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Group Decis Negot (2009) 18:537566

DOI 10.1007/s10726-007-9099-1

Cognitive Factions in a Top Management Team:


Surfacing and Analyzing Cognitive Diversity using
Causal Maps
David P. Tegarden Linda F. Tegarden
Steven D. Sheetz

Published online: 29 November 2007


Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Abstract Cognitive diversity has been shown to positively affect team performance,
especially in the early stages of strategic planning. We report on a process that explicitly
identifies cognitive factions; sub-groups of individuals with diverse views and beliefs within
a top management team (TMT). Our group-driven causal mapping process provides greater
clarity to understanding the underlying belief structures of the cognitive factions through the
adoption of givens-means-ends (GME) and casual path analysis. We achieve this clarity by
having members of the TMT define and agree on the strategic factors before they construct
their individual cause maps. Through this process, based on the relationships shared among
the team members, we can readily merge individual cause maps into cognitive faction maps.
By employing GME and casual path analysis to the cognitive faction maps, we can surface
the differences in beliefs among the different cognitive factions within the TMT. We demonstrate our process using a 13-person TMT from an information technology services firm. The
cause maps of the cognitive factions directly represent some of the issues and assumptions
that need to be discussed and debated among the members of the TMT, thus increasing the
potential for cognitive faction beliefs to enhance decision-making. We also find that cognitive
factions relate to task roles of the team members, providing further evidence that different
beliefs develop in different areas of the organization.
Keywords Cognitive factions Cognitive diversity Causal maps GME analysis
Casual path analysis Top management teams Strategic planning process

D. P. Tegarden (B) S. D. Sheetz


Department of Accounting and Information Systems (0101), Pamplin College of Business,
Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA
e-mail: dtegarde@vt.edu
S. D. Sheetz
e-mail: sheetz@vt.edu
L. F. Tegarden
Department of Management (0233), Pamplin College of Business, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg,
VA 24061, USA
e-mail: tegarden@vt.edu

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One of the most important lessons I learned in business was that if all youre getting
from your team is a single point of viewusually your point of viewyouve got to
worry. You can get your own point of view for free.
I always kept some contrarians around people I could count on to be devils advocates. It kept me on my toes. . . .
[Lee Iococca, 2007, p. 19]

1 Introduction
There continues to be a growing interest in linking cognition to group and organizational performance and strategic management (Hambrick 2007; Hodgkinson 2001; Hodgkinson and
Sparrow 2002; Huff and Jenkins 2002; Lant and Shapira 2001; Lawrence 1997; Markoczy
1997; Pettigrew 1992). One important aspect to top management team (TMT) effectiveness
is cognitive diversity (Kilduff et al. 2000; Knight et al. 1999; Simons et al. 1999). Cognitive diversity is defined as variation in underlying attitudes, beliefs or values developed
through individual experience and background (Hambrick and Mason 1984; Milliken and
Martins 1996). We follow Markoczy (2001) in defining beliefs of managers on two dimensions: which issues are the most relevant and how these issues affect each other regarding a
strategic situation (Dutton and Jackson 1987; Dutton et al. 1989). While cognitive diversity
has been shown to exist (e.g., Markoczy 1997), both the theoretical underpinnings and direct
measurement need further development within the context of strategic decision making. In
this research, we use a group-driven causal mapping approach that allows cognitive factions
to be easily surfaced. Cognitive factions are subgroups comprised of members of the TMT
that have similar belief structures which differ from other subgroups of members.
Variation or diversity in beliefs is a central concept for analyzing TMTs (Hambrick 1994,
2007; Jackson 1992), especially in their effectiveness as a team. Hambrick (1994) pointed out
that many top management teams may have little teamness to them. This lack of teamness
results in conflict that can be beneficial to the strategic decision making process, especially
in task oriented conflict, i.e., conflict surrounding appropriate paths of action (Eisenhardt
et al. 1997). Since TMTs face high ambiguity and uncertainty, conflict about the future is
certain to be present. Conflict also arises when top managers lead their own divisions in a
firm because these managers are responding to their own constituencies and needs that result
in the formation of conflicting objectives (Hambrick 1995). Therefore, we expect cognitive
factions to be present, especially regarding what the firm should do in the future. The cognitive faction belief structures within a TMT represent a greater opportunity set from which
to evaluate the future strategy and direction of the firm (Burgelman 1991). Furthermore, the
exchange of different ideas and information promotes critical evaluation or thinking among
decision makers (Jehn and Mannix 2001) and reduces the likelihood that group think will
occur (Janis 1982).
To benefit from different beliefs among members of a TMT, strategic decision processes
need to be structured in order to generate a constructive debate around these diverse perspectives (Ackermann et al. 2005; Eden and Ackermann 1998a, 2001). The importance of
the decision process (issues of communication, interaction and influence patterns) as an
intervening construct is an important determinant of success (Hambrick 1995; Smith et al.
1994). For example, Simons et al. (1999) found that diversity alone does not explain firm
performance and that the decision making team must actively debate the issues in order to
benefit from their diversity. They define debate as a process in which team members challenge and oppose one another on task issues (Simons et al. 1999, p. 663). While debate has

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positive benefits, it is often lacking among TMTs. Eisenhardt et al. (1997) only found that
debate was present in 4 out of 12 TMTs in their study of firms in high tech markets.
A debate-oriented process can create task conflict, i.e., disagreement about which alternatives or views are correct. Pelled (1996) and Pelled et al. (1999) propose that task (substantive)
conflict and emotional (affective) conflict are two types of conflict that intervene between
team diversity and team performance. Based on Jehn (1994) and Eisenhardt et al. (1997);
Pelled et al. (1999) state that task conflict is a condition in which group members disagree
about task issues including goals, key decision areas, procedures, and the appropriate choice
for action and emotional conflict is a condition in which group members have interpersonal
clashes characterized by anger, frustration, and other negative feelings (p. 2). Task conflict
(arising from diversity in organizational tenure, education and functional background) is proposed to enhance performance on cognitive tasks while emotional conflict (arising from age,
gender and ethnicity) is found to promote turnover, and through a negative interaction with
task conflict, to reduce cognitive task performance (Pelled 1996). In the earlier stages of a
groups development, visible attributes like age, gender and ethnicity tend to be more salient
than other demographic characteristics indirectly resulting in lower cognitive performance
due to high emotional conflict (Tsui et al. 1992). However, teams that have longer tenure and
greater experience as a team have lower emotional conflict as the visible demographic diversity either declines (through turnover) or experience of the team working together reduces
emotional conflict generated from visible diversity over time.
Based on the relevance of the belief structures of TMT members, certain types of diversity are more likely to trigger task conflict. If team members differ with respect to a highly
job-related demographic attribute, then their divergent experiences and knowledge are apt to
be pertinent to the task. This suggests that identification of these task-related belief structures
can trigger debate and thus improve task performance. Pelled et al. (1999); Simons (1995),
and Simons et al. (1999) found performance relationships with task conflict both as a mediator
and moderator with functional background. Furthermore, job related forms of diversity have
greater potential impact on organizational performance (Milliken and Martins 1996; Pelled
1996; Williams and OReilly 1998). Simons et al. (1999) reported that the concept of debate
as a team process moderates the relationship between TMT diversity and firm performance
(changes in sales and profitability). They found that interactions of debate with job-related
diversity have stronger effects than less job-related forms of diversity. Task-centered conflict, task-centered discussion of differing perspectives, and approaches to the decision task
at hand are shown to moderate the link between diversity in beliefs and team performance.
Bringing out conflicting beliefs that are task focused are expected to have positive effects
on decision acceptance (Jehn 1997) or consensus (Markoczy 2001). Dess and Priem (1995)
argue that reaching agreement on beliefs may be more important than reaching agreement
on goals and methods because beliefs can be more debilitating to reaching a decision. This
implies that an explicit representation of the diverse beliefs can benefit the strategic planning
process by surfacing different beliefs early in the process. Furthermore, conflicting views lead
to consideration and critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints (Schweiger et al. 1986). Discussing these views is potentially useful for eliciting the underlying assumptions and issues
held by the cognitive factions. Once uncovered, the team can evaluate the relevance of these
assumptions and issues, a key aspect in the process of gaining a shared view or consensus
with the final plan. In short, explicit identification of these different views, or what we call
cognitive factions, can set the stage for debate and discussion among members of a TMT.
Furthermore, it is beneficial to explicitly represent the differing views of all the factions in a
manner so that they can be used by the team in debate during their planning process.

