Tag: Faculty

Combatting cybersecurity threats. Guiding space exploration. Developing novel healthcare management systems. Major business and government innovations often rely on multiteam systems, or teams of teams.

But when people work within such systems, known as MTSs, they face challenges. An MTS is a nebulous organization of component teams of specialists that link together to accomplish a broad and overarching objective. That objective exceeds the capacity of any one person or team.

Andrew Knight, Olin professor of organizational behavior, researched the challenges people face when working within team of teams. Specifically, he delved into how the component teams can best coordinate their activities—both within and between teams—to achieve the overarching goals of the whole system.

In the past, scholarship had advanced a perspective that informal modes of coordination—such as informal, interpersonal interactions between MTS members—undermine MTS effectiveness because of their complexity.

A channel for the flow of information

But that view is pessimistic and flawed, Knight and his coauthors argue. Drawing from theory and their research, they derived important implications for those who must lead an MTS.

“Informal interpersonal interactions actually can enable coordination by serving as a channel for the flow of information and a means by which MTS members can mutually adjust their work,” Knight said.

But whether informal coordination helps or hinders MTS functioning depends on how much time team members spend interacting with other members of their own component team, relative to the time that they spend interacting with the members of other teams.

“Members must balance their informal interactions,” Knight said.

Knight discussed his research at a virtual event September 29 as part of Olin’s Business Research Series.

“Our analysis underscores that leaders must carefully manage MTS members’ informal coordination efforts,” he said. Too much time spent focused internally—on coordinating with the members of one’s own component team— detracts from system performance. But too much time spent focused externally—toward other component teams in the system—breeds intrateam conflict that disrupts team performance.

It’s about balance

“To maximize system performance, which is ultimately the most important objective, leaders must ensure that team members balance their allocation of time between the local team and the more global system,” he said.

Knight and his coauthors present their findings in “Performance tensions in multiteam systems: Balancing informal mechanisms of coordination within and between teams,” in press at the Academy of Management Journal. Coauthors are Jonathan C. Ziegert and Christian J. Resickof Drexel University and Katrina A. Graham of Suffolk University.

In addition to his position as a professor, Knight is associate dean of WashU at Brookings and academic director of Olin Lifelong Learning. His areas of expertise are entrepreneurship, leadership, team development and diversity, and his research interests include virtual work, people analytics, collaboration and relationships.

See Knight’s presentation here.

This week, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testified about the tens of thousands of pages of internal documents she leaked exposing how Facebook prioritized profits over the public’s safety and called on lawmakers to regulate the social media network.

By bringing to light the consequences of Facebook’s algorithms, Haugen’s testimony has forced corporations to rethink their relationship with Facebook and use of consumer data, according to digital media experts at Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis.

“Most advertisers who invest in Facebook or other social media platforms are aware of the ways in which these technologies collect and use customer data to improve the ROI (return on investment) of advertising dollars. In fact, these capabilities are positioned as a selling point,” said Michael Wall, professor of marketing practice and co-director of the Center for Analytics and Business Insights at Olin Business School.


“That said, other aspects of how Facebook and others drive great returns for their advertisers have been hidden within their algorithms. The whistleblower has changed that. Advertisers are now aware, and they will now be faced with decisions related to both the ethical use of data and being values-based.” 

According to Wall, business leaders should be thinking hard about how their firms — many of whom have become dependent on platforms such as Facebook for business growth — will use customer data responsibly.

“Certainly, the amount of users on these platforms is appealing in that it enables marketers the ability to reach a lot of consumers. That said, the real value is driven by the algorithms within these platforms that track everything we say and do to pinpoint which of those users should see our content, when and how many times,” Wall said.

This raises ethical questions about what is appropriate to not only track, but also share with third parties — some of whom use the data to advertise and track consumers beyond the original platforms. It’s easy to focus on Facebook given its behemoth size, but any company using consumer data is at risk of causing harm to its consumers.


“Every organization with access to rich consumer data, using Facebook as an advertising vehicle or not, must at least from time to time confront the dilemma: should some information be used to improve the profit line in the short run even though it might not be in the best interest of a consumer?” said Yulia Nevskaya, assistant professor of marketing at Olin Business School.

