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The effects of collaboration on performance: A multilevel validation in project


Article  in  International Journal of Project Organisation and Management · January 2012

DOI: 10.1504/IJPOM.2012.045362


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François Chiocchio
University of Ottawa


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Int. J. Project Organisation and Management, Vol. 4, No. 1, 2012 1

The effects of collaboration on performance:

a multilevel validation in project teams

François Chiocchio* and Simon Grenier

Université de Montréal,
Département de Psychologie,
C.P. 6128 Succ. Centre-ville,
Montréal (Québec), H3C 3J7, Canada
Fax: (514) 343-2285
*Corresponding author

Thomas A. O’Neill
Department of Psychology,
The University of Western Ontario,
London, Ontario N6A 5C2, Canada
Fax: (519) 661-3961

Karine Savaria
Université de Montréal,
Département de Psychologie,
C.P. 6128 Succ. Centre-ville,
Montréal (Québec), H3C 3J7, Canada
Fax: (514) 343-2285

J. Douglas Willms
Canadian Research Institute for Social Policy,
University of New Brunswick,
Suite 300, Keirstead Hall,
Fredericton, New Brunswick E3B 5A3, Canada
Fax: (506) 447-3427

Abstract: Project teams are essential to organisations. Team processes – how

team members manage interdependencies across time to achieve a common
goal – are sensitive to changes organisations must orchestrate to adapt their
functioning to technological changes, industry requirements, and market
pressures. Using two samples and different work configurations, we present
individual-level, team-level, and cross-level construct and predictive validity
evidence regarding an instrument measuring an essential project team process:

Copyright © 2012 Inderscience Enterprises Ltd.

2 F. Chiocchio et al.

collaborative work. Consistent with theory, confirmatory factor analysis

yielded a 2nd order factor structure composed of teamwork communication,
synchronicity, explicit coordination, and implicit coordination. At the
individual level, collaborative work is predictive of contextual and task
performance. Hierarchical linear modelling revealed that aggregates indicative
of team-level collaboration – team average and consensus – explain
individual-level performance after controlling for individuals’ collaborative
behaviours. At the team level, both aggregates predict team outcome
performance. Our interpretation of the current study’s validity evidence
casts the collaborative work questionnaire as a short self-report instrument
useful across contexts. Its use could contribute to theory development
by distinguishing between team processes as mediators affecting
input-performance relations. In practical terms, averages and consensual
information could help researchers and practitioners choose appropriate
combinations of individual- and team-level solutions for improvement.

Keywords: collaboration; teamwork; individual performance; team


Reference to this paper should be made as follows: Chiocchio, F., Grenier, S.,
O’Neill, T.A., Savaria, K. and Willms, J.D. (2012) ‘The effects of collaboration
on performance: a multilevel validation in project teams’, Int. J. Project
Organisation and Management, Vol. 4, No. 1, pp.1–37.

Biographical notes: François Chiocchio is an Associate Professor at the

Université de Montréal’s Industrial and Organizational Psychology Program.
He published on projects, teamwork, and collaboration in major peer-reviewed
journals (e.g., Project Management Journal, International Journal of Project
Management, Journal of Vocational Behavior, Small Group Research) using
both qualitative and quantitative designs. He received a prestigious award – the
Prize of the Ministry of Education – for his collaborative web platform
designed to help student teams communicate and manage their projects. He is
one of the only academics specialised in I-O psychology certified as a project
management professional (PMP) by the Project Management Institute.

Simon Grenier is a PhD candidate in Industrial-Organizational Psychology at

Université de Montréal where he benefits from several prestigious research
grants. His research interests are human motivation, team processes and justice
issues. Prior to entering the I-O program, Simon obtained his bachelor degree at
Université du Québec à Montréal. Under Robert J. Vallerand’s supervision, his
honours thesis was awarded a Certificate of Academic Excellence by the
Canadian Psychological Association. He is currently completing an internship
as health and organisational development consultant for the Québec Ministry of
Health and Social Services.

Thomas O’Neill completed his undergraduate degree at the University of

Calgary and his Master’s degree at the University of Western Ontario. He will
receive his PhD in Industrial and Organizational psychology from the
University of Western Ontario in 2011. His research involves work team
effectiveness, personality, virtual team performance and leadership, and
research methods. He has published over ten peer-reviewed journal articles
in outlets such as Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes,
Personality and Individual Differences and the European Journal of
Personality. He has also worked on several business consulting projects, and he
currently teaches an undergraduate course, ‘The Psychology of People, Work,
and Organizations’.
The effects of collaboration on performance 3

Karine Savaria is a PhD candidate at the Université de Montréal’s

Industrial and Organizational Psychology Program. She is a Psychologist in an
HR consultancy as well. Her interests center on assessment for selection
and for development. Specifically, here thesis focuses on individual factors
that affect feedback appropriation. She presented in national and
international conferences and authored articles in journals or peer-reviewed

J. Douglas Willms is a Professor and the Director of the Canadian

Research Institute for Social Policy at the University of New Brunswick
(UNB). He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, a Fellow of the
International Academy of Education, and a Member of the US National
Academy of Education. He is known for his training of new investigators in the
analysis of complex multilevel data. He regularly conducts workshops on
multilevel modelling across Canada and throughout Asia, Europe and Latin

1 Introduction

Pick any recently published study on teams and it will start by citing an ever-increasing
amount of scholarly work supporting two assertions. The first is that teamwork is
ubiquitous in organisations. The second is that organisations change over time, which
implies that how they organise work changes as well. Interestingly, these assertions –
together or alone – appear in papers going back a century to when Taylor (1911, p.7)
asserted that “In the past, the man has been first; in the future, the system must be first”
which in turn calls, he adds, for cooperation. Looking back at that century, waves of
various revolutions – from farming and manufacturing to an expanding array of
technological developments – have emphasised that the operational environment
influences individuals and teams (Salas et al., 2007). In sum, how people ‘work together’
within changing organisations is a longstanding concern.
This concern is particularly relevant when considering projects, project teams, and
project management. Organisations are becoming increasingly projectised (Ibbs et al.,
2007), that is, they are transforming from achieving objectives by managing ongoing
operations to achieving objectives through projects (Slevin and Pinto, 2007). In parallel,
project management is evolving from managing technical processes to focusing on
psychosocial determinants of performance (Belout, 1997; Slevin and Pinto, 2007), which
“puts a strain on project management theory and practice” [Chiocchio and Essiembre,
(2009), p.382]. In other words, project teams are, by definition, intricate changing entities
embedded in changing organisations.
Project management scholars and practitioners already know how to assess project
progression (e.g., earned value management, PERT, CPM), but important unanswered
questions persist on the human side of the project management equation. What does it
mean to ‘work together’ effectively in the specific context of a project? What
psychosocial determinants should we assess to foster individual, team, and project
performance? In this article, we answer these questions by presenting validation evidence
of a new instrument measuring collaboration in project teams. The instrument’s aim is to
provide theorists with information on boundary conditions regarding how much and what
4 F. Chiocchio et al.

kinds of social processes best determine project team performance and to generate
accurate diagnostics that will help practitioners choose and apply appropriate
performance improving interventions.
We first discuss team development theories, define team processes in general, and
define the construct of collaboration in particular. Next, we present validation evidence
using two samples and factor analysis techniques. We then present additional evidence
for the construct of collaboration at the team level by distinguishing its manifestation
from individual-level behaviours. Finally, we present predictive validity evidence by
linking collaboration to team performance.