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The purpose of this research is to first review why cognitive factions are important to
identify and use as an intervention in strategy making. Second, we explore the link between
faction belief structures and task related diversity. Third, we demonstrate a cause mapping
based method that not only surfaces the cognitive factions among members of a TMT, but also
enables the comparative analysis of cause maps via givens-means-ends (GME) and causal
path analysis. The approach applied in this paper explicitly identifies the idiosyncratic views
and beliefs of individual team members and identifies subsets of individuals that share similar
beliefs (i.e., cognitive factions). Cognitive faction cause maps provide explicit differences in
actual beliefs on the issues relevant for debate in a strategic decision making context. The
explicit identification of cognitive faction beliefs can be the center of such debate among
members of the TMT.
Our contribution is 2-fold. First, we extend the literature by presenting a rationale for why
cognitive factions develop in the strategic decision making environment. We propose that
cognitive factions are a product of managers diverse interests and goals which match their
own particular needs as well as the greater divergence in opinion that arises from the activity
associated with strategic change (Walsh and Fahey 1986). As such, strategic decisions that
bring about major changes in a firms strategic investment and focus can cause cognitive
factions to arise in the strategic decision making environment. While consensus is the focus
of much research in strategic decision making (Bourgeois 1980; Dess 1987; Dess and Origer
1987), we propose that cognitive diversity is an important aspect that should be explicitly
modeled and debated to improve strategic decision making. Second, our group-driven causal
mapping approach allows for direct comparison without researcher interpretation of individual and cognitive faction maps. GME and causal path analysis is used to further discriminate
between cognitive factions both in the research setting as well as in interventions to improve
decision making by allowing comparison of different belief structures among the same strategic factors defined by the TMT (Eden and Ackermann 2001). The resulting cognitive faction
maps reveal different beliefs of the same strategic factors. The differences surfaced among
the cognitive faction maps via the GME and casual path analysis reveal the debatable issues
regarding the strategic problem to be addressed by the TMT.
In the remainder of the paper, we provide background on why diverse belief structures need
to be explicitly identified and why they naturally occur among a TMT. Then, we overview
the methodology we use for eliciting individual cause maps, surfacing cognitive factions,
and comparing the different views among the factions. Next, we examine the cause maps
from a TMT engaged in strategic planning to illustrate the surfaced cognitive factions, their
relationship to task roles, and their different causal beliefs of a strategic situation. Last, we
discuss and summarize the results and suggest how this approach can be used in both strategic
planning situations and research settings.

2 Background
Due to the task conflict that cognitive diversity creates, cognitive diversity among members
of a TMT is proposed to positively impact performance (Ashby 1952; Bryson 2004; Weick
1979). Support for this proposition is found in several studies. Differences in beliefs and
perspectives within TMTs have been found to have a positive relationship with performance
(Amason 1996; Ensley et al. 2002). The identification of different views about the causes
of organizational success and failure were positively related to performance during initial
decision making stages among simulation teams (Kilduff et al. 2000). As such, teams that
expose differing views early on in the strategy making process should reach better decisions.

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The assumption that team members arrive as independent actors may not be accurate in
many instances but may instead come as representative factions that share similar beliefs.
(Li and Hambrick 2005). In this research, we focus on task conflict where factional groups
possess a priori, pre-established fault-lines (Lau and Murninghan 1998) driven by managers
location in the organization. Li and Hambrick (2005) point out that pre-existing fault-lines
can exist with mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures and task forces due to both visible and
task demographic characteristics. Since managers differentially situated in an organization
are likely to perceive different strategies as having the best potential for their own and the
organizations advancement, it is reasonable to assume that TMTs will also have pre-existing
fault-lines, primarily based on task related diversity. As an organization grows and divides
into divisions, strategy and perceptions about what the strategy should be becomes differentiated over the multiple levels of management (Williamson 1970). This results in different
beliefs among managers regarding the firms core and distinctive competencies (Porter 1996;
Prahalad and Hamel 1990; Snow and Hrebiniak 1980; Stevenson 1976), as well as regarding
the potential opportunities and direction for the firm to take (Burgelman 1991). Furthermore,
TMTs are often composed of corporate managers and division managers, each with their
own agendas and goals. As Hambrick (2007) notes, TMTs often consist of semiautonomous barons, each engaging in bilateral relations with the CEO but having little to do with
each other and hardly constituting a team. (p. 336).
In some situations, even though the TMT members tend to be fairly autonomous, coalitions tend to form to advocate a common interest (e.g., Allison 1971; Cyert and March 1963;
Lindbloom 1959; Narayanan and Fahey 1982; Quinn 1980). A study by Chattopadhyay et al.
(1999) demonstrates that the creation of different perceptions and beliefs stems from social
influence rather that functional conditioning. They summarize several theoretical perspectives that suggest that beliefs are shaped through social actions and communication. Social
influence processes are assumed to be reciprocal among a group of managers that have been
assigned the same task. Firms with divisions should have managers with similar beliefs as a
result of independent communication and action at the division level. Likewise, a divisionalized structured firm may also result in different beliefs and perceptions between division
mangers and corporate managers.
Markoczys (2001) study of belief formation and strategic change demonstrates the principle of coalition. She found that the strongest determinant of similarity of beliefs was being
a member of the functional area favored by acquisition of their company by another firm.
We extend this idea to propose that factions will align with alternative views as well. In
the case of Markoczys study (2001), we would expect that the non-favored group beliefs
may converge as well in different areas of the organization. When strategic change involves
determining the future direction of the firm, we expect that several coalitions will emerge
that display similar beliefs, i.e., cognitive factions will emerge. Given the above evidence
and arguments, we propose that:
P1: the existing cognitive diversity within a TMT can be surfaced using cognitive faction
belief structures.
P2: the surfaced cognitive factions will be associated with task-related diversity.
All of the research discussed above has in common an assertion that differing views affect
performance. We expect that many existing strategic planning teams capitalize on the different views among their members. However, they do so in an ad hoc and potentially unreliable
manner. Other teams may not be achieving many of the benefits possible through identifying
and evaluating their existing diversity of views.

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To achieve the benefits of cognitive diversity, it is necessary to develop techniques for


explicit representation of different views and beliefs of team members that allows for direct
comparison of individual views and representation of shared and idiosyncratic beliefs (Fiore
and Schooler 2004; Langfield-Smith 1992; Stahl 2006). Daft and Weick (1984) suggest
making an individuals beliefs and perceptions explicit to increase shared understanding by
capturing both the similarities and differences found across individuals cognitions. Furthermore, the range of views should be integrated and evaluated to gain a shared understanding
of the situation (Bryson 2004; Bryson et al. 2004). As such, an explicit representation of the
diverse views can benefit the strategic planning process by surfacing different views with
existing constituencies early in the process.
In this research, we use a group-driven causal mapping based approach whereby team
members define their beliefs and identify their existing shared understanding of key concepts
in the environment. Using the individual cause maps, we derive a set of cognitive faction
belief structures, represented as group cause maps, that allow the cognitive faction group cognition to be made visible by providing the scaffolding necessary to identify both the shared
beliefs within the cognitive factions and the differing beliefs between the cognitive factions
(Fiore and Schooler 2004; Stahl 2006). Analysis of the cognitive faction belief structures
via GME and causal path analysis provides a substantive foundation in which to debate the
critical issues within a strategic decision-making scenario. As such, we propose that:
P3: the cognitive faction belief structures, represented as group cause maps, will differ;
specifically the GME role played by the strategic factors and the causal paths will be
different.

3 Methodology
There have been many different approaches used to represent and study individual and shared
belief structures within the organizational strategy field (Eden and Spender 1998; Hodgkinson
and Jenkins 2002; Hodgkinson and Sparrow 2002; Lant and Shapira 2001; Walsh 1995).
These include team mental models, organizational knowledge structures, core casual beliefs,
managerial thought structures, and belief structures (Klimoski and Mohammed 1994; Lyles
and Schwenk 1992; Porac et al. 1989; Reger 1990; Walsh 1988). Since strategic belief structures are primarily causal in nature (Hambrick and Mason 1984), one of the more useful
approaches to represent and study belief structures within the organizational strategy field is
cause mapping (Axelrod 1976a; Eden and Spender 1998; Huff 1990; Huff and Jenkins 2002;
Lant and Shapira 2001; Narayanan and Armstrong 2005).
Cause mapping is a technique that captures the beliefs of an individual about a particular issue or problem in a diagrammatic, rather than linear, format (Eden and Ackermann
1998a, p. 285). A cause map consists of units of meaning (expressed as a short phrase or
name) and assertions of causal influence among the units of meaning (shown as arrows)
independently identified by an individual, e.g., Acauses B. Since there is a direction
with the causal relationship, cause maps can be viewed as a type of directed graph. As such,
much of graph theory associated with directed graphs can be used to analyze the structural
aspects of a cause map (Axelrod 1976b; Harary et al. 1965). There has been much work
accomplished in developing various approaches to analyze and compare cause maps (e.g.,
Axelrod 1976a; Eden 2004; Eden and Ackermann 1998b; Eden et al. 1992; Jenkins 1998;
Langfield-Smith and Wirth 1992; Laukkanen 1994, 1998; Markoczy and Goldberg 1995)
and comparing different cause map approaches (e.g., Bood 1998; Hodgkinson et al. 2004;

