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Reputational Effectiveness in Cross-Functional Working Relationships

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The work of innovation management involves cross-functional coordination among specialists and managers with different work orientations, time horizons, professional backgrounds, and values ( Ford and Randolph, 1992).

While strong connections across functions are critical for new product development success ( Green et al., 2000), some managers may be more adept at fostering effective cross-functional relationships than others. In this article, the authors empirically examine the factors that distinguish reputationally effective innovation workers from their less effective peers. Drawing on the work of Tsui (1984, 1994), reputational effectiveness is defined as the degree to which a manager has been responsive to the needs and expectations of constituents. This research examines the relational skills and interaction patterns of more (versus less) reputationally effective managers.

A large business unit of a Fortune 500 telecommunications firm provided the context for our study. Using a two-phase approach, the authors first captured the social network patterns of 268 managers from marketing, research and development (R&D), manufacturing, and other business functions that were involved in the new product development process. In addition, the reputational effectiveness of each person who was identified as a member of the network was measured. In the second phase, the authors examined the relational competencies (e.g., role-taking ability, interpersonal control, openness) of the managers who participated in Phase I of the research.

As predicted, the results indicate that role-taking ability is related positively to a manager's reputational effectiveness. No support, however, was found for the relationship between interpersonal control and reputational effectiveness. Interestingly, the authors found evidence of an inverse relationship between openness and effectiveness. By sharing too much information—or alternatively information that does not relate to the task at hand—the reputational effectiveness of a manager is damaged. Importantly, the results reveal that the social network characteristics of a reputationally effective manager differ from those of less effective managers. Closeness centrality, a measure of the degree of access one has to other organizational members, was associated strongly with reputational effectiveness. The results demonstrate that managers who are successful in working across functions appreciate the cognitive and emotional perspectives of diverse constituents and develop relationship ties that provide them with ready access to others across the organization.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2004-01-01

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