2 Team research and change

Teams and how they operate are not new concerns. In the 1930s, the Hawthorne
studies, among other things, “stressed the importance of good social interactions in
sustaining workers’ morale” [Murray, (1983), p.336]. In the 1940s, Lewin was
instrumental in group dynamics research while Hemphill outlined how leadership
interacts with group characteristics and phenomena such as composition effects
(i.e., homogeneity), group adherence to standardised behaviours, and group
satisfaction (Salas et al., 2007). The 1960s and 1970s, despite somewhat of a decline
in research (McGrath et al., 2000), saw its focus move towards mapping team
processes’ influences and outcomes (McGrath, 1964), process losses (Steiner, 1972),
and how group dynamics influenced group development over time (Tuckman, 1965).
To some extent, these concerns remain today, but are constantly renewed by rapid
contextual changes. For example, Landy (2003, pp.176–177) states emphatically
“Until the mid-1980s, most jobs were solitary rather than social. That has
changed. Until the mid-1980s, computers were tools used by specialists. That
has changed. Until the mid-1980s, most client contact occurred between sales
reps and customers. That has changed. In short, work has changed, often

The 1990s saw ‘booming and explosive’ [Salas et al., (2007), p.423] changes brought
on by globalisation, the concurrent penetration of communication technology, and
the rise of more complex team configurations such as teams whose members are
dispersed geographically (Hinds and Bailey, 2003). Work has shifted from stable
well-specified individual jobs to team-based structures geared toward customer-driven
performance targets (Murphy and Jackson, 1999). Interestingly, in addition to a renewed
interest in team processes (Mathieu et al., 2000; McGrath et al., 2000), that decade saw
the focus change from “what predicts team effectiveness and viability to more complex
questions regarding why some groups are more effective than others” [Ilgen et al., (2005),
p.518; italic in the original]. These contextual changes have been met by emerging
theories and methods coalescing to effectively express the multilevel complexities of
team phenomena (Kozlowski and Klein, 2000); that is, individuals influence – and are
influenced by – their immediate environment (i.e., their team) and their organisation
(Ilgen et al., 2005).
The effects of collaboration on performance 5

3 The need for solid theoretical foundations

The fact that project teams “have become a regular element in the corporate lexicon”
[Goodwin et al., (2009), p.3] does not mean that they are well understood by scholars and
practitioners. Two areas of concern deserve attention: problems with labels and gaps in
First, scholars and practitioners alike often use misleading labels and confuse a
team’s position in an organisation with the tasks it must perform given a specific context.
This is apparent in Devine’s (2002) comparison and integration of multiple team type
taxonomies where ‘project teams’ appear similar to ‘negotiation teams’ but could also be
‘commissions’, and where ‘problem solving teams’ or ‘advisory teams’ seem to stand
alone as if project teams only negotiate without solving problems. Other studies refer to
self-managed teams and top-management teams. Self-managed teams are not limited to
project work – they are often seen in manufacturing (e.g., Batt, 2004) – but project teams
are largely self-managed (Larson, 2007). Top-management teams are usually involved in
ongoing operations (e.g., identifying environmental opportunities and constraints,
interpreting relevant information, formulating strategy; Mintzberg, 1982) until a sudden
‘dislocating event’ [Kourdi, (2003), p.48] such as a merger forces them to change from
well-known tasks into an array of transient non-routine activities. These complex
non-routine activities involve phases such as establishing a fair value, acquiring that
value, and rationalising different budgeting systems and personnel policies (Kubr, 1996;
Wiersema and Bantel, 1992). The point is that top-management teams and any other type
of team can be involved in operational, routine, and ongoing tasks, and in projects.
Second, because project teams are multi-staged temporary organisations (Turner and
Müller, 2003), team development theories often cannot fully integrate their temporal
characteristics, team dynamics, or the fact that team composition varies from phase to
phase (see boundary conditions in Kozlowski et al., 1999). Interestingly, evidence is
surfacing suggesting that project teams develop temporally along self-imposed or
externally driven milestones (Chiocchio, 2007; Chiocchio and Lafrenière, 2009) rather
than through fixed stages as suggested by Tuckman (1965).
Problems with labels and theoretical gaps must be addressed in order to construct a
valid instrument. The next section will define project teams. We will then define and
discuss how taskwork, teamwork, emergent states, and processes interact because they
are intricately related to how teams develop and evolve over time. This will make it
possible to define collaboration and understand how it affects team performance.

4 What is a project team?

While definitions of projects and teams are frequent, no clear definition of project teams
We define project teams as complex human organizations constrained by a
context requiring project work.
Apparently simple, this definition has major theoretical underpinnings, which require
defining projects and project work, teams in general, complexity, and context.
6 F. Chiocchio et al.

4.1 Projects and project work

Projects, and therefore the work they involve, combine temporariness (i.e., the process
is time-bounded) and uniqueness (i.e., the work involves non-routine tasks) (Cohen
and Bailey, 1997) into progressive elaboration (Project Management Institute,
2008). Progressive elaboration means that at the beginning of a project, there is only a
broad understanding of the end result and the process needed to achieve it. Work
is planned as thoroughly as possible in the beginning, but as knowledge grows and the
project progresses, both become more explicit and detailed (Webster and Knutson,

4.2 Teams in general

Although the definitions of projects and project work help to understand what project
teams do, one cannot forget that teams in general share many characteristics. We define
teams as
“complex entities characterized by (a) two or more individuals (b) who
interact socially, (c) dynamically, (d) recursively, (e) adaptively; (f) who
have shared or common valued goals; (g) who hold meaningful and high
levels of task, feedback, and goal interdependencies; (h) who are often
hierarchically structured; (i) whose group has a limited life span; (j) whose
expertise and roles are distributed and (k) who are embedded within an
organizational/environmental context that influences and is influenced by
enacted competencies and processes, emergent cognitive and affective states,
performance outcomes, and stakeholder judgments of team member and team
effectiveness.” [Salas et al., (2007), p.408]

4.3 Complex human organisations

We describe project teams as human organisations to focus on the human element of
project work as suggested by Belout (1997) and to capture Turner and Müller’s (2003,
p.4) concept of the project “as an agency for resource utilization”. Using Kozlowski et
al.’s (1999) framework of team performance contexts and demands, we further describe
project teams as complex. They are complex because the task is structured, externally
driven, and dynamic where goals shift as part and parcel of the projects’ progressive
elaboration demands. In terms of process they are complex because “effectiveness hinges
on the ability of team members to integrate their individual performances to meet
temporally paced coordination demands, and to adapt that coordinated interdependence to
dynamic situational demands” [Kozlowski et al., (1999), p.245]. As part of a complex
team, project team members must adapt to changing contingencies and continually
improve over time.