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Nicolini 1999; Tegarden and Sheetz 2003). Furthermore, since Langfield-Smith and Wirth
(1992) has pointed out the need to be able to represent shared beliefs among the individually
created cause maps, there has been quite a bit of work in merging cause maps to represent
shared belief structures (e.g., Bougon 1992; Eden and Ackermann 1998a; Langfield-Smith
and Wirth 1992; Markoczy and Goldberg 1995; Sheetz et al. 1994; Tegarden and Sheetz
2003).
Causal maps directly created by participants can be divided into three separate categories:
ideographic, nomothetic, and hybrid (Hodgkinson and Clarkson 2005). Direct ideographic
causal mapping techniques (e.g., Bougon 1983; Eden and Ackermann 1998a,b) often consist
of three major steps to identify individual cause maps: eliciting concepts, refining concepts,
and identifying cause-effect relationships between concepts. A common goal of direct, ideographic causal mapping approaches is to obtain participant views in a given problem environment using the concepts and language generated by the participants (Eden and Ackermann
1998a). These views are often obtained using broad questions with the intention that the
participants will provide the details they believe are most important and leave out issues they
perceive as less important (Huff 1990). The primary characteristic of ideographic causal mapping techniques is that the concepts contained in the map are in the participants vocabulary.
In contrast to ideographic approaches, nomothetic approaches only capture the participants
beliefs about the cause-effect relationships among a predefined set of concepts. The concepts
contained in a nomothetic-based map can come from many different sources, e.g., interviews
with a set of experts, text analysis of a relevant literature, or a relevant theory. But, they do
not come from all of the actual participants. Finally, so-called hybrid approaches attempt to
combine the strengths of both ideographic and nomothetic approaches while avoiding their
weaknesses. One such approach was developed by Markoczy and Goldberg (1995). In this
case, a set of concepts is identified by a subset of the participants and through a review of
the relevant literature. The participants are directed to choose the top-ten most relevant
concepts from the set and use them as the nodes in their cause map. This hybrid approach is
more closely aligned with nomothetic approaches than with ideographic approaches.
When it comes to representing shared belief structures, each of the ways to elicit and
construct cause maps have implications combining individual maps to portray shared belief
structures. The direct, nomothetic approach has the advantage of having a set of common concepts on which to aggregate or merge the individual cause maps. Given both a common set of
concepts (nodes) and a single type of semantic relationship (cause-effect), the actual merging
process can be automated through the use of similarity measures, multidimensional scaling,
and cluster analysis (Aldenderfer and Blashfield 1984; Boyce et al. 1994; Hodgkinson and
Sparrow 2002; Kruskal and Wish 1978). However, since these approaches do not capture
an individuals belief structure they may or may not have anything to do with the concepts
that the individual believes exist within the problem being addressed (Eden and Ackermann
1998b). As such, the cause map created by the participant may in fact be meaningless from
the participants perspective (Hodgkinson and Clarkson 2005). The primary advantage of the
ideographic approaches is that since both the concepts and the relationships are created by the
participant, the elicited cause maps do represent the individual participants belief structure.
However, the merging process can run into similar problems as the nomothetic elicitation
approach because individual concepts have to be recoded into shared concepts and there
is the potential for researcher bias (Hodgkinson and Clarkson 2005; Tegarden and Sheetz
2003). As such, it seems that there is no perfect approach to produce cause maps that can be
merged to represent shared beliefs (Hodgkinson and Clarkson 2005).
The causal mapping approach used in this research is a group-driven approach (Sheetz
et al. 1994, 1997; Tegarden and Sheetz 2003). It does have things in common with many

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Step 1: Individual Cause Map Elicitation

Step 2: Cognitive Faction Map Derivation and Justification

Step 3: Cognitive Faction Map Analysis


Fig. 1 Methodology steps

of the other group or collective causal mapping approaches (e.g., Bougon 1992; Eden and
Ackermann 1998a; Langfield-Smith 1992; Markoczy and Goldberg 1995). However, in this
case, the strategic factors used in the map are entirely participant-driven and the participants
have the ability to use all of the identified strategic factors in their map. As such, this hybrid
approach is more ideographic in nature than nomothetic. The approach was originally based
on the research of Bougon and his associates (Bougon 1983, 1992; Bougon et al. 1977;
Bougon and Komocar 1990; Weick and Bougon 1986). In this section, we briefly describe
the casual mapping approach used in this study.
The research methodology used in this study consists of three primary steps (see Fig. 1),
similar to other approaches (e.g., Bougon 1983; Eden and Ackermann 1998a,b). First, individual cause maps were elicited. Second, cognitive faction maps were derived and justified.
Third, the cognitive faction maps were analyzed. This methodology surfaces the diverse perspectives existing within a TMT by identifying different cognitive faction maps that explicitly
bring to the forefront different perspectives to compare and contrast. Furthermore, the analysis
of the cognitive faction maps using GME and causal path analysis provides the foundation
to debate the surfaced issues. This enables the identification of a set of broad issues and
alternatives to address while facilitating the support of each perspective by the perspectives
advocates. Each of these steps is described below. We address Propositions 1 and 2 in Step
2 and Propositions 3 in Step 3. The methodology steps and results are reported jointly in the
following results section.

4 Results
At the time of this study, the company described in this paper was a highly successful information technology services firm that provided customized solutions for government and
commercial clients. They employed about 500 professionals in six states. It was a privately
held employee owned company. The company was founded in 1966 with a focus on operational research of transportation issues. In the mid 1980s, they began developing IT solutions
to transportation and distribution business requirements. Since 1989, their revenues have
grown by an average of 20% each year. Approximately 80% of that growth can be attributed to repeat business from satisfied customers. They are organized into three divisions: the
Information Technology Services Division, the Technical Services Division, and the Facilities Services Division. The TMT was comprised of eight top management executives and
five mid-level managers from various service and support areas of the organization.
The setting of the study was a strategic planning retreat. At the time of the retreat, the
firms primary source of business was the federal government. However, due to the downsizing of the federal government, the firm was interested in expanding their business into
commercial markets. So, the purpose of the strategic planning retreat was to address how the

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firm should pursue growth. The remainder of this section is organized around the steps of
the methodology used in this study: individual cause map elicitation, cognitive faction map
derivation and justification, and cognitive faction map analysis.
4.1 Individual Cause Map Elicitation1
The cause map elicitation process is comprised of five activities. It is supported by a distributed system that runs in a WWW-based environment. The software couples group support
systems (GSS) technology with cause mapping to provide a mechanism for the group to
identify their own strategic factors. Like most systems that use GSS technology, the software
supports anonymity which minimizes the effect that the more powerful members of the TMT
can have on the other members (Valacich et al. 1992).
The causal mapping method used in this study requires that the TMT members identify
and agree upon the strategic factors that will be used in their individual maps before the
causal relationships are identified. This approach minimizes the potential for researcher bias
and provides an efficient means for deriving cognitive faction maps in a comparatively short
period of time. In this approach, both the individual cause maps and cognitive faction maps
embody the strategic factors. As such, we can analyze differences as well as use common
relationships among the individual cause maps to create maps representing cognitive factions.
The five elicitation steps with results are reported below.
The first activity was to elicit concepts via an electronic brainstorming tool. To generate
concepts, team members were asked to anonymously identify their beliefs about the firms
future direction. To set the context for this activity, they were given a framing statement that
was developed jointly with members of the TMT and the researchers. The framing statement
created was comprised of the following four questions:

What do we want to accomplish in the next 5 years?


What is it that we do especially well?
What other things should we be doing especially well?
What present and future constraints do we face in our operations?

These questions were distributed to team members for consideration and discussion with
colleagues several weeks before the retreat. During this activity, the participants occasionally experienced a mental block so a stall diagram, a graphical representation of the framing
statement, also was used to alleviate this situation. The concept elicitation process resulted
in 162 concepts.
Second, based on the TMT members view of the similarity of the concepts brainstormed
in the previous step, the members of the TMT identified and defined a set of strategic factors
that were used to categorize the concepts. The TMT members looked through the list of
concepts to identify those concepts that address a similar issue or idea. They then voluntarily
proposed a strategic factor name and definition to the TMT. The facilitator recorded the proposed category name on a chalkboard. This continued until the TMT members were satisfied
with the set of proposed strategic factors. At no time did the facilitator provide any guidance
as to the completeness or correctness of the strategic factors suggested by the TMT. The
comments provided by the facilitator were limited to process issues such as to ask whether
the team wanted to add, delete, and/or merge factors. Since this step was not anonymous, the
1 The process used to elicit the individual cause maps is described in Tegarden and Sheetz (2003) and Tegarden
et al. (2005).

