found that a designated leader with a degree of authority is required in these situations to ensure coordination.  Where the organizational structure is misaligned high levels of stress or conflict may occur increasing the need for emotional stability.

Decision-Making Structure (Vertical Interdependence)

Jundt et al, (2004) found structural contingencies on both horizontal and vertical dimensions impact team performance and the costs and benefits of both type of structure are similar.  They concluded that Horizontal and vertical structures compliment each other.

Reward Structure (Outcome Interdependence)

Bamberger and Levi (2009) investigated reward structure based on norms of equity, equality or some combination of the two and incentive intensity.  Their findings indicated that relative to equity-oriented group-based pay structures, equality-oriented pay structures are found to result in both significantly more help giving in general by team members and the type of help being offered leading to a higher likelihood of enhanced group-level competencies (i.e. autonomous help).  Incentive intensity strengthens the effects of reward allocation on the amount (but not the type) of help giving within teams.  Rosenbaum et al (1980) demonstrated that even a modicum of competitive reward led to lowered efficiency and productivity.

Beersma et al (2003) concluded that in regards to a teams external fit, competitive reward structures enhance speed but decrease accuracy whereas cooperative reward structures enhance accuracy and decrease speed.  In regards to internal fit extroverted and agreeable people are best suited for cooperative reward structures whereas introverted and disagreeable people are best suited for competitive reward structures.

Communication Structure (Spatial Interdependence)

The set of individual differences that predict team performance in a changing situation may be quite distinct from those that predict performance in more routine situations therefore the effective team composition is required if the team is likely to experience unexpected change.

What does this mean for Organisational Development?

To achieve its objectives, an organisation needs to operate within a structure best suited to its purposes. Traditionally large businesses divide the organisation up into functional areas, with a hierarchical top down power structure.  However, depending on the type of organisation and the interdependencies required within teams, as well as the personalities of the team members the traditional pyramid structure may not be suitable for effective performance.

For innovative, fast moving organizations and those which often deliver products and services via project teams bought together for that purpose, a more flexible matrix organizational structure is more suitable.

Some organizations have gone further in their pursuit of collaborative ‘soulful’ organizational structures, with remarkable results.  Laloux in his book Reinventing Organizations argues that the way organizations are managed is increasingly out of date and more enlightened organizational structures and practices are needed.



Organizational Psychology – Leadership

Answers the Question

What do psychologists know about leadership and what has yet to be learned?

How it Began

Hackman and Wageman 2007, stated that the leadership field, despite its long and chequered history in industrial and organizational psychology was “curiously unformed.” This view is supported by the myraid definitions relating to the construct of leadership, a tendency to theorize about leadership that lacks forms, models, and habits of leadership which are essential for transforming the way we use power and how we respond to power and leadership.


Since the 1940s many attempts have been made to define and study the process of leadership in terms of the interaction between leader and the organizational environment with all its social complexities.  Research has shifted from a heroic leader centric focus to that which recognizes leaders are part of an inclusive process involving follows and social, organisational and environmental factors.  The necessity being to keep in mind that leadership is a process not a person.

The multi-faceted, multi-level, interpersonal and multi-functional dynamic of leadership coupled with the increasingly complex challenges  makes a scientific definition of leadership impossible to achieve.  However, with the increasing complexity of modern organizational life, leaders need to be more highly developed and more leaders need to be developed.

Key Terminology

  • Leadership – the art of influencing followers to achieve success by identifying joint goals, finding best-fit roles in teams, collaborating constructively and dynamically, and adapting to change within their environments.
  • Traits – A trait is a characteristic of a person’s personality, motives, and pattern of behaviour.
  • Behaviours – The actions by which a leader adjusts to its environment.
  • Contingency – Changing leadership behaviour or style by modifying its consequences
  • Charisma – A rare personal quality attributed to leaders who arouse fervent popular devotion and enthusiasm
  • Transformational – when leaders and followers make each other to advance to a higher level of moral and motivation.
  • Leader-Member Exchange – The formation of two groups by a leader of an in-group and an out-group, of followers
  • Leadership Perceptions – How leaders perceive subordinates
  • Shared Leadership – Contexts in which leadership and influence is distributed across the teams

In Brief

There are too many leadership theories to cover in brief.  Below are just some of the theories developed over the last 70 years.

  • Situation Leadership – Hersey & Blanchard (1971) – Examines appropriate leadership behaviours for different situations
  • Contingency Theory – Fiedler (1964, 1967) – Assumes that leaders cannot change their behaviour, but instead recommends matching leaders based on the preferred leadership style to specific situations and contexts.
  • Path Goal Theory – Evans, (1970, 1974); House and Dessler, 1974) – Explores how leaders can motivate followers to achieve set goals and improve their own and the organization’s performance.
  • Leadership Substitutes Theory – Kerr and Jermier (1978) – Explores situational variables (contextual aspects of the task, subordinates, organization) that can make a leader ineffective or redundant
  • Normative Decision Model – Vroom and Yetton (1973) – Further decision making procedures of participative leaders and their effectiveness
  • Cognitive Resources Theory – Fiedler and Garcia (1987) – The interaction of different sources of stress on a leadership’s cognitive ability and leadership behaviours and their impact on group performance
  • Multiple-Linkage Model – Yukl (1971) – Examines how situational variables moderate the influence of a leader’s behaviour on individual and group performance
  • Leaders-Member Exchange Theory – Dansereau et al (1975) – The vertical links between the individual leader and follower.
  • Leadership Making – Graen and Uhl-Bien (1991) – Prescribes that it is vital for leaders to develop as many high-quality exchanges and work relationships as possible.
  • Charismatic Leadership – Beyer and Browning (1999) – Behavioural view of charisma, identifying what a charismatic leader does or how they behave.
  • Transformational Leadership Theory – Downton (1973) – The leadership process of changing how people feel about themselves, which in turn raises their motivation and enables them to achieve performance beyond normal expectations.
  • Transactional Leadership Theory – Burns ( (1978) – the transaction or exchange between leader and followers, resulting in a material or psychological reward for followers compliance.
  • Full Range Leadership Model – Avolio and Bass (1993, 2002) – Comprises of three component dimensions; transformational leadership, transactional leadership and laissez-faire or non-leadership.


Further Resources

  1. Leadership in Organizations – Deanne, Hartog and Koopman
  2. The New Psychology of Leadership – Haslam, Reicher and Platow
  3. The Psychology of Leadership New Perspective and Research – Messick and Kramer
  4. The New Psychology of Strategic Leadership – Gavetti
  5. A Social Identity Theory of Leadership – Hogg
  6. Trait Approach to Leadership – Fleenor
  7. Leadership Development for Organizational Success -Kraus and Wilson
  8. Leader Effectiveness and Culture: The GLOBE Study
  9. Two Decades of Research and Development in Transformational Leadership – Bass
  10. Organizational Culture and Leadership – Schein

What does this mean for Organization Development?

With Leadership such a complex construct the OD approach to developing effective leaders should be to see it as a component of developing effective teams and organisations.  At times this may involve working intensively with individual skills, aspirations and behaviours; sometimes the focus may be on design and delivery of development activities; at other times the OD practitioner may find themselves supporting teams, whole organisations or systems as they lead people through change.

The central focus however, is always to explore why and how leaders experience of leadership can be improved and enhanced and employees can be mobilized to do their best.