4.4 Context
Individuals are embedded in their team, and teams are embedded in their organisation
(Ilgen, 1999; Kozlowski and Klein, 2000). Each level (organisational, team) acts as a
context for its members (teams, individuals). Context can be defined as “situational
opportunities and constraints that affect the occurrence and meaning of organizational
The effects of collaboration on performance 7

behavior as well as functional relationships between variables” [Johns, (2006), p.386]. At

least two issues follow from such a definition when teams are concerned: differences
across types of teams and the interaction between individual and team levels of
Different types of teams such as action teams, negotiation teams, production teams
(see Devine, 2002, for a review), or project teams entail different contexts for their
members. Consequently, “it may be unrealistic to work toward achieving a truly general
theory of the relationships between group interaction and group performance
effectiveness” [Hackman and Morris, (1975), p.58] in part because teams vary in terms of
temporal duration, work cycle, task structure, physical ability requirements, hardware
dependence, active resistance, and physical health risk (Devine, 2002). In addition,
because interpersonal processes impact team effectiveness (Hackman, 1987; Sundstrom
et al., 1990), we argue along with others that social processes (Daily, 1980) and how they
are managed (Murphy and Jackson, 1999) are highly dependent upon context.
Comparative studies help underscore these points. For example, group cohesion – which
is either an emergent state (Marks et al., 2001) or a social process (Zaccaro, 1991) – has
been traditionally seen as a required characteristic of any team (Cohen and Bailey, 1997).
However, Chiocchio and Essiembre’s (2009) meta-analysis demonstrated that the
cohesion–performance relationship has considerably less traction in service and
production teams than in project teams.
What is true between types of teams is also true among various project teams.
Project teams occur in a variety of contexts. For example, projects in architecture,
engineering, and construction occur in a fragmented industry where team members
often come from different organisations (Chiocchio et al., 2006; Pektasx and Pultar,
2006). IT projects can be delivered by consultancies, in which case the consultancies’
processes interface with their clients’. IT projects can also be delivered by an
organisation’s own IT branch entailing some level of matrix management and boundary
spanning. Projects can be undertaken outside traditional fields such as in health
organisations where the challenges of multidisciplinary collaborations combine with
difficulties that arise from less-honed project management knowledge and skills
(Chiocchio et al., 2010).
To summarise, our definition of project teams is deceptively simple, yet entails major
theoretical and practical implications. Taking footing on Salas et al.’s (2007) rich
definition of teams, our definition of project teams avoids oversimplifications resulting
from focusing solely on the idea of a common goal. Our definition acknowledges the
inherent complexity of project teams, the demands they face, and the context in which
they face them. Our definition frames project teams as human organisations to ensure a
clear distinction between the technical and human sides of the project management coin
while making sure both are better integrated. Finally, our definition of project teams
avoids labelling problems by distinguishing the grouping of individuals from their
position in the organisation (i.e., ‘top-management teams’) or the kind of work they
perform (i.e., ‘construction team’).
Although a clear definition of a project team is necessary to develop and validate
an instrument, it is not sufficient. We also need to understand how teams function
and develop over time if we are to establish validity on predicting performance. To do so,
three issues must be addressed: the idea of multiple levels, the distinction between
taskwork and teamwork, and the distinction between emergent states and team processes.
8 F. Chiocchio et al.

5 A multi-level perspective on taskwork, teamwork, emergent states and

team processes

Upon examining the state of affairs in team research, many advocate research with “a
levels perspective” [Kozlowski and Bell, (2003), p.363] which aligns constructs, data,
and analyses to address the conceptual and methodological complexities of embedded
phenomena (Kozlowski and Klein, 2000; Morgeson and Hofmann, 1999). This is crucial
because teams serve as a context in which individuals engage in taskwork and teamwork
(Goodwin et al., 2009).
Taskwork (i.e., how team members interact with tasks, tools, machines, and systems)
is an individual-level phenomenon. Teamwork – that is, how team members work to
combine their thoughts, actions, and feelings to coordinate and adapt, and to reach a
common goal – is a team-level phenomena. Measurements and calculations performed by
an engineer (i.e., taskwork) may influence team decision-making (i.e., teamwork).
Emergent states are team-level phenomena indicative of members’ attitudes, values,
cognitions, and motivations that develop from the individual to the team level (i.e.,
bottom-up) over the life of the team to impact individual and team outcomes (Ilgen et al.,
2005; Marks et al., 2001). A good example of an emergent state is collective self-efficacy
or group potency (Hecht et al., 2002; Jung and Sosik, 2003) – group beliefs a team holds
regarding its potential to perform. Team processes are “members’ interdependent acts
that convert inputs to outcomes through cognitive, verbal, and behavioral activities
directed toward organizing taskwork to achieve collective goals” [Marks et al., (2001),
p.357). A good example of a process is communication – an essential component of
project management (Haywood, 1998) and the necessary vehicle that enables
coordination and cooperation (Crawford, 2002; Kozlowski and Bell, 2003).
Taskwork, teamwork, processes, and emergent states develop over time through
interactions between team members as they start out as a collection of individuals to
become – or fail to become – a fully functioning team. Kozlowski et al. (1999) suggest
that early on in the team’s life, individuals seek information to clarify the mission, reduce
team governance ambiguity, and decrease social uncertainty. They concentrate on their
taskwork but gradually take part with sub-groupings of teammates in intense bidirectional
interactions where, through coordination and mutual expectations, teammates define and
negotiate their roles and develop an understanding of how their task outputs affect others.
Eventually, a truly functioning and adaptive team is capable of avoiding task overload
and is able to sequence, synchronise, and pace its activities.

6 Key components of project team processes and how to measure them

Important themes transcend from the preceding discussion on project teams and the
interplay of taskwork, teamwork, and team development. A collection of individuals
evolves into a functioning team through interactions that align interdependent tasks on
common goals. Teamwork requires coordination and cooperation, which necessitates
recursive communication (Kozlowski and Bell, 2003; Salas et al., 2007). Teamwork
implies team members must understand each other and adapt to synchronise their
activities in time (Kozlowski et al., 1999; McGrath and Kelly, 1986). Together, these
components – communication, coordination, cooperation, synchronicity – are key
processes that influence team performance.
The effects of collaboration on performance 9