“It is a difficult situation to manage for a brand, given that the interests of a particular manager might not always align well with a long-term success of a brand. Implementing data-driven and values-based culture and decision-making is key.”

This is not the first time Facebook has found itself in the hot seat for its handling of user data, misinformation and other threats to American democracy. The more customers, companies and government have learned about social media, the more pushback has been generated from each stakeholder, Wall said.

Consumers are demanding change

Change is already underway. For example, Apple’s recent feature with its iOS 14.5 update notifies customers that apps are tracking their data and gives consumers the ability to block said tracking.

“This was a massive blow to Facebook, among others, who rely on that tracking to drive more advertising revenue,” Wall said. “Apple isn’t the only one. Google is also preparing to block third-party cookie tracking. These industry actions, coupled with government policies such as GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and the California Privacy Rights Act, will make the use of customer data more difficult in years to come.” 

Companies have a choice: Short-term profits or long-term growth

Limiting the use of consumer data or cutting ties with Facebook altogether may seem like an unfathomable choice for businesses. However, taking a stand now could pay dividends down the road.

“Research over the last several years has shown that customers prefer buying from companies that are aligned with their personal values,” Wall said.

In 2018, Nike was one of the first major brands to take a controversial stand with its Colin Kaepernick commercial. Since then, many more companies have taken stands on social issues that align with their brand values, such as racial injustice, voting rights, gun laws, climate change and LGBTQ rights.

“As a marketer, my position is that brand equity is ultimately not driven by advertising. Furthermore, it is something we certainly cannot control. Instead, our brand is something we steward,” Wall said.

“This stewardship is driven by choices we make, which drive the actions we take, and together they lead to consequences in the market. Leaders must make tough choices about near-term growth and long-term growth. The wrong choices today may enable more profit today but may also lead to decreases down the road.” 

Consumers literacy is essential

Social media are new, powerful and complex players and we, as a society and as individuals, have to get tooled very quickly to live with them, Nevskaya said.

“Social media shapes our world, our information bubble and our choices. We now know that our Facebook feed is carefully calculated by algorithms that decide which political opinions, sources of information and products are most likely to elicit a response from us,” she said.

Facebook and other social media companies—possibly with the help of regulators—have a responsibility to confront the ethical dilemma of their business. At the same time, consumers need access to reliable information about the ways in which social media impacts their lives.

“Consumer literacy should be taken seriously and implemented in a comprehensive way, starting at an early age,” Nevskaya said.   

“Over the last two decades, as the situation with Facebook illustrates, companies and organizations developed extremely sophisticated tools to advertise and promote their products and ideas,” Nevskaya said. “Gone are the days when a television ad for a major brand consisted of mostly repeating the name of the brand many times in a loud voice, which marketers believed would make the consumer remember the product and buy it.

“Consumers are smart, but they need to be fully aware of the new methods, how exactly their personal information is used by organizations and to be offered very concrete tips on navigating modern marketing.”

The goal of any new leader is to quickly establish a high level of trust and credibility with the team. After all, numerous studies have shown that trust in leadership is linked to higher individual and team performance. However, that might not be the best strategy for long-term success, according to a new study from Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis.

That’s because trust is dynamic by nature, and it is particularly susceptible to change early in the leader’s tenure with a team when the leader is under greater scrutiny.

Researchers found that employees’ initial expectations for a new leader were an indicator of how trust levels would change over time. The higher the initial level of follower expectations, the greater the potential to experience a decline.

However, leaders who started with low or moderate levels of initial trust were more likely to experience a steep increase in trust over time, particularly when engaging in particular behaviors. That’s important because leaders who experienced increases in trust were, in turn, consistently rated more effective by their supervisors. 

“Our findings depart from conventional wisdom, which seeks to maximize the level of trust in the leader from day one,” said Kurt Dirks, vice chancellor for international affairs and the Bank of America Professor of Leadership at Olin Business School.


“Although having a high level of employee trust in a leader is associated with effectiveness, we found that it is even more effective to start at a moderate level of trust and increase to a high level over the first several months. This approach allows leaders to build a sustainable foundation of trust and create a sense of positive momentum.”