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Table 1 Strategic factors created and defined by participants


Strategic factor

Definition

Communication
Competitors
Customers
External image
Growth
Leadership
Marketing/business
development
Organization
Personnel Mgmt.
Products
Profitability
Quality

Internal vertically and horizontally


Anyone who could take our work, internal component, anyone with work we want
Anyone paying us money, internal functions
New logo, to stakeholders, reputation, public image, name recognition
Of the company, customer base, revenues
Accountability, ethics/corporate values, developing vision
Business development, strategic posturing, how to get customers
Getting better organized, corporate structure, organized to meet goals
Compensation, recruiting, HR, training, retention
Information technology, services, solutions, expansion
ROI, stock value, fee, expectations
How you do the job, meet customer expectations, internal/external compliance

facilitator took great care to manage the power relationships that existed in this TMT.2 This
process continues until the TMT members are satisfied with the strategic factors identified
and defined. This step is intended to allow the TMT to identify the set of strategic factors
on which to create their individual cause maps. The names and definitions of the strategic
factors determined by participants from this firm are reported in Table 1.
Third, the TMT members independently placed each concept into one of the strategic
factors. Any concept that a TMT member did not feel belonged in one of the strategic factors
was placed into an Unknown category. This activity was completed when all members had
placed the concepts into a strategic factor or left it in the Unknown category. The primary
purpose of this activity was to deepen the shared understanding of the strategic factors among
the TMT members. The results of the classification were presented to and validated by the
TMT members.
Fourth, each member of the TMT independently rated the importance of the strategic
factors toward addressing the issues contained in the framing statement. The ratings were on
a 9-point scale, from important to extremely important. Once each member had completed
their individual rating, their individual rating and the average rating for each strategic factor
was displayed by the system on each members screen. The mean rating for the strategic factors for the entire team are presented in Table 2. As suggested by Siegel and Castellan (1988),
we use Kendalls coefficient of concordance (W ) as a measure for inter-rater agreement on
a set of k-values (factor importance rankings). In this case, only moderate agreement existed
among the team on the relative importance of the factors (Kendalls W = .514). Growth,
Personnel Management, Leadership were perceived as the most important factors, while the
Competitors and External Image factors were least important.
Fifth, using the identified strategic factors, each TMT member independently created
their cause map by identifying causal relationships among the strategic factors. To identify
a causal relationship, each TMT member (1) selected the origin strategic factor from a list,
(2) selected the destination strategic factor from a list, (3) selected the relationship direction
(positive or negative) and amount of influence (strong:3, moderate:2, or slight:1) that the
origin strategic factor has on the destination strategic factor, and (4) submitted the proposed
causal relationship to the system. The system then redrew the members map by adding the
2 The software does have the ability to perform this step in an anonymous manner. However, for efficiency
purposes, it was decided by the facilitator to use a manual approach instead.

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Cognitive Factions in a Top Management Team


Table 2 Mean strategic factor
importance rating (mean rank)
among TMT members

BoldIndicates most important


factors. ItalicsIndicates least
important factors

547

Strategic factor

TMT mean rating


(mean rank)

Growth
Personnel management
Leadership
Mktg./Bus. development
Communication
Quality
Customers
Organization
Profitability
Products
External image
Competitors
Within group rank order agreement
Kendalls W
X2
df
Sig.

8.31 (10.35)
7.69 (8.81)
7.69 (8.38)
7.31 (7.69)
7.15 (7.69)
6.54 (7.65)
6.54 (7.19)
6.15 (5.88)
5.69 (5.54)
5.69 (4.00)
3.99 (3.23)
2.00 (1.58)
.514
73.572
11
.000

new relationship and redrawing the members map in GME order. The member could remove
or modify any relationship at any time. The TMT member repeated the editing process until
he/she was comfortable with the displayed map and then submitted their map to the system.
4.2 Cognitive Faction Map Derivation and Justification
To investigate Proposition 1: the existing cognitive diversity within a TMT can be surfaced
using cognitive faction belief structures, we used Wards agglomeration clustering method
and the squared Euclidean distance measure to derive the cognitive factions. We chose Wards
method to attain increased coverage of cases, improved handling of outliers, and to minimize
the effects of cluster overlap (Aldenderfer and Blashfield 1984).3 The clusters were based
on the similarity of the causal relationships individually identified by TMT members. Recall
this is possible because all individuals used the same strategic factors in their individual
maps. Without a common vocabulary, this simple merging process would not be possible.4
We ignored the strength of the relationships, but we differentiated the relationships if they
had different causal direction (positive vs. negative/inverse), i.e., polarity.5 We then used a
set of statistical analysis techniques to justify the derived factions.
The dendogram portraying the clusters (factions) is shown in Fig. 2. To validate the stability of the clusters, we used a random sampling of 100 different runs to see if the clusters were
order dependent. For all 100 different random orderings, all TMT member maps were placed
in identical clusters. As indicated in the dendogram, we identified three cognitive factions.
For discussion purposes, we refer to these as CF1 (members 8 and 9), CF2 (members 3, 10,
3 Due to the algorithm used in Wards agglomeration method, only the squared Euclidean distance measure

is valid as a basis for measuring similarity/dissimilarity among the individual maps (We would like to thank
an anonymous reviewer for pointing this out to us.).
4 Obviously, there are other approaches that allow for a common vocabulary, e.g., nomothetic approaches.
5 This is different from the approach used by Bougon et al. (1977), and Langfield-Smith and Wirth (1992);
Markoczy and Goldberg (1995), and Clarkson and Hodgkinson (2005). Based on comments made during and
after the strategic planning workshop, it was clear that the TMT members had a clear understanding of the
polarity of the relationships, but that they were using different scales on the strengths of the relationships. As
such, we ignored strength issues for cognitive faction identification purposes.

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D. P. Tegarden et al.

CF3

CF1

CF2
Fig. 2 Hierarchical cluster analysis dendogram

p10

p7

p13

CF2

p3

Dimension 2

p11
p5 p6
p1

0
p2

CF3
p12
p4

-1

p9

CF1

p8

-2
-2

-1

Dimension 1

Fig. 3 Multidimensional scaling plot

13, and 7), and CF3 (members 5, 6, 2, 11, 1, 12, and 4). The TMT member numbers have
no significance except for identification purposes. As suggested by Markoczy and Goldberg
(1995), we also independently ran multidimensional scaling (MDS) to determine if the same
groupings would be identified. The MDS procedure produced a 3-dimensional solution with
a very low Kruskals stress value of .16801. Figure 3 shows the 2-dimensional plot of the
3-dimensional solution resulting from the MDS procedure. We then compared these groupings to the cluster analysis based factions6 and as can be seen, the three groupings are the
same.
Next, we wanted to ensure that the identified factions were not simply an artifact of the
clustering algorithm and measure used. First, we investigated the average number of concepts
generated by each cognitive faction member as an independent measure of contribution or
effort. In this specific case, it looks as if there may be effort differences among the members of the different cognitive factions (see Table 3). However, when comparing the factions
using a Kruskal Wallis One Way ANOVA, the Chi-Square is not significant (see Table 4). As
6 As Markoczy (2006) points out, when one uses cluster analysis and multidimensional scaling, it is possible

that useful information may be lost. However in this case, given the elicitation process used, no information
will be lost due to using cluster analysis and multidimensional scaling.

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Cognitive Factions in a Top Management Team


Table 3 Concept generation by
cognitive factions: descriptives

Table 4 Kruskal Wallis one-way


ANOVAgrouping variable:
cognitive faction

549

Measures

CF1

CF2

CF3

Number of group members


# Concepts generated
Mean # concepts generated
StDev

2
19
9.5
2.121

4
53
13.25
1.893

7
90
12.86
3.288

Chi-square
df
sig.

2.870
2
.238

such, it seems reasonable to conclude that level of contribution or effort does not explain the
membership of the cognitive factions.
Second, we used a set of graph measures to investigate whether the content and structure
of the cognitive faction maps were different. In the case of the content of the map, we looked
at the degree, indegree, outdegree, and reachability graph measures7 for each strategic factor and compared them across the cognitive faction maps using a Kruskal Wallis One Way
ANOVA. Table 5 shows that of the 48 comparisons made, only 14 of the Chi-Square values
were not significant at the .05 level. Furthermore, only the competition (comp) strategic
factor was not significant on any of the measures. In the case of the structure of the map,
we performed a Kruskal Wallis One Way ANOVA on the following set of graph measures:
average degree, average indegree, average outdegree, average reachability, number of nodes,
number of links, number of links per node, and map density.8 Table 6 contains the results of
this analysis. In all but the number of nodes measure, the Chi-Square value significant at the
.05 level.9
Third, as suggested by Markoczy and Goldberg (1995), we compared the average distances of the individual TMT member maps within a cognitive faction from each other
TMT members map not in their cognitive faction, i.e., the complement of their cognitive
faction map. Table 7 shows these results. The mean distances and standard deviations were
smaller for the within group measurements in comparison to the complement group. Since the
distance measure is the basis on which the clusters were derived, this should be expected.
However, even though there is no basis to assume that distance is an independent measure, following Markoczy and Goldberg (1995) we tested the distance differences using the
t-score and MannWhitney Z -scores and found that only the distances associated with CF3
were significant at the .05 level. As such, additional independent approaches to justify these
factions were performed.
7 The definitions of the graph measures used are: Degree: number of links or relationships that are incident

to a strategic factor, Indegree: number of links or relationships that are incoming to a strategic factor; Outdegree: number of links or relationships that are outgoing from a strategic factor; and Reachability: number of
strategic factors that can be reached from a strategic factor, i.e., a direct or indirect causal path exists between
the strategic factors.
8 The definitions of the graph measures used are: Avg Degree: average degree of the map; Avg InDegree: average indegree of the map; Avg OutDegree: average outdegree of the map; Avg Reachability: average number
of strategic factors reachable by other strategic factors of the map; Num Nodes: average number of strategic
factors contained in the map, Num Links: average number of links or relationships contained in a map; Links
Node: average number of links per strategic factor; and Map Density: average number of links within a map
divided by the maximum number of possible links in a map.
9 Based on the elicitation process used, it would be very surprising if the TMT members would use a significantly different number of strategic factors in their maps.