6.1 Problems with definitions

After identifying key processes, a simple enough task is to conduct a literature review.
Surprisingly, as can be seen in Table 1, grasping the meaning of these constructs is a
difficult endeavour: the concepts are often ill defined and difficult to separate (Kozlowski
and Bell, 2003). We identified seven problems in the literature that pose serious
difficulties for theory building as well as for practitioners that require comprehensive
diagnostic instruments to justify and measure the effects of various interventions.
First, quite surprisingly, it is not rare that the constructs of communication,
collaboration, and cooperation are not even defined. For example, in their study on shared
mental models, Mathieu et al. (2000) define team processes as comprised of strategy
formation and coordination, cooperation, and communication, but offer no definitions of
these dimensions. Similarly, in their instrument on work group characteristic and
effectiveness, Campion et al. (1993) do not define ‘communication and cooperation’
although they do define the 17 other dimensions of their instrument. Second, some
scholars use a macroscopic perspective, while others, a more microscopic point of view
such as Smith-Jentsch et al. (1998) and Deutsch’s (1949) definitions of communication.
Third, similar definitions are used under different labels. For example, Kabanoff and
O’Brien (1979) define collaboration in terms of simultaneous work, which seems to be
what Marks et al. (2001) might defined coordination or what Rousseau et al. (2006)
labelled cooperation. A fourth related issue is the use of tautological items. This is when
the label used as the construct’s name is embedded in the item. In light of Table 1’s
content and therefore the considerable variation among academics regarding the
definition of these constructs, there is no reason to presume that others would not suffer
the same inconsistencies. Hence, items such as ‘To what extent did they cooperate well
during the missions?’ under cooperation and ‘To what extent did the team plan together
and coordinate its efforts?’ under coordination [Mathieu et al., (2000), p.277]) leave it to
study participants to lay their own idiosyncratic meaning onto their ratings, which may
increase measurement error. Fifth, compound definitions of constructs are not rare. For
example, some define coordination as good communication, cooperation, and
coordination of individual activities (e.g., Tesluk and Mathieu, 1999). Sixth, the same
problem occurs at the item level – so called ‘double-barrel questions’ [Hinkin, (1995),
p.970]. For example, items often confuse the act or quality of communication with a
substantive issue. An item such as ‘To what extent did your group discuss any
deadlines?’ could be construed as representing communication or temporal planning
[Janicik and Bartel, (2003), p.127]. Admittedly, communication is the vehicle enabling
coordination or cooperation; but as Kozlowski and Bell (2003) emphasise, these
constructs are distinguishable. The seventh and final problem is more subtle. Some
conceptualisations are internally consistent, but do not generalise well across studies. For
example, in Hoegl and Gemuenden’s (2001, p.477) instrument, an item under
communication such as “The team members were happy with the timeliness in which
they received information from other team members” contains an element of time others
would classify as coordination (Guastello and Guastello, 1998; cf. Marks et al., 2001).
However in Hoegl and Gemuenden’s network of constructs, items under coordination do
not address timeliness; rather they describe harmonisation of goals and sub-goals. Hence,
their system is internally consistent, yet this poses great difficulties in interpreting results
on ‘communication’ or ‘coordination’ across studies.
10 F. Chiocchio et al.

Table 1 Summary of pertinent constructs and their definitions

Construct definition
De Dreu and Weingart A conflict management approach oriented toward an agreement
(2003) that satisfies both one and the other’s aspirations and that involves
exchanging information about priorities and issues.
Hackman (1987) Collaboration is a multidimensional concept comprised of
productivity, longevity, and enjoyment.
Kabanoff and O’Brien Collaboration reflects the degree to which group members have to
(1979) work simultaneously.
Hartono (2004) Interactive, constructive, and knowledge-based process, involving
multiple autonomous and voluntary participants employing
complementary skills and assets, with a collective objective of
achieving an outcome beyond what the participants’ capacity and
willingness would allow them to accomplish individually.
Bedwell et al. (2009) An evolving, macro process whereby two or more entities
reciprocally engage in problem-solving activities to achieve
mutually desired goals.
McIntyre and Salas (1995) An exchange of information between a sender and a receiver.
[cited in Salas et al.,
(2009), p.25]
Kozlowski and Bell A means for enabling the more primary processes of coordination
(2003) and cooperation.
Deutsch (1949) A process to inform, persuade or express oneself using things that
arouse a common signification.
Hoegl et al. (2004) Communication must be with all team members directly to foster
Hoegl and Gemuenden The frequency (i.e., time spent communicating), formalisation
(2001) (i.e., spontaneity), structure (i.e., how direct is the
communication), and openness (i.e., not holding back important
information) of the information exchange.
Smith-Jentsch et al. Using proper terminology; providing complete internal and
(1998) external reports; avoiding excess chatter; ensuring
communications are audible and ungarbled.
Stevens and Campion A set of interpersonal knowledge, skills, and abilities required for
(1994) effective teamwork (i.e., understanding and using the
communication networks, communicating with openness and
supportiveness, listening appropriately and actively, evaluating the
relationship between verbal and non-verbal messages, recognising
the importance (ritual) and being able to effectively communicate
in small group setting).
Kozlowski and Bell Activities required to manage interdependencies with the team
(2003) work flow.
Hoegl and Gemuenden The development of and agreement upon common task-related
(2001) clear goal and sub-goal structure, free of gaps and overlaps;
structured and synchronised individual efforts.
Guastello and Guastello When two or more people do the same or complementary tasks at
(1998) the same time or in the correct sequence.
The effects of collaboration on performance 11

Table 1 Summary of pertinent constructs and their definitions (continued)

Source Construct definition

McGrath and Argote Coordination of interests: alignment of intentions (i.e., underlying
(2001) values) among group members. Coordination of understandings:
agreement about the meanings of information and events pertinent
to the group. Coordination of action: synchronisation, in time,
place, and content, of actions of group members.
The amount of communication exchanged between group
Daily (1980)
Arrow et al. (2000) A process by which activities, equipment, and other resources are
joined to achieve a common objective.
Marks et al. (2001) The process of orchestrating the sequence and timing of
interdependent actions
Tesluk and Mathieu How well members communicate with each other, cooperate to
(1999) complete tasks, and coordinate individual activities.
Cohen et al. (1996) Group coordination involves group members working together
without duplicating or wasting efforts and doing so with team
spirit and energy.
De Dreu and Van Vianen Working together with the other conflicting parties and seeking
(2001) solutions that satisfy all participants involved.
Sullivan et al. (2008) Behaviours undertaken by individuals and groups of individuals in
the service of a shared and collective goal and to promote
collective well-being.
Wagner (1995) [cited in The wilful contribution of personal efforts to the completion of
Kozlowski and Bell, interdependent jobs.
(2003), p.353]
Mead (1937) [cited in The act of working together to an end.
Deutsch, (1949), p.130]
Deutsch (1949) A situation in which members of a unit share promotively
interdependent goals.
Kabanoff and O’Brien Cooperation is divided in two types:
(1979) a collaboration reflects the degree to which group members have
to work simultaneously with one another on each aspect of the
b coordination depends on the extent to which group members
have different subtasks to perform, and these subtasks are
arranged in an order of precedence.
Tjosvold et al. (2003) Cooperation occurs when people have strong relationships where
they work together well so that they succeed in the tasks;
cooperation is a result of collaboration.
Johnson and Johnson Cooperation is comprised of five elements: positive
(2003) interdependence, face-to-face promotive interaction, individual
and group accountability, appropriate use of social skills, and
group processing.
Rousseau et al. (2006) The act of working together during task execution.
Erez et al. (2002) Cooperation refers to the quality of interaction among members of
a team.
12 F. Chiocchio et al.

It is important to recognise that although some problems should be avoided altogether

(e.g., not defining constructs) others emphasise genuine difficulties defining interrelated
team processes. In this article, we tackle this issue by defining processes narrowly and
providing a non-overlapping internally consistent array of constructs and items.