While previous studies have looked at the relationship between team performance and trust in leadership at a particular point in time, Dirk’s research — published recently in the Journal of Business Ethics — is the first to show how changes in trust over time affect leader and team performance from the start of a relationship. 

The study also revealed a set of behaviors that were particularly effective at accelerating the development of trust. Leaders that engaged in behaviors referred to as transformational leadership, an ethics-based leadership style, experienced faster rates of trust development. Key to this approach were the focus on values and on taking time to develop the relationship with individuals. 

Patrick Sweeney of Wake Forest University, Nikolaos Dimotakis of Oklahoma State University and Todd Woodruff of the United States Military Academy are co-authors of the study.

The study took place at the United States Military Academy. Dirks and team surveyed cadets who attended the academy to simultaneously earn college degrees and gain officer commissions in the U.S. Army upon graduation.

To assess how trust developed and changed over time, data were collected over four time points from more than 500 individuals organized into 130 squads, beginning during the first week of the program and continuing approximately every five weeks. Squad members reported on their trust in their direct leader. Additionally, leadership one level above the unit leader responded about unit effectiveness.

How employee expectations, leadership styles impact trust

Even before the new leader joins the team, companies frequently create high expectations by touting the person’s credentials and high goals. Employees also use social connections, situational contexts and personal attributes — such as age, race, gender, body language or presence — to measure up the new leader, Dirks said.

“Some leaders are able to establish a high level of trust immediately, while other leaders — particularly minorities — may start with low levels of trust and need to build trust over time,” he said.

However, the research shows there could be advantages to earning employees’ trust rather than starting off with it.

In the study group, leaders one standard deviation above the mean on expectations experienced a decline in followers’ trust over time, while those leaders one standard deviation below the mean experienced an increase in trust.  

“Our analysis suggests that this is not just a regression to the mean phenomenon but rather is based on psychological factors,” Dirks said.

Another consistent pattern emerged from the data: Transformational leaders were more trusted by their employees by the end of the study. According to Dirks, transformational leaders are those who exemplify moral standards and foster an ethical work environment. They also encourage development of their employees and emphasize cooperation and open communication, he said.

Leaders who began with low expectations were able to quickly overcome the initial trust deficit if they displayed high levels of transformational leadership, Dirks said. And leaders who began with high expectations were able to maintain a high level of trust with subordinates if they displayed high levels of transformational leadership.

By comparison, leaders who began with high expectations experienced a sharp negative rate of change in their followers’ trust if they displayed low levels of transformational leadership.

“This study suggests that leaders may establish trust most quickly by managing expectations for how they will be an effective leader, and subsequently engaging in a particular set of behaviors that earn trust,” Dirks said.  

New faculty members for the 2021-2022 academic year.

Twenty-one new instructors and researchers—including seven postdocs—have joined Olin in accounting, data analytics, economics, finance, operations, organizational behavior and strategy.

Tenured/tenure-track faculty

Adrienne Davis, professor of organizational behavior (also William M. Van Cleve Professor of Law, WashU School of Law) JD: Yale Law School, 1991 Prior to WashU: professor, University of North Carolina School of Law

Fausto Gonzalez, assistant professor of marketing PhD: social-personality psychology, University of California, Berkeley, 2018 Prior to Olin: provost’s postdoctoral fellow, New York University

Teaching faculty/professors of practice

Damon Campbell, teaching professor of data analytics PhD: business administration, emphasis in management information systems, Washington State University, 2008 Prior to Olin: professor of management information systems, Millsaps College

Dedric Carter, part-time professor of practice, strategy and entrepreneurship (also WashU’s vice chancellor for innovation and chief commercialization officer and professor of engineering practice at WashU) PhD: information systems, Nova Southeastern University, 2005 Prior to WashU: senior advisor for strategic initiatives, Office of the Director at the US National Science Foundation

Sharon James, MBA ’89, professor of practice in strategy and entrepreneurship PhD: business administration, strategic management, University of Minnesota, 2007 Prior to Olin: tenured associate professor of management at Arkansas State University