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D. P. Tegarden et al.

Table 5 Graph measures of the strategic factor differences


comm comp cust

extimg growth lead

mktbus org

persmgmt prod

prof

qual

Kruskal Wallis one-way ANOVAgrouping variable: cognitive faction (df = 2)


Degree
Chi-Square 8.885 2.396 9.187 7.937
Sig.
0.01 0.30 0.01 0.02

8.136
0.02

8.366 8.631
0.02 0.01

3.624 4.289
0.16 0.12

9.175 8.622 8.167


0.01 0.01 0.02

InDegree
Chi-Square 7.089 2.591 8.352 8.094
Sig.
0.029 0.274 0.015 0.017

7.113
0.029

7.308 9.202
0.026 0.010

6.208 1.992
0.045 0.369

5.663 7.790 3.850


0.059 0.020 0.146

OutDegree
Chi-Square 7.654 3.087 6.160 5.048
Sig.
0.022 0.214 0.046 0.080

7.314
0.026

5.684 3.615
0.058 0.164

3.342 6.449
0.188 0.040

9.712 7.126 9.378


0.008 0.028 0.009

Reachability
Chi-Square 7.691 4.602 8.122 7.499
Sig.
0.021 0.100 0.017 0.024

8.192
0.017

3.445 7.714
0.179 0.021

8.192 4.354
0.017 0.113

8.152 8.192 8.192


0.017 0.017 0.017

Table 6 Graph measures of the differences in the cognitive faction members maps
Avg
Avg
Avg
Avg
Num nodes Num links Links node Map
degree inDegree outDegree reachability
density
Kruskal Wallis one-way ANOVA - grouping variable: cognitive faction (df = 2)
Chi-Square 9.264
Sig.
0.010

9.187
0.010

9.264
0.010

7.272
0.026

1.547
0.461

9.264
0.010

9.187
0.010

9.422
0.009

Fourth, since self-reported measures of belief similarity are not sufficient (Hodgkinson
and Sparrow 2002), we used two independent measures of importance, cognitive centrality and ratings, both available from the individual cause map elicitation step. The cognitive
centrality of a strategic factor has been used as a measure of importance of nodes in cause
maps (Eden et al. 1992). The cognitive centrality of a strategic factor is the same thing as
the degree of the node that represents the strategic factor in the map. As such, this particular
measure is available with any causal mapping methodology. Table 8 shows that the members
of the CF2 and CF3 factions reached a moderate level of agreement as to the importance of
the strategic factors and that the agreement was significant at the .05 level. It also shows that
the CF1 faction reached a high level of agreement but that it was only significant at the .054
level; not quite enough. However, given the size of this faction, this level of agreement may
still be relevant. Furthermore, the level of agreement reached by each faction was higher than
that reached by the overall team (.393).
Whereas the cognitive centrality of a strategic factor is an implicit measure of importance,
the importance ratings were explicitly captured as part of the elicitation process. Importance
ratings are an independent measure from the structure of the map which was the basis of
the clusters (factions) derived. However, we attained similar results with this measure as we
did with the cognitive centrality measure (see Table 9). In this case, again, the CF1 faction
reached a high level of agreement but it was only significant at the .078 level, and the CF2
and CF3 factions both reached a moderate level of agreement that were both significant at
the .05 level. Reviewing these two approaches of measuring the importance of the different
strategic factors as viewed by the members of the cognitive factions adds to the evidence that
the cognitive factions as derived from the individual TMT member maps are justified. And,

123

Number
of TMT members

13
2
4
7

Group

Overall
CF1
CF2
CF3

78
1
6
21

47.69
54.00
44.50
33.43

12.956
0.000
8.408
8.158
22
36
42

58.36
52.03
53.26

Mean
distance

# of distance
comparisons

Standard
deviation

# of distance
comparisons

Mean
distance

With complement group

Within group

Table 7 Within group vs. with complement group comparison of average distances

7.563
10.019
10.516

Standard
deviation
.564
1.736
7.568

.579
.090
.000

Sig

.757
1.548
5.660

Z MW

.449
.122
.000

Sig.

Cognitive Factions in a Top Management Team


551

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552

D. P. Tegarden et al.

Table 8 Mean ranks of importance of strategic factors using cognitive centrality (Degree)
Strategic factors

CF1

CF2

CF3

TMT

Communication
Competitors
Customers
External image
Growth
Leadership
Marketing/business development
Organization
Personnel management
Products
Profitability
Quality
N
Kendalls W
Chi-Square
df
Sig.

7.25
1.00
5.50
3.25
12.00
7.25
8.00
4.25
5.00
3.50
10.25
10.75
2
0.883
19.431
11
0.054

5.50
3.50
5.13
5.88
11.88
7.63
7.00
2.13
8.00
7.50
6.00
7.88
4
0.492
21.668
11
0.027

7.43
2.57
6.50
4.57
11.14
7.07
6.64
8.00
8.86
2.43
6.79
6.00
7
0.490
37.706
11
0.000

6.81
2.62
5.92
4.77
11.50
7.27
6.96
5.62
8.00
4.15
7.08
7.31
13
.393
56.261
11
0.000

Table 9 Mean ranks of importance of strategic factors using explicit importance ratings
Strategic factors

CF1

CF2

CF3

TMT

Communication
Competitors
Customers
External image
Growth
Leadership
Marketing/business development
Organization
Personnel management
Products
Profitability
Quality
N
Kendalls W
Chi-Square
df
Sig.

5.75
2.25
6.75
2.25
11.00
10.25
7.75
4.50
8.50
4.00
4.00
11.00
2
0.825
18.140
11
0.078

6.38
1.75
6.63
2.88
10.75
8.88
6.00
4.88
9.25
5.38
6.38
8.88
4
0.563
24.783
11
0.010

9.00
1.29
7.64
3.71
9.93
7.57
8.64
6.86
8.64
3.21
5.50
6.00
7
0.555
42.722
11
0.000

7.69
1.58
7.19
3.23
10.35
8.38
7.69
5.88
8.81
4.00
5.54
7.65
13
.514
73.572
11
0.000

like the cognitive centrality measure, the level of agreement reached was again higher than
that reached by the overall team (.514).
Proposition 2 stated that: the surfaced cognitive factions will be associated with taskrelated diversity. To investigate this proposition, we look at the organizational role that the
TMT members played in the company and the number of years (tenure) that the TMT members were with the company. Table 10 shows the values for each TMT member with their
cognitive faction. Given the categorical nature of the company role variable, it is readily
apparent that the CF1 and CF2 cognitive factions are aligned with different business units
in the company, while the CF3 cognitive faction is obviously the home office personnel
comprised of predominantly top executives and corporate support functions. When analyzing
tenure (Years with Company), the Kruskal Wallis One-Way ANOVA (Chi-Square in Table 11)

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Cognitive Factions in a Top Management Team

553

Table 10 Job title, company role and tenure of cognitive faction members
Cognitive
faction

TMT member
number

Job title

Company role

Years with
company (tenure)

CF1

8
9
3
7
10
13
1
2
4
5
6
12
11

VP outsourced solutions
Program Mgroutsourced solutions
CEO
Director logistics
VP logistics
Director facilities
VP IT
Director HRM
President
Director marketing
VP Bus Dev
Director finance
Board member

Business unit
Business unit
Top exec
Business unit
Business unit
Business unit
Business unit
Corporate support
Top exec
Corporate support
Top exec
Corporate support
Corporate board

15.5
12
14
11.5
10
11
12
2
10
9
9
6.5

CF2

CF3

Table 11 Comparison of
cognitive factions by years with
company (tenure)

Kruskal Wallis one-way ANOVAgrouping


variable: cognitive faction
Chi-Square
df
Sig.