6.2 Collaboration defined

Having described several problems associated with defining team processes, our goal is
to bridge this important gap and provide an operational definition. In line with our
definition of a project team and as an extension to Bedwell et al.’s (2009) view on
collaboration (see Table 1), we define collaboration as
“the interplay of situation-appropriate uses of four interrelated processes:
teamwork communication, synchronicity, explicit coordination, and implicit

• Teamwork communication: In addition to viewing teamwork communication as an

exchange of information between a sender and a receiver [McIntyre and Salas,
(1995), p.25, cited in Salas et al., 2009], we further define it as a process focused on
establishing interactions and enhancing their quality (Kozlowski and Bell, 2003) so
that members share ideas freely, listen, understand, and receive and give feedback.
• Synchronicity: Borrowing from McGrath (1990), we define synchronicity as a
process by which team members perform their tasks on time (i.e., timeliness) and in
accordance with others’ tasks (i.e., timing).
• Coordination: Based on Salas and Fiore’s (2004) work on team cognition, we further
define two sub-processes. Explicit coordination is a process by which team members
exchange information on roles and tasks (i.e., who does what). Implicit coordination
is a process by which team members anticipate others’ needs and adapt to situations
and people without explicit coordination.

6.3 Collaboration as a multi-level construct

Four additional points require attention in order to conform to stringent justifications for
why constructs constitute a multilevel theoretical system (Kozlowski and Klein, 2000;
Tesluk et al., 1997). First, given that a team requires its members to manage their
interdependencies, we consider it axiomatic that all teams require some level of
collaboration in order to be effective. Stated operationally, any project team will register
on at least one of these processes at one time or another of their life-cycle. Whether
collaboration is represented by the lowest team member’s score, the team average score,
or the highest team member’s score depends on task/team type (Bell, 2007; Devine,
2002; Steiner, 1972).
Second, given that a team requires of its members knowledge of the team’s existence,
we consider it axiomatic
a that team members must have knowledge or representations of their collaborative
processes (Allen and Hecht, 2004)
b that the magnitude of the agreement regarding knowledge or representations of their
collaborative processes predicts team performance (Rentsch et al., 2009).
The effects of collaboration on performance 13

Hence, consistent with Chan’s (1998) definition of a direct consensus model, the
agreement regarding team members’ collaborative behaviours is a relevant representation
of the team-level construct.
Third, individual-level configurations (e.g., individual with the lowest score,
individual with the highest score, average team score, variance of team average) are not
mutually exclusive representations of collaboration. Recent theoretical work by DeRue et
al. (2010) underscores how various individual-level configurations hold complementary
meaning at the team level. They argue that the absence of variance is indicative of shared
representations, but that holding mean and variance constant, the distribution of
representations can be represented by minority beliefs, bimodality, or fragmentation. This
combines Chan’s (1998) consensus and dispersion models into one continuum. The
complementary nature of various team-level construct representations is also consistent
with Steiner’s (1972) contention that homogeneity combined with a high mean might
lead to high performance whereas heterogeneity with a high mean may entail adverse
effects. The pertinence of complementary representations of collaboration also stems
from how collaboration is the conduit for knowledge and meaning. A structural view of
how abstract information is transformed into concrete knowledge in teams emphasises
that meaning clusters around a consensus whereas a dynamic view emphasises that
knowledge is made up of the variation that stems from different contrasted meanings
(Lorenzi-Cioldi and Clémence, 2001).
Fourth, collaboration is situation-specific – it should not be understood as requiring
high or similar levels of its four processes for all teams at all times (Hackman and Morris,
1975). For example, cockpit crews require high levels of synchronicity within short high
intensity performance episodes, whereas project teams require moderate levels of
synchronicity over much longer periods (Sundstrom et al., 1990). Project teams
assembled from a fragmented inter-organisational environment would likely need
sustained communication throughout their existence (Chiocchio et al., 2006) and would
probably never experience high levels of implicit coordination. International projects are
at risk of duplicating activities because of functional redundancy (Dinsmore and Benitez
Codas, 2006) making high levels of explicit coordination particularly important.

6.4 Choice of an index of agreement

Johns’ (2006) definition of context is consistent with a multilevel perspective that sees
teams as the context in which team members are nested and emphasises the functional
ties between constructs (Chan, 1998; Kozlowski and Klein, 2000; McGrath et al., 2000).
To conduct research that accounts for contexts, Johns suggests studying processes,
measuring dependent variables different from the norm such as variances, distribution
shapes, and degree of within-team agreement, and modelling simultaneously multiple
levels of analysis.
We follow Johns’ (2006) suggestions. In addition to the quasi-universal procedure of
using the team-level means as an aggregate of individual-level information, we use an
index of agreement as a dependent variable in a hierarchical linear model. Doing so
enables us to quantify the individual-level relationship between collaboration
and performance and to determine the extent to which the aggregate is related to
individual-level performance. Such procedures are consistent with our goal of providing
validity evidence at both individual and team levels of analysis.
14 F. Chiocchio et al.

Barrick et al. (1998) suggest two general ways to approach team composition: one is
to use the team’s average score of individual measures; the other is to use dispersion
metrics such as the variance or the standard deviation. The average is appropriate when
team processes are additive; that is, when the total contribution of members is important
(Steiner, 1972). The variability of individual characteristics is another way to
operationally define composition (Chan, 1998), especially when researchers seek to
understand how homogeneity/heterogeneity relates to team processes and outcomes
(Barrick et al., 1998). Both average and variability are complementary and can be tested
in combination for more accuracy (Bell, 2007). However, variances and standard
deviations may not have appropriate characteristics to act as indicators of team properties
because of their lack of scale and because they do not necessarily address within-team
agreement (Kozlowski and Hattrup, 1992). Recently, others proposed that the shape of
within-team distributions has predictive power in addition to magnitude and variability of
the team-level phenomena of interest (DeRue et al., 2010). They suggest using an
agreement-type index as a dependent variable.
If agreement or dispersion between members of a team – or any other variable for that
matter – is to have construct or predictive validity, it must be viewed as part of a
nomological network (Cronbach and Meehl, 1955). It follows that an index of agreement
must have three qualities to be included in such nomological network:
a it must be related to other variables in the network; and in order to be interpretable
b it must have a strong conceptual base
c have adequate distributional properties so that measurements are unbiased.
Perhaps the most common measure of agreement for Likert-type scales is James et al.’s
(1984) rWG(j) index:

rWG ( j ) =
⎢⎣( )
J ⎡1 − s X2 j σ EU
2 ⎤
⎢⎣ ( 2
) (
J ⎡1 − s X2 j σ EU ⎤ + s2 σ 2
⎥⎦ Xj EU )
where J is the number of items, s 2X j is the within-team mean variance, and σ EU
is the
uniform null distribution; that is, a distribution where all points on a scale are answered
equally. Hence, when rWG(j) is +1.0 agreement is perfect and when rWG(j) is 0 there is
uniform disagreement. However, this apparent straightforward interpretation is obscured
upon examination of rWG(j)’s distributional properties (O’Neill, 2010). For example, in a
team of 4 members responding to 5 items on a five-point Likert scale, as s 2X j moves

from 0 to 1.5, rWG(j) decreases slowly from +1.0 to .63. As s 2X j increases from 1.5 to 2.0,

