Journal Article

Progressing to the center: Coordinating project work

Organization Science 22 (4): 961–979
Linus Dahlander, Siobhan O'Mahony (2011)
Subject(s): Strategy and general management
Keyword(s): coordination, project work, knowledge work, technical work, open source software, lateral authority, communities of practice, community project, technical community, community forms

Project forms of organizing are theorized to rely upon horizontal as opposed to vertical lines of authority, but few have examined how this shift affects progression-how people advance in an organization. We argue that progression without hierarchy unfolds when people assume lateral authority over project tasks without managing people. With a longitudinal study of a mature, collectively managed open source software project, we predict the individual behaviors that enable progression to lateral authority roles at two different stages. Although technical contributions are initially important, coordination work is more critical at a subsequent stage. We then explore how lateral authority roles affect subsequent behavior-after gaining authority, individuals spend significantly more time coordinating project work. Our research shows how people progress to the center as opposed to up a hierarchy, and how progression differs by stage and specifies the theoretical relationship between lateral authority roles and the coordination of project work.

© 2011 INFORMS

Volume 22
Issue 4
Pages 961–979