5.935
2
.051

shows that tenure (Years with Company) is only significant at the 0.051 level. As such, no
significant relationship with the identified cognitive factions is found. Given the exploratory
nature of this study, it may be too soon to drop tenure as an explanatory basis. However, in
this paper, we no longer consider tenure in our justification of the derived factions. As such,
only company role is relevant with the cognitive factions in this TMT.
Based on the evidence reported above, both Propositions 1 and 2 seem to be supported,
i.e., that cognitive factions exist and they are associated with task-related diversity.
4.3 Cognitive Faction Map Analysis
Proposition 3 states: the cognitive faction belief structures, represented as group cause maps,
will differ: specifically the GME role played by the strategic factors and the causal paths will
be different. As stated previously, here have been many different approaches that have been
used to analyze cause maps. In this paper, we report a subset of the total analysis that could
be performed including levels of agreement analysis, complexity analysis, GME analysis,
and causal theme analysis (Tegarden and Sheetz 2003).
Levels of agreement refer to the fact that since the TMT members independently identify
the causal relationships among the strategic factors, their directional effects (positive or negative influence), and the strength of that effect (13), there will be some relationships that are
agreed upon by all members, some relationships that are agreed on by a subset of the members, and some relationships that may be idiosyncratic to a specific member (Tegarden and
Sheetz 2003). In this paper, we apply the level of agreement analysis to the cognitive faction
maps to develop a central map that is used to represent the agreed upon relationships among
participants in each cognitive faction (Markoczy and Goldberg 1995). In this case, we use the
majority map as representative of the cognitive faction (Sheetz et al. 1994, 1997; Tegarden
and Sheetz 2003): a cause map in which greater than 50% of the members of the cognitive

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D. P. Tegarden et al.

Table 12 Majority map justification. Average distance of cognitive faction majority maps from individual
cognitive faction member maps
Group

Number of TMT members From individual cognitive faction member maps


Number of distance comparisons Mean distance Standard deviation

Overall 13
CF1
2
CF2
4
CF3
7

13
2
4
7

31.85
27.00
25.25
20.29

12.341
11.314
10.874
6.993

Table 13 Majority map justification vs. average distance of cognitive faction majority maps from individual
non-cognitive faction member maps
Group

CF1
CF2
CF3

From individual non-cognitive faction member maps


Number of distance
comparisons

Mean distance

Standard deviation

11
9
6

41.73
42.22
51.17

6.915
8.121
10.944

Sig

Z MW

Sig.

2.581
3.154
6.163

.026
.009
.000

1.985
2.092
3.004

.047
.036
.003

Table 14 Majority map justification vs. average distance of individual cognitive faction member maps from
complement cognitive faction majority maps
Group

CF1
CF2
CF3

From complement cognitive faction majority maps


Number of
distance comparisons

Mean distance

Standard deviation

4
8
14

56.00
46.50
39.29

8.083
7.964
5.690

Sig

Z MW

Sig.

3.721
3.883
6.694

.020
.003
.000

1.852
2.386
3.589

.064
.017
.000

faction agree on the existence of the causal relationships between the strategic factors. Obviously, when only using a majority map to represent the cognitive factions, some information
will be lost. To determine whether the majority map fairly represented the ideas in the individual cognitive faction members map, we computed the average distance of cognitive faction
majority map from each individual cognitive faction member map, the average distance of
cognitive faction majority map from each individual non-cognitive faction member map,
the average distance of each individual cognitive faction member map from the complement
cognitive faction majority maps, and tested using t-tests and Z scores using a MannWhitney
to determine whether the majority maps were a fair representation of the cognitive faction
members belief structures (Markoczy and Goldberg 1995). As shown in Tables 1214, all
but one of these comparisons was significant at the .05 level (see Table 14, CF1, Z MW ). Given
that CF1 only has two members and a significance of .064 was reached, we feel that using
the majority maps as a representation of the cognitive faction belief structures is reasonable.
There have been many different approaches used to describe the complexity of a cause
map (e.g., Axelrod 1976b; Eden et al. 1992). Most of the approaches used come from directed
graph theory (Harary et al. 1965). In this research, we report on four simple measures: number
of nodes, number of links, ratio of links to nodes, and map density. Visually inspecting the

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Cognitive Factions in a Top Management Team


Table 15 Majority map
complexity

555

Measures

CF1

CF2

CF3

Number of nodes
Number of links
Ratio of links to nodes
Map density

11
35
3.18
.32

12
41
3.42
.31

8
9
1.13
.13

complexity measures imply that CF1 and CF2 are similar from a complexity point of view,
but that CF3 is very different from the other two factions (see Table 15).
Next, we review how the factions differentially view the roles played by the strategic
factors from a GME perspective. GME analysis is an analytical technique that interprets the
flow of causality as measured by the ratio of the number of inflows divided by the number
outflows for the categories in the cause map (Bougon et al. 1977; Eden et al. 1992; Tegarden
and Sheetz 2003; Weick and Bougon 1986). Givens are identified by having more outflows
than inflows of causal influence (ratio < 1), means as having approximately the same number
of inflows and outflows (ratio close to 1), and ends having more inflows than outflows (ratio
> 1). Viewing the categories in increasing order of this ratio shows the direction of causality
in a cause map (Bougon et al. 1977; Weick and Bougon 1986). Givens represent the factors
in cause map over which cognitive faction members believe they have no influence. Means
are moderators of the givens influence and can be manipulated by the members to influence
the ends. Ends represent the goals of the members.
Table 16 provides the classifications of the strategic factors based on their connectivity in
the cognitive faction majority maps. There was very little agreement as to the roles the strategic factors played. In fact, none of the factions came to total agreement on the role of any of
the strategic factors. The CF1 and CF2 factions agreed that the External Image and Quality
strategic factors were Means and that the Mktg/Bus Dev factor was an end. The CF1 and
CF3 factions agreed that the Communication strategic factor was a given, the Organization
factor was a Means, and that the Competitors factor was irrelevant (Isolated). The CF2 and
CF3 factions agreed on the GME role of four of the strategic factors: Leadership was a given,
Personnel Mgmt was a means, and Growth and Profitability were ends. However, the GME
role of two of the strategic factors, Customer and Products, were not agreed on by any of
the factions. This lack of agreement as to the GME role of the strategic factors is graphically
shown as a parallel coordinate graph in Fig. 4.10 As dramatically portrayed by the line patterns
in this graph, the factions have very little agreement as to the GME role played by the strategic
factors. Given the company roles that best describe each of the factions, CF1 and CF2 were
separate business units and CF3 was more of a corporate or home office group, and the
fact that the framing statements were given to the TMT members several weeks before the
strategic planning retreat to consider and discuss with colleagues, the disagreement among
the factions as to the GME role of the strategic factors is not surprising. Furthermore, it looks
like the cognitive factions may represent different coalitions within this TMT.
Finally, we review the cognitive factions using causal theme analysis. Causal theme analysis has been used as a useful way to surface strategic issues contained in cause maps (Axelrod
1976a; Bougon and Komocar 1990; Eden et al. 1992; Tegarden and Sheetz 2003). Bougon
and Komocar (1990) and Eden et al. (1992) advocate looking for loops or cycles contained
10 A parallel coordinate graph is a multivariate information visualization. In this case, each strategic factor
is plotted on its own axis. Each cognitive faction is represented as a line that forms a pattern that goes across
the axes of the strategic factors. To compare the cognitive factions, one simply compares the line patterns
(Inselberg 1997; Tegarden 1999).

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D. P. Tegarden et al.

Table 16 Givens-means-ends roles of the strategic factors in the cognitive faction majority maps
Cognitive faction

Givens

Means

Ends

Isolated

CF1

Communication
Products

Personnel Mgmt
Mktg/Bus Dev

Competitors

CF2

Competitors
Leadership

CF3

Communication
Customers
Leadership
Mktg/Bus Dev

Customers
External image
Growth
Leadership
Organization
Profitability
Quality
Communication
External image
Personnel Mgmt
Products
Quality
Organization
Personnel Mgt

CF1

Customers
Growth
Mktg/Bus Dev
Organization
Profitability
Growth
Profitability

CF2

Competitors
External image
Products
Quality

CF3

Ends

Means

Givens

ity
ua
l
Q

ita
bi
lity

Pr
of

od
uc
t
Pr

rg
Pe
an
rs
iz
on
at
ne
io
n
lM
an
ag
em
en
t

op
m
en
t
O

ev
el

rs
hi
p

ar
ke

tin
g/
Bu
s

in
es

ag
e

Le
ad
e

Im

er
na
l

ro
w
th
Ex
t

rs
ito

C
om
pe
t

us
C

C
om
m

un
ic

at
io

to
m
er
s

Isolated

Fig. 4 Cognitive factions givens-means-ends view of the strategic factors

in cause maps to surface potential themes contained in maps. On the other hand, Axelrod
(1976a) recommends using path analysis from directed graph theory to surface potential
themes. Finally, it has also been proposed, for analytical purposes, to remove any direct
causal relationship from one node in a map to another node in the same map if there is an
indirect path between the two nodes since the removed direct relationship is implied via the
indirect path(s) (Eden 2004; Tegarden and Sheetz 2003). For this specific case, we use all
three of these approaches to create what we refer to as an Essential Theme map in which