rWG(j) decreases dramatically from .63 to 0. When s 2X j values are between 2.0 and 2.5,
rWG(j) ranges from 0 to about –5.0. Then there is a discontinuity and rWG(j) jumps to about
+7.5 beyond s 2X j values of 2.5. It has been known for some time that rWG(j) has unstable
distributional properties. Lindell and Brandt (1997) showed that when J is greater than 1,
The effects of collaboration on performance 15

the relationship between rWG(j) and s 2X j is convex and convexity increases as J increases.
Also, Lindell and Brandt show that beyond a point of discontinuity (i.e., at
σ EU [ J ( J − 1)] ) values are concave and remain outside the proper interval of –
1.0 ≤ rWG(j) ≤ +1.0. James et al. (1984) suggest resetting values to within range in such
cases (i.e., to zero). This prompts Cohen et al. (2001, p.299) to argue that “rWG(j) provides
a description of the degree of agreement only when agreement exists. In the case of
disagreement, it indicates only that there is a lack of agreement – it does not describe its
Hence, despite some conceptual relevancy, an alternative to rWG(j) is necessary to
provide an index of agreement that is less distorted and interpretable. Such an alternative
exists and can be defined as

s X2 j
rWG ( j) = 1 − 2
σ MV

where s 2X j is the same as in equation 1 and σ MV

is the maximum dissensus variance
(Lindell et al., 1999). Maximum dissensus occurs when all team members are distributed
evenly at the scale endpoints and defines the maximum possible variance in the team’s
ratings. For a five-point Likert scale, σ MV is equal to 4.0 [see equation (3) in Lindell et
al., 1999, for how to calculate this value for scales of any length). As opposed to rWG(j),
∗ 2
rWG ( j ) is a linear function with equal sensitivity along s X j . Consequently, the

interpretation of rWG ( j ) is straightforward in the case of a five-point Likert scale: 0
indicates maximum disagreement (i.e., σ MV ), 0.5 indicates that all points on the scale are
answered equally frequently (i.e., σ EU ) and +1.0 indicates complete agreement.

6.5 Statistical treatment

Once an adequate index of agreement is identified, the choice of an appropriate statistical

treatment for providing multilevel validation evidence must be addressed. Hierarchical
linear modelling (also known as multilevel random coefficient modelling) provides a
conceptual and technical answer that can bridge both individual- and team-level criterion
validity evidence with a third approach. A compositional model1 tests whether a
team-level aggregate derived from an individual-level predictor is related to the outcome
after controlling for the effect of that individual-level predictor (Raudenbush and Bryk,
2002). The presence of such a compositional effect provides impetus for further analysis
with traditional predictive validity using correlations between aggregates and a true
team-level criterion – one for which the measure, the analysis, and the construct are all at
the same level. Having discussed validation procedures in relation to context and issues
pertinent to multilevel research, before we present validity evidence, we will first
describe how we developed our instrument.
16 F. Chiocchio et al.

7 Item development

Thirty items were deductively written from our definition of collaboration,

provided earlier. In addition to working towards ensuring items were applicable in
different teams across time, we had three other objectives. First, in line with
recommendations from Behling and Law (2000), all items have only one verb, use the
active voice, and are kept at around 15 words. Second, we aimed at maximising
cross-cultural applications and avoiding problems with translations (Davidson et al.,
1976) by simultaneously developing English and French versions from the outset
(Behling and Law, 2000). Third, for theoretical reasons, seven parallel2 versions were
developed in each language to account for the multiple perspectives items measuring
social processes can take. Chan (1998) stresses how the choice of referent has theoretical
underpinnings. He is not alone: Speaking of ‘cooperative interdependence’, Young
(2003, p.84) suggests that asynchronous items (e.g., ‘They are helpful to me’) and
bisynchronous items (e.g., ‘We are helpful to each other’) reflect different aspects of the
In this article, we present validity evidence for the “My teammates and I…”
formulation. Three arguments support the “My teammates and I…” stem. First, it
explicitly carries the meaning of nested entities implied in multilevel research.
Second, this formulation is consistent with a view that groups have emergent properties
stemming from interactions between its members as opposed to being a collection of
interpersonal interactions – a view which would be more consistent with the use of a
“We…” formulation (for a review, see Hogg and Williams, 2000). With the “My
teammates and I…” formulation the person reading the item is considered part of the
social entity (i.e., the team; see Campion et al., 1993) while enabling self-conception
(Abrams and Hogg, 2001). Third, the “We…” formulation requires that the social entity
‘we’ be explicated in the instructions, something we wanted to avoid so that each item
could stand on its own.
The “My teammates and I…” version averaged 14.2 words in English (SD = 2.9) and
15.9 words in French (SD = 2.4). Example items include: “My teammates and I
understand each other when we talk about the work to be done” for teamwork
communication, “My teammates and I exchange information on ‘who does what’” for
explicit coordination, “My teammates and I make sure our tasks are completed on time”
for synchronicity, and “My teammates and I have an implicit understanding of the
assigned tasks” for implicit coordination. A five-point agreement answer scale (i.e.,
1 = totally disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = neither disagree nor agree, 4 = agree, 5 = totally
agree) was chosen because of the central role agreement plays in the functional
relationship between individual and team levels of the constructs (Chan, 1998; Kozlowski
and Klein, 2000). The following sections will describe the studies and steps taken to
provide validity evidence.

8 Study 1

This study’s purpose is to first present a measurement model of collaboration consistent

with our definition and second, provide convergent criterion validity evidence.
The effects of collaboration on performance 17

8.1 Method
8.1.1 Participants
Nine hundred and twenty-seven (927) francophone employees from a large Canadian
financial institution received an e-mail describing the study and providing a link to a
secured web-based consent form and self-report questionnaires. Of that total, 37% (343)
agreed to participate and completed the questionnaires. Data were examined for missing
values and normality (the procedures are described in the Results section below) leaving
a final sample of 290 participants, 62.1% (180) of which were women. Ages varied
between 20 and 58 (M = 40.03, SD = 8.9). Participants came from different parts of the
organisation: 52.2% (152) worked in the sales division, 30.7% (89) worked in support
functions and the remaining 9% (49) worked in the credit, information technology,
finance, and marketing divisions. In addition, 76.2% (223) were executives, 5.7% (17)
were managers, and 17.9% (52) were support staff.

8.1.2 Collaboration
Collaboration was defined earlier as the interplay of situation-appropriate uses of four
interrelated processes: teamwork communication, synchronicity, explicit coordination,
and implicit coordination. The French version of the experimental 30-item five-point
answer scale collaborative work questionnaire using the “My teammates and I…”
formulation as discussed above.

8.1.3 Task performance

Task performance is the effectiveness with which job incumbents perform activities that
contribute to the organisation’s technical core (Borman and Motowidlo, 1993). It was
measured with a three-item instrument written in French and in English by the first author
and designed for this study. French items were used. English version items are: “The
efficiency with which I perform my tasks enables my team to reach its goals”, “The
quality with which I perform my tasks enables my team to reach its goals” and “The
intensity with which I perform my tasks enables my team to reach its goals”. Participants
responded using a five-point scale: 1 = never, 2 = rarely, 3 = occasionally, 4 = often,
5 = very often. Internal consistency for these three items is α = .90. Exploratory factor
analysis with principal axis factoring rendered a single factor solution explaining 75.8%
of variance.

