J. Richard Hackman is Cahners-Rabb Professor of Social and Organizational Psychology at Harvard University. He received his doctorate in social psychology from the University of Illinois, and then taught at Yale for twenty years. In 1986, he moved to his present position at Harvard. Hackman conducts research on a variety of topics in social and organizational psychology, including team dynamics and performance and the leadership of self-managing groups and organizations.

He is the author of numerous articles and seven books, the most recent being "Leading Teams: Setting the Stage for Great Performances." Hackman received the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award of the American Psychological Association's division on industrial and organizational psychology, and both the Distinguished Educator Award and the Distinguished Scholar Award of the Academy of Management.


Research confirms that the presence of the five conditions--real team, compelling direction, enabling structure, supportive context, and competent coaching--enhances team performance effectiveness. In a study of 64 analytic teams in the U. S. intelligence community, for example, Hackman and O’Connor (2004) found that 74 percent of the variance on a reliable performance criterion was controlled by these conditions.

Research also has shown that the order of the conditions is important. In a study of self-managing field service teams, Wageman (2001) obtained independent assessments of each team’s design, the coaching behaviors of its leader, the team’s level of self management, and its objectively measured performance. Team design was four times as powerful as leader coaching in affecting a team's level of self-management, and almost 40 times as powerful in affecting team performance. Moreover, Wageman found that "good" coaching (such as helping a team develop a task-appropriate performance strategy) significantly helped well-designed teams exploit their favorable circumstances but made almost no difference for poorly designed teams. “Bad” coaching (such as identifying a team's problems and telling members exactly what they should do to fix them), by contrast, significantly compromised poorly designed teams' ability to manage themselves, worsening an already difficult situation--but did not much affect teams that were well designed. These findings confirm that even highly competent coaching cannot reverse the impact of a flawed team design (Hackman & Wageman, in press).


References Corn, R. (2000). Why poor teams get poorer: The influence of team effectiveness and design quality on the quality of group diagnostic processes. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.

Farris, G. F., & Lim, F. G., Jr. (1969). Effects of performance on leadership, cohesiveness, influence, satisfaction, and subsequent performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 53, 490-497.

Hackman, J. R. (1987). The design of work teams. In J. Lorsch (Ed.), Handbook of organizational behavior (pp. 315-342). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Hackman, J. R. (2002). Leading teams: Setting the stage for great performances. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Hackman, J. R., & O’Connor, M. (2004). What makes for a great analytic team? Individual vs. team approaches to intelligence analysis. Washington, DC: Intelligence Science Board, Office of the Director of Central Intelligence.

Hackman, J. R., & Wageman, R. (in press). A theory of team coaching. Academy of Management Review.

Hackman, J. R., & Walton, R. E. (1986). Leading groups in organizations. In P. S. Goodman (Ed.), Designing effective work groups (pp. 72-119). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Lowin, B., & Craig, J. R. (1968). The influence of level of performance on managerial style: An experimental object-lesson in the ambiguity of correlational data. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 3, 440-458.

McGrath, J. E. (1962). Leadership behavior: Some requirements for leadership training. Washington, DC: U.S. Civil Service Commission.

Meindl, J. R. (1990). On leadership: An alternative to the conventional wisdom. Research in Organizational Behavior, 12, 159-203.

Pichanick, J. S., & Rohrer, L. H. (2002). Rewards and sacrifices in elite and non-elite organizations: Participation in valued activities and job satisfaction in two symphony orchestras. In A. Sagie & M. Stasiak (Eds.), Work values and behavior in an era of transformation (pp. 347-353). Poland: Academy of Humanities and Economics.

Sims, H. P., & Manz, C. C. (1984). Observing leader verbal behavior: Toward reciprocal determinism in leadership theory. Journal of Applied Psychology, 69, 222-232.

Staw, B. M. (1975). Attribution of the “causes” of performance: A general alternative interpretation of cross-sectional research on organizations. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 13, 414-432.

Wageman, R. (2001). How leaders foster self-managing team effectiveness: Design choices versus hands-on coaching. Organization Science, 12, 559-577.

Wageman, R., Hackman, J. R., & Lehman, E. V. (2004). The Team Diagnostic Survey: Development of an instrument. Manuscript submitted for publication.

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