123

Cognitive Factions in a Top Management Team

Products
(0:3) 4.00

Communication
(1:4) 5.75

Quality
(3:6) 11.00

Leadership
(3:4) 10.25

557

Personnel
Management
(5:0) 8.50
Profitability
(3:5) 4.00

Organization
(1:1) 4.50

External Image
(3:2) 2.25

Marketing /
Business
Development
(4:1) 7.75

Growth
(8:7) 11.00

Customers
(4:2) 6.75

Strategic Factor
(InDegree:OutDegree) Mean Rank

Fig. 5 Essential theme map of CF1. Givens are represented using with a lightly shaded box and a solid outline.
Means are depicted with a unshaded box and a dashed outline. Ends are portrayed with a darker shaded box
with a dashed outline. Positive causal relationships are shown with a solid arrow. Negative/inverse causal
relationships are shown with a dashed arrow. The thickness of the causal relationship depicts the average
strength (1, 2, 3) of the relationship

causal themes are easily identified. Using these maps, we describe the similar and different
foci of the surfaced cognitive factions.
Figures 5 through 7 portray the essential theme maps for the identified cognitive factions.
The strategic factors are portrayed on each map in a left to right order by the GME role that
they played in the original cognitive faction majority map. Givens are shown as a lightly
shaded box drawn with a solid outline, means are shown as an unshaded box drawn with
a dashed outline, and ends are shown as a darker shaded box drawn with a dashed outline.
Positive causal relationships are shown with a solid arrow, while negative/inverse relationships are shown with a dashed arrow. The width of the relationship line portrays the average
strength (1, 2, or 3) of the relationship. Also, with each strategic faction node is a set of
numbers located below the name of the strategic faction. The first set of numbers between
the parentheses is the indegree and outdegree of the strategic faction in the original cognitive
faction majority map. Summing these two numbers represent the cognitive centrality (degree)
of the strategic factor. The second number is the mean ranking of the importance rating of the
strategic factor. For example, in Fig. 5, the Products strategic factor was a given in the CF1
majority map. It had an indegree value of 0 and an outdegree value of 3, giving a cognitive
centrality value of 3 (0 + 3). It also had a mean ranking of 4.00 as its explicit importance
value.
Figure 5 portrays the essential theme map of CF1. By laying out the map in a GME order,
we readily see causal loops and paths. Interestingly, we also see that the Growth strategic
factor is a means and not a goal of this group. Since growth was the underlying purpose of the
retreat, this is somewhat surprising. Furthermore, by reviewing the indegree, outdegree, and
mean rank of importance, we see that the Growth strategic factor is the most important factor
from this factions perspective. CF1 also sees the Growth strategic factor as having potentially
negative impacts on the Organization and Communication strategic factors. In other words,
according to the beliefs of CF1, growth can have negative consequences to the firm. Delving

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D. P. Tegarden et al.

Organization
(4:1) 4.88

Leadership
(1:7) 8.88

Personnel
Management
(3:5) 9.25

Quality
(2:6) 8.88

External Image
(2:4) 2.88

Products
(2:4) 5.38

Marketing /
Business
Development
(5:2) 6.00

Growth
(9:4) 10.75

Profitability
(6:1) 6.38

Communication
(2:4) 6.38

Customers
(5:1) 6.63

Competitors
(0:2) 1.75

Strategic Factor
(InDegree:OutDegree) Mean Rank

Fig. 6 Essential theme map of CF2. Givens are represented using with a lightly shaded box and a solid outline.
Means are depicted with a unshaded box and a dashed outline. Ends are portrayed with a darker shaded box
with a dashed outline. Positive causal relationships are shown with a solid arrow. Negative/inverse causal
relationships are shown with a dashed arrow. The thickness of the causal relationship depicts the average
strength (1, 2, 3) of the relationship

Leadership
(0:3) 7.57

Organization
(1:2) 6.86

Profitability
(1:0) 5.50

Communication
(0:1) 9.00

Personnel
Management
(2:1) 8.64

Growth
(5:0) 9.93

Marketing /
Business
Development
(0:1) 8.64

Customers
(0:1) 7.64

Strategic Factor
(InDegree:OutDegree) Mean Rank

Fig. 7 Essential theme Map of CF3. Givens are represented using with a lightly shaded box and a solid
outline. Means are depicted with a unshaded box and a dashed outline. Ends are portrayed with a darker
shaded box with a dashed outline. Positive causal relationships are shown with a solid arrow. Negative/inverse
causal relationships are shown with a dashed arrow. The thickness of the causal relationship depicts the average
strength (1, 2, 3) of the relationship

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Cognitive Factions in a Top Management Team

559

a little deeper into CF1, we see that CF1 is comprised of only two TMT members. Even
though their tenure (Years with Company) has been long, they are representing a relatively
new business unit where the primary goal has been to create new business. As such, they
have been experiencing the consequences of growth on the firm. Another interesting belief
of this faction is that the Personnel Management strategic factor is an end or goal. Since
this faction has been concentrating on growing the business, having the right personnel
is critical. Furthermore, they obviously see that the Marketing and Business Development
strategic factor is a goal. Without concentrating on these two goals, from CF1s perspective,
growth has negative effects that feeds back through the map which could cause growth to
be in vain. By carefully reviewing this factions belief structure, in the form of an essential
theme map, many critical issues have been surfaced that needed to be discussed and debated
during the retreat.
Figure 6 depicts the essential theme map of CF2. Like CF1, we see that the Growth strategic factor is the most important strategic factor (see indegree, outdegree, and mean rank of
importance values). However, unlike CF1, in this case the Growth strategic factor is an end.
Again, like CF1, CF2 sees that the Growth strategic factor has the potential of negatively
affecting the Communication strategic factor. However, CF2 believes that the Communication and Leadership strategic factors are intertwined, while CF1 saw them as being separately
and differentially affected by the Growth strategic factor. Another interesting point that this
particular map brings out is that this faction is the only one that saw the Competitors strategic factor playing a role in the future direction of the firm. Since this particular faction
was made up a predominantly TMT members from very well established and stable business
units, they obviously have had to deal with competitors, whereas the members of CF1 are
still in more of a startup mode. Finally, an interesting loop that is brought out involves the
Marketing/Business Development, Growth, and Profitability strategic factors all of which
are ends for this faction.
The belief structure of CF3 is shown in Fig. 7. The first thing that pops out at you is the
rather simple view that this map portrays. Even though this faction agrees with CF1 and CF2
that the Growth strategic factor is the most important factor, in comparison to CF1 and CF2,
this particular faction does not see the inherent complexity in growing the firm. At first glance,
one must wonder whether this faction is simply an artifact of the process used to derive the
factions. However, when reviewing the earlier results (see Tables 79), this faction seems to
belong together. Another explanation could be that the essential theme map simply does not
capture the underlying beliefs of the members of this faction. However, the evidence does not
support this explanation either (see Tables 1214). The only explanation that makes sense is
the company roles played by the membership of this faction (see Table 10). It seems that the
home office or corporate personnel did not really understand the complexity, and hence
the issues, that were involved in growing the firm. They believed in the goals of growing and
increasing the profitability of the firm, however, they did not seem to understand the potential
unintended consequences that this could have on the business units.
When carefully reviewing the essential theme maps of the cognitive factions (see
Figs. 57), we see that there are very few direct relationships that exist across the maps
(see Table 17). In fact, only two relationships were shared among all three factions, one relationship was shared between CF1 and CF2, none were shared between CF1 and CF3, and
two relationships were shared between CF2 and CF3. This further suggests that there are
potentially many issues to be discussed and debated among the members of this TMT as to
the direction that the firm must go to effectively grow the firm.
Based on the above, there seems to be very little agreement across the factions as to the
causal relationships among the strategic factors. Table 18 provides a listing of the unique

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Table 17 Shared direct relationships among the essential theme maps


Cognitive factions

Shared direct relationships between strategic factors

CF1, CF2, CF3

Customer Growth
Marketing/Business Development Growth
Growth (-) Communication

CF1, CF2
CF1, CF3
CF2, CF3

Table 18 Unique direct


relationships contained in the
essential theme maps

Organization Growth
Leadership Personnel Management

Cognitive
factions

Unique direct relationships


between strategic factors

CF1

Communication Qualitya
External Image Marketing/Business Developmenta
Growth Customersb
Growth Leadershipb
Growth (-) Organizationa
Leadership Qualitya
Organization Leadershipb
Products Qualityb
Profitability External Imageb
Profitability Personnel Managementb
Quality Profitabilitya
Communication Leadershipc
Competitors (-) Growth
External Image Products
Growth Profitabilityc
Leadership Communicationd
Personnel Management Organization
Personnel Management Quality
Products Customersc
Products Marketing/Business Developmentc
Profitability Marketing/Business Developmentc
Quality External Imagec
Communication Personnel Managementa,c
Leadership Organizationa
Organization Profitabilitya,c
Personnel Management Growtha