8.1.4 Contextual performance

Contextual performance takes place in the social context of work and involves behaviours
such as cooperation and helping (Borman and Motowidlo, 1993, 1997). It was measured
by combining items from two scales. First, 10 of the 17 items from Motowidlo and Van
Scotter (1994) were used, keeping items such as “I cooperate with others in the team” and
“I offer to help others accomplish their work” and leaving out items referring specifically
to the military context where the original study took place (e.g., “I render proper military
courtesy.”). Second, seven items taken from Van Scotter and Motowidlo (1996), such as
18 F. Chiocchio et al.

“I talk to other workers before taking actions that might affect them”, were also
used. According to the methodology described by Vallerand (1989) and Behling and
Law (2000), items were translated from English to French and then from French to
English by two independent professional translators. Final changes were made by the first
author upon close examination of the three versions. Participants responded using the
same answer scale as with the task performance items. Internal consistency of our 17
items is α = .88, which compares with the original (longer) scales with alphas ranging
between .95 and .89 (Motowidlo and Van Scotter, 1994; Van Scotter and Motowidlo,

8.2 Results and discussion

Reponses to the 30-item version of the questionnaire on collaboration were examined
for missing values and normality. Of the 343 bank employees, 8.2% (28) did not
respond to one or more items on the questionnaire. These employees were subtracted
from the sample, leaving 315 participants. Inspection of each item’s distribution
revealed negative skewness so all items were transformed using the square root
of the reflected variable. Most of the skewness was removed. Mahalanobis distance
was used to detect multivariate outliers. At this stage, 25 participants exceeded
the cut-off value of 59.703 for 30 item questionnaires (Tabachnick and Fidell,
2007); they were deleted. The final sample consisted of 290 participants as described
There is a debate over the pertinence of exploratory versus confirmatory factor
analysis in scale development, but most agree that strong theoretical foundations
supersede specific discussions on either method’s pros and cons (see Hurley et al., 1997).
Given the rigorous theoretical development underlying our proposed model, and because
confirmatory factor analysis “allows the researcher more precision in evaluating the
measurement model” [Hinkin, (1995), p.977], we sought to evaluate its structure using
confirmatory factor analysis.
Using EQS (Bentler, 2004), we grouped all 30 items according to our
theoretically-driven measurement model and structure. To determine if the data
adjusted well to our model, we used criteria based on pairs of fit indices. Hu and
Bentler (1998) suggest examining the non-normed fit index (NNFI), the incremental
fit index (IFI), the comparative fit index (CFI), the standardised root mean-square
residual (SRMR), and the root mean-square error of approximation (RMSEA)
index in specific pairs where two decision rules are used simultaneously. They propose
four pairs:
a NNFI ≥ .95 and SRMR ≤ .06
b IFI ≥ .95 and SRMR ≤ .06

c CFI ≥ .95 and SRMR ≤ .06

d RMSEA ≤ .05 and SRMR ≤ .06.
The first run revealed a somewhat poor fit (i.e., χ2 = 1130.8, p < .0001; NNFI = .85;
IFI = .85; CFI = 0.85; SRMR = .07; RMSEA = 0.09). Keeping with the same four-factor
structure, we deleted all items with the largest errors and/or with loadings smaller than
The effects of collaboration on performance 19

0.65–16 in total. Another CFA with the remaining 14 items in the same four-factor
structure was performed. This analysis showed a better fit (i.e., χ2 = 169.9, p < .0001;
NNFI = .94; IFI = .95; CFI = 0.95; SRMR = 0.04; RMSEA = 0.07; robust estimators:
Satorra-Bentler χ2 = 125.7, p < .0001; NNFI = .95; IFI = .96; CFI = 0.96;
RMSEA = 0.05). In line with the theoretical underpinnings of our definition of
collaboration, a second-order CFA was performed. The theorised model fit well with the
data (i.e., χ2 = 173.7, p < .0001; NNFI = .94; IFI = .95; CFI = 0.95; SRMR = 0.05;
RMSEA = 0.07; robust estimators: Satorra-Bentler χ2 = 125.8, p < .0001; NNFI = .95;
IFI = .96; CFI = 0.96; RMSEA = 0.05). Figure 1 shows the second order loadings and the
collaborative work questionnaire is in the appendix.

Figure 1 Second order confirmatory factor analysis of the collaborative work questionnaire based
on a sample of bank employees (N = 290) and cross-validated on a sample of students
working on a project (N = 184)

Table 2

Bank Student
F. Chiocchio et al.

Instrument scale and subscales 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

M (SD) M (SD)
project teams (N = 184)

1 Collaboration 3.92 (.48) 4.19 (.63) .91/.92 .91** .86** .78** .78** .23** .31**
2 Teamwork communication 4.08 (.50) 4.41 (.65) .88** .86/.91 .76** .62** .60** .20** .28**
3 Synchronicity 4.06 (.49) 4.42 (.78) .83** .67** .79/.86 .60** .51** .19* .21**
4 Explicit coordination 3.78 (.67) 4.23 (.75) .83** .65** .61** .79/.82 .46** .27** .37**
5 Implicit coordination 3.62 (.66) 3.57 (.90) .79** .55** .58** .52** .77/.78 .11 .20**
6 Task performance 4.46 (.51) 4.29 (.56) .14* .11 .19** .11 .11 .90/.92 .66**
7 Contextual performance 4.11 (.43) 4.08 (.43) .43** .35** .37** .36** .36** .49** .88/.86
Note: Collaboration represents the total score of items comprising the subscales. Correlations below the diagonal are drawn from the
bank employee sample (study 1) and those above the diagonal are calculated from the student from project teams sample (Study 2).
Cronbach’s alpha appears in italics on the diagonal; the first is from the bank sample, the second from the student sample.
*p < .05, **p < .01
collaborative work questionnaire for bank employees (N = 290) and students from
Descriptive statistics, internal consistency, and convergent validity correlations for the
The effects of collaboration on performance 21

Once the measurement model and the second order structure were confirmed, criterion
validity correlations were calculated with task and contextual performance using the total
collaboration score and each of the subscale scores of the collaborative work
questionnaire. Table 2 shows these results. Correlations with contextual performance are
stronger than with task performance. This is expected given the pro-social elements of
contextual performance (Brief and Motowidlo, 1986; Penny and Motowodlo, 2005) and
the inherently social underpinnings of collaboration. Some subscales of the collaborative
work questionnaire do not correlate with task performance, but the total score does. All
correlations are in the expected direction.
Overall, this study shows validity evidence of a factor structure in line with our
definition as well as criterion validity correlations in the expected directions. Perhaps the
somewhat low correlations with performance are explained by the context of this study.
Since different forms of teamwork occur throughout the organisation, many types of
teams may have served as a referent to study participants. Cross-validating results with
another sample will strengthen their generalisability.

9 Study 2

Study 2 builds on results from Study 1. Its purpose is to test the extent to which the
measurement model would generalise to another sample.