Clive Muir, teaching professor of management communications PhD: rhetoric and professional communication, New Mexico State University, 1997 Prior to Olin: associate professor, Stephen F. Austin State University


Forough Enayaty Ahangar, lecturer, supply chain, operations and technology PhD: industrial engineering, University of Arkansas, 2017 Prior to Olin: postdoc, Cornell University

Rebecca Dohrman, senior lecturer, management and communications PhD: organizational communication, Purdue University, 2010 Prior to Olin: program director/associate professor of communication, Maryville University

Mahsa Mardikoraem, lecturer in supply chain, operations and technology PhD: management science, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 2021 Prior to Olin: instructor/teaching assistant, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Lorenzo Naranjo, senior lecturer in finance PhD: finance, New York University, 2009 Prior to Olin: associate professor, University of Miami

Gerald Onwujekwe, lecturer in data analytics PhD: information systems, Virginia Commonwealth University, 2021 Prior to Olin: instructor/teaching assistant, Virginia Commonwealth University

Esmat Sangari, lecturer in supply chain, operations and technology PhD: industrial engineering and management sciences, Northwestern University, 2021 Prior to Olin: graduate teaching assistant, Northwestern University

Sakya Sarkar, senior lecturer in finance PhD: finance, University of Southern California, 2015 Prior to Olin: visiting assistant professor, Indiana University-Bloomington

Visiting faculty

Alyssa Xingye Liang, visiting assistant professor of organizational behavior PhD: management, National University of Singapore, 2019 Prior to Olin: assistant professor of entrepreneurship, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam


Swaminathan Balasubramaniam, postdoc in finance PhD: finance, WashU Olin, 2021 Prior to Olin: WashU Olin teaching assistant

Bright Gershion Godigbe, postdoc in accounting PhD: accounting, City University of Hong Kong, 2021 Prior to Olin: course instructor/grader, City University of Hong Kong

Lina Han, postdoc in finance PhD: finance, WashU Olin, 2021 Prior to Olin: PhD research fellow, Luohan Academy, Ant Group

Miao He, postdoc in finance PhD: finance, Tulane University, 2021 Prior to Olin: instructor/teaching assistant, Tulane University

Lingfei Kong, postdoc in finance PhD: business administration, finance, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 2021 Prior to Olin: instructor/teaching assistant, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Jerry Mathis, postdoc in accounting PhD: accounting, University of Michigan, 2021 Prior to Olin: instructor/teaching assistant, University of Michigan

Landon J. Ross, postdoc in finance PhD: finance, WashU Olin, 2021 Prior to Olin: analyst, Green Plains Renewable Energy

Many employers have already begun transitioning employees back to the office, while others plan to resume in-office work in the coming months. But after more than a year of working from home, is returning to business as usual even possible? Or desirable?

Employees have changed amid this pandemic. The more a company can match employee preferences and the optimal work conditions required for a given role, the better off they’ll be in terms of hiring and employee retention, according to Peter Boumgarden, an organizational behavior expert at Washington University in St. Louis.


“Working from home has a level of flexibility that is hard to match in a traditional environment,” said Boumgarden, the Koch Professor of Practice for Family Enterprise at Olin Business School. “Research by Nicholas Bloom and colleagues suggests that employees value this benefit, even seeing it as equivalent to the value they would get from a non-significant pay raise.”

And it’s not just flexibility that employees want.

“We know that autonomy — especially perceived autonomy — is a huge driver of employee satisfaction,” said Markus Baer, professor of organizational behavior at Olin Business School. “Just having the sense that you have control of your schedule and when to do certain tasks can boost motivation.”

Of course, there are benefits to working in the traditional office setting for individuals and teams. Interdependent work that requires coordination and input from multiple people is easier to accomplish in person. So are nonlinear tasks like brainstorming. Being co-located also helps employees feel connected to the team and provides networking opportunities that can help them advance their careers. This kind of rich social connection can be hard to mimic online, Boumgarden said.

Despite some of the benefits, some employers are seeking a return to more traditional working conditions.