CF2

a Indirect Causal Path in CF2


b Indirect Inverse Causal Path in

CF2

c Indirect Causal Path in CF1


d Indirect Inverse Causal Path in

CF1

CF3

direct relationships included in the essential theme maps of the cognitive factions. However,
on closer examination, many of the unique direct relationships are in fact represented as
indirect causal paths in other maps. For example, CF1 has a unique relationship from the
Communication strategic factor to the Quality strategic factor. However, this relationship
is represented in CF2 as an indirect causal path from the Communication strategic factor
through the Leadership and Personnel Management strategic factors to the Quality strategic
factor. In fact, of the 11 unique direct casual relationships contained in the essential map
of CF1, five of them are represented as indirect casual paths in the essential map of CF2.
Furthermore, six of the 11 unique direct relationships in the essential map of CF2 are represented as indirect casual paths in the essential map of CF1 and two of the four unique direct
relationships associated with CF3 are represented as indirect casual paths with CF1 and all
four can be found as indirect casual paths in CF2.

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By further examining the unique relationships contained in the essential maps (see
Table 18), we uncover additional potential points of contention, disagreement, and/or confusion. For example, in the essential map of CF1 (see Fig. 6), there is a unique direct relationship
from the Growth strategic factor to the Customers strategic factor. Upon closer examination
of the essential map of CF2, we see that there is an indirect causal path from the Growth
strategic factor to the Customers strategic factor via the Communication, Leadership, Personnel Management, Quality, External Image, and Products strategic factors. However, due
to the negative/inverse relationship from the Growth strategic factor to the Communication
strategic factor, the indirect casual path is a negative/inverse path and not a positive path. As
such, even though there is an indirect path between the two factors, CF1 and CF2 disagree
as to the effect of the relationship between the two factors. In fact, we find that six of the 11
unique direct relationships of the essential map of CF1 are represented as indirect inverse
casual paths in CF2. Furthermore, one of the unique direct relationships of CF2 is represented
as an indirect inverse casual path with CF1. Finally, it turns out that there are only four totally
unique direct relationships contained in the essential maps. All four of these are included in
the essential theme map of CF2 (see Table 18). Obviously, based on all of the above results,
the members of this TMT had many issues to discuss and debate during their retreat.
Based on the above results, Proposition 3 also seems to be supported. Specifically the
factions had different roles for the strategic factors and the essential maps revealed different
causal paths among the strategic factors.

5 Discussion
This was an exploratory study that investigated the existence of cognitive factions among a
TMT. The purpose of this study was 3-fold: to explain why cognitive factions are important to
identify and use as an intervention in strategy, explore the link between cognitive factions and
task related diversity, and to conduct a comparative analysis of the different belief structures.
We examine each aspect below.
We proposed that cognitive factions existed among a TMT in the form of different belief
structures. We found support with this proposition using measurements of the content and
structural aspects of the cognitive faction maps and the independent measure of importance ratings of the strategic factors contained in the maps. The existence of different belief
structures is consistent with Hambrick (1994, 1995, 2007) and Eisenhardt et al. (1997) observations and survey findings: that TMTs have little teamness among then and TMTs have
fragmented beliefs.
Furthermore, we proposed that cognitive factions were associated with task-related diversity. In this case, we found that cognitive factions were related to task diversity, or company
role. The three factions in our study were the corporate-level executives, a new business unit
and the combination of two old business units. The differences with the TMT members
tenure were not significantly. However, TMT members tenure with the company was nearly
significant (.051) and thus needs further investigation. In addition, since the TMT members
had the framing statement questions for several weeks before the retreat to consider and discuss, the results lend support for the social influence perspective where different perceptions
and beliefs arise within the context of independent action at the corporate and division levels
of the organization. This is consistent with the Chattopadhyay et al. (1999) study.
Another aspect of this study was to measure cognitive diversity using explicit belief structures. We found differences in their belief structures as represented by cause maps and that the
strategic factor GME roles and causal paths through the strategic factors revealed different

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stories regarding growth of the firm. For example, each faction has different beliefs regarding
growth. The corporate faction (CF3) essential theme map (see Fig. 7) was rather simplistic in
its view of the interrelationships of the strategic factors associated with growth. This faction
did not really understand the complexity of the issues surrounding growth, primarily they
missed the unintended consequences of growth. They simply believed in the goals (ends)
of growing and increasing the profitability of the firm. In contrast, both of the business unit
factions understood some of these complexities, especially the negative aspects of growth.
CF1 (see Fig. 5), the new business unit, saw growth as having potentially negative impacts on
the organization and communication strategic factors. Since this is a relatively new business
unit, they are focused on their experiences with managing growth, especially with organization, communication and personnel management. The old business unit managers, CF2
(see Fig. 6) also believed that there were negative consequences with communication, and
the impact it had on leadership, personnel management, product and service aspects of their
business. They were also the only group that included competitors in their belief structure.
This example demonstrates how explicit belief differences regarding the GME role and causal
paths with the same strategic factors can be used to generate issues for discussion and debate.
The ability to compare across factions is enhanced because of the common reference point of
using the same strategic factors that the team generates prior to constructing their individual
cause maps.
The results associated with Proposition 3 suggest that debate and discussion will be facilitated by the surfaced faction maps. Furthermore, the literature suggests that debate and
discussion will improve decision performance and since we observed both debate and discussion occurring with the maps when they were presented to the TMT, it seems reasonable
to assume that decision performance will be improved. At this point in time, measurement
of decision performance is left for future research. However, the entire process from the time
that the TMT members begin the brainstorming of the concepts in response to the framing
statement and stall diagram to the presentation of the essential theme maps to the TMT is
completed in a matter of hours.11 As such, the strategic planning retreat could focus more
time and energy on the debate and discussion of the surfaced issues contained in the essential
theme maps of the cognitive factions. However, more systematic investigation of cause mapping processes as intervention tools is needed. Cause mapping has the potential to support
processes that can lead to more thorough evaluation prior to reaching consensus about the
strategy and direction of the firm (Dess 1987; Dess and Origer 1987).
A comparison of different cause mapping processes in strategic planning could be very
beneficial in terms of providing more effective interventions for TMTs. The resulting cognitive faction maps surfaced a set of different beliefs existing within the TMT. Since the
cognitive faction maps are derived directly from the individual maps, it also enables a member to see their individual view in the context of the cognitive factions. This enables TMT
members to reflect on their own beliefs by asking questions like Why do I have that relationship that no one else has identified? Can someone explain the relationship from A to B?
Thus, the comparable maps facilitate discussion.
Our study and findings are limited to a single TMT. In order to build and test theory
regarding cognitive factions in TMTs, multiple TMTs need to be studied in a more systematic manner. The obvious question is whether or not cognitive factions in TMTs are related
to task diversity. Based on some of our findings, additional questions can now be asked.
For example, does organizational role (division vs. corporate manager) relate to systematic
11 In this case, the entire individual causal map elicitation process took less than 4 h of the TMT members
time in the three day strategic planning retreat.

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563

differences in beliefs regarding strategic change? Or, are corporate manager views more goal
driven and division views more implementation driven?
Depending on the causal mapping elicitation approach used, the identification of the common vocabulary can be very labor intensive. By using the methodology incorporated in our
process, we were able to avoid this problem. However, once the common vocabulary has
been identified, and the individual maps have been recast using the common vocabulary, this
approach is straightforward. The efficiency and effectiveness of our approach needs further
investigation, especially in comparison of other approaches, both within the context of the
research setting as well as an intervention tool for strategic planning. For example, how do
cause mapping approaches affect the cognitive factions surfaced in a TMT. We expect that
researcher-driven approaches to either data capture or merging can alter, perhaps even reduce,
the diversity uncovered. As such, more studies like Hodgkinson et al. (2004) are needed to
sort out the effects and consequences of different cause mapping approaches.
Further investigation into using causal mapping and cluster analysis to identify cognitive factions in top management teams is needed. We used Wards agglomeration clustering
method with the squared Euclidean distance measure to surface the cognitive factions in
this TMT. However, there are many other clustering algorithms and similarity/dissimilarity
measures available. As such, a systematic study of which clustering algorithms and similarity/dissimilarity measures for cognitive faction identification seems to be called for.
By clustering the individual cause maps, based on their shared causal relationships and
strategic factors, we were able to uncover a set of cognitive factions within the TMT. Using
a variety of techniques, we were able to justify the cognitive factions surfaced. Finally, using
GME and causal path analysis, many issues that were needed to be discussed and debated
among the members of the TMT during the retreat were revealed.

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