“In my view, the return to office is driven by some mix of companies trying to recapture some of those lost elements, the desire to use expensive office real-estate set up for this strategy and, perhaps, because the old world still feels a bit more familiar,” he said. 

No one-size-fits-all approach

The question should not be whether to return to the office, continue working remotely or some hybrid option, but rather: What is the nature of the employee’s work? That’s what should drive return-to-work plans, Baer said.


For individual contributors, going into the physical office is less essential. In fact, many people have found over the past year and a half that they are more productive working at home without the typical office disruptions.

However, co-location becomes increasingly important as work becomes more interdependent and complex — especially when frequent communication is required, Baer said. Collaborative tasks such as ideating or coordinating projects are accomplished more efficiently in person.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean employees need to be in the office full time. For many teams, the ideal arrangement will change week to week based on current work needs, Baer said.

“There’s some research that shows that teams do really well when they have bursts of activity. I could envision teams coming together for a week or a block of intense activity to solve a problem and then disband when the problem is solved and it’s clear who is going to do what. Once those tasks are complete, the team can reconvene,” Baer said.

Hybrid challenges

From a productivity standpoint, a well-planned hybrid arrangement offers the best of both worlds: time in the office to plan and coordinate work, and uninterrupted time at home to complete tasks. Hybrid arrangements also enable employees to retain an office footprint while keeping some of the flexibility they’ve enjoyed over the past year and a half. For these reasons, Boumgarden believes hybrid work will be the future for many organizations. However, the challenges of hybrid work are significant, perhaps even more so than traditional in-person offices and fully remote work environments, he said.

“There’s some research that shows that teams do really well when they have bursts of activity. I could envision teams coming together for a week or a block of intense activity to solve a problem and then disband when the problem is solved.”

Markus Baer

“Very few of our offices are technologically or socially set up for a world where half of the workers are in the office and half are working from home,” Boumgarden said. “Managers needs to be thinking very hard about workflows required to drive efficiency and innovation in this new set-up. Overcoming these challenges will require investment of time and capital on the part of leaders.”

There are also employee management issues to overcome in a hybrid model. For example, if one person decides to work from home more frequently and another stays in the office, will they be seen equally by their superiors?

“I would argue that true clarity of expectations is critical. Workers should know both what the stated expectation is, but also what is the implicit norm,” Boumgarden said.

Lessons learned

For those who plan to return to a traditional office work arrangement, there are still lessons to be learned from the great work-from-home experiment. For starters, leaders need to revisit how frequently they schedule meetings, Baer said.

“When people are co-located, it’s easy to call a meeting to discuss something, but oftentimes these meetings are unproductive and nothing is really accomplished that couldn’t have been done in a simple email exchange,” Baer said.

The same communication tools that kept teams running while working remotely — such as Microsoft Teams, Skype or Slack — can still be used to inform employees or collect information without forcing them to sit through yet another meeting.  

Boumgarden hopes the experience of managing remotely will ultimately change how leaders do their jobs when they’re back in the office.

“For managers, I hope there are lessons learned about how one manages toward outcome versus micromanaging process alone,” he said. “Let’s start by acknowledging true contribution cannot be linked to minute and hours alone. For example, I might have an exceptionally productive hour that is equivalent to my typical four hours of output. The next day, I might have four hours of time that distill down to less than an hour of true ‘productivity.’ Or what about the breakthrough that occurs on a run or while lying awake at night? How should this be managed? Does it count as work time? These are the questions our next generation leaders should be asking.

“All this said, as soon as we realize that contribution does not neatly map onto time blocks, our way of assessing work should evolve,” Boumgarden continued. “I hope managers start to think about how they might creatively evaluate progress toward goals, while at the same time realizing that people work in different ways to reach this value.

“By not being able to micromanage over the last year-plus, I think many people had a realization that their actual management was much more superficial than truly additive of value,” he added.  

But perhaps the most important lesson we all learned over the past year and a half is the importance of remaining flexible.

“I think there is value in saying new models are still experiments. A company might roll out one approach to hybrid for some time and then adjust back as the data gives insight around what is and is not working,” Boumgarden said.