9.1 Method
9.1.1 Participants and procedure

Francophone undergraduate students from a large Canadian university taking an

introductory psychometrics class self-selected team members during the third week of the
semester to work on a semester-long project. The project involved the design and
validation of a rudimentary questionnaire based on a six-step development process
designed to create a psychological assessment instrument and to demonstrate its
reliability, validity, and utility (Chiocchio, 1996). Teams had to choose a substantive
topic (e.g., anxiety in children, stress in new parents), conduct a literature review, define
their constructs, write items, and chose an answer scale, administer their instrument and
other relevant convergent/discriminant instruments to a sample they had to find, collect
and enter their data, analyse SPSS outputs, and finally, write a 15-page team research
report. These tasks are consistent with definitions of projects and project teams as
discussed in the introduction.
Where the teams in this sample depart from complex teams, as described in the
introduction, is in regards to roles. According to Kozlowski et al. (1999) complex teams
in work settings usually have members with specified and differentiated roles framed by
specialised knowledge and skill. Our teams differ. Because they are learning teams
evolving in an academic context, members share the same level of project-relevant
knowledge (usually quite low) and approach the task from one discipline (i.e., course
22 F. Chiocchio et al.

related) (Chiocchio and Essiembre, 2009). Hence, they are functionally undifferentiated
and begin the project with very little substantive knowledge. As the project evolves, this
is likely to change as some members acquire knowledge faster than others and move from
unspecified to specified roles.
The teaching method for this class aligned itself on a benchmark study
providing criteria for the best undergraduate psychology programs (Dunn et al., 2007).
Dunn and his colleagues determined that the best programs provide the opportunity
for students to work collaboratively in teams and to receive feedback on their
collaborative skills. Consequently, at the mid-point of their project (i.e., week six),
students completed the 30-item experimental version of the collaborative work
questionnaire as well as the task and contextual performance instruments described
above. The following week, each student received a confidential and personalised
summary report. This report showed their individual average scores on the
questionnaires. The report also showed the corresponding averages and standard
deviations for their team. Team members could not tell other team members’ individual
scores. The format of the report enabled each student to see how their perception of team
functioning compared to that of their team. That week, ten minutes of class time was used
to explain the report and to suggest that teams discuss ways to improve their collaborative
skills during the last half of their project. We have no knowledge regarding the extent to
which students may have acted on their feedback. Final papers were handed in at the last
week of the semester, seven weeks after mid-process measurements and six weeks after
receiving the summary report. Specifically, much like research procedures used by others
measuring compositional effects (Kristof-Brown et al., 2005), the distribution of
questionnaires was planned so that
a six weeks elapsed after team inception
b six weeks remained to improve team functioning before the final paper was due.

This means that team dynamics were allowed to settle (e.g., Chiocchio and Essiembre,
2009, suggest four weeks as a minimal cut-off point) and team-level predictive validity
could be assessed longitudinally.

9.2 Results and discussion

The 184 students self-selected their teammates to form 44 teams of three to five members
(mode = 4). The sample consisted of 88% women. Ages ranged from 19.5 to 41.1
(M = 22.3; SD = 3.3). To cross-validate our measurement model and factor structure,
the item composition of the four-factor second order solution confirmed in Study 1
was reproduced in this study at the individual level of analysis. Results show a good
fit (i.e., χ2 = 102.9, p < .05; NNFI = .93; IFI = .95; CFI = 0.95; SRMR = 0.06;
RMSEA = 0.06; robust estimators: Satorra-Bentler χ2 = 86.0, p = .14; NNFI = .97;
IFI = .98; CFI = 0.97; RMSEA = 0.04). Factor and item loadings can be examined in
Figure 1. As with Study 1, convergent validity correlations were obtained between the
confirmed collaboration scale and subscales and performance. Along with descriptive
statistics and internal consistency indices, above-diagonal correlations in Table 2 show
that, as anticipated, all correlations are in the expected directions and validities are
stronger with contextual performance than with task performance.
The effects of collaboration on performance 23

10 Study 3

Studies 1 and 2 provide evidence of the measurement model and convergent validity. The
purpose of Study 3 is to provide multilevel validity evidence; specifically, that project
team-level aggregates of individual-level collaboration have predictive validity.

10.1 Method
10.1.1 Participants and procedure
Study 3 was conducted with the same sample as Study 2. Both are presented separately to
clearly distinguish the level at which the analyses take place. In Study 2, data was
analysed at the individual level only. Here, analyses account for the multilevel structure
of the data as individuals are nested in teams. HLM (Raudenbush et al., 2008) is used to
build and test multilevel models.

10.1.2 Collaboration
Items from the collaborative work questionnaire discussed in Studies 1 and 2 were used
in Study 3. Individual-level scores consisted of the average score for the 14 items
comprising the general second order factor collaboration. Shifting to a multilevel
perspective, two complementary forms of functional relationships are tested: additive and
consensus (Chan, 1998).
An additive model (i.e., average team score) is favoured over using the score of the
lowest or highest member score, because project work is discretionary and what counts is
the total contribution of members (Steiner, 1972). Regarding consensus, it is justified on
a theoretical basis: team members must have knowledge or representations of their
processes (Allen and Hecht, 2004) and the magnitude of such representations of
collaboration predicts team performance (Rentsch et al., 2009). This was captured using

rWG ( j ) as shown in equation (2) (Lindell et al., 1999).

10.1.3 Contextual and task performance

The same questionnaires used in Studies 1 and 2 were also used in Study 3. The 17 items
for contextual performance adapted from Van Scotter and Motowidlo (1996) and
Motowidlo and Van Scotter (1994) showed high internal consistency (i.e., α = .86). Task
performance items constructed for Study 1 showed high internal consistency in this
sample also (i.e., α = .92) and an exploratory factor analysis with principal axis factoring
and varimax rotation rendered a single factor solution explaining 79.4% of variance. The
average score across items served as an independent variable indicative of team-level
contextual and task performance. Table 2 shows descriptive statistics of these two

10.1.4 Outcome performance

The teams’ research report was used as a measure of team-level performance. Papers
were marked by teaching assistants following a rigorous procedure. First, teaching
assistants were shown a document explaining the scoring criteria and individually graded
24 F. Chiocchio et al.

the same randomly selected sample of three papers. Second, after all teaching assistants
had marked these papers, a meeting took place to compare scoring and to calibrate each
other. Third, once all teaching assistants were comfortable and calibrated, they scored the
rest of the papers individually. Once all papers were scored, each teaching assistant
shared their two highest and two lowest scored papers with another teaching assistant to
further verify the scoring. Discrepancies, if any, were resolved through discussion and the
final score was awarded. All team members received the same team mark, which counted
for 40% of each student’s grade for the class. The mean team score is 33.7 (SD = 3.8).

10.2 Results and discussion

Table 3 shows two hierarchical linear models: a fully unconditional model and a
compositional model in which the unconditional model is nested. Each model shows
fixed (i.e., parameters that do not vary across teams) and random effects (i.e., coefficients
that are allowed to vary across teams) and estimates of variance components (Hofmann et
al., 2000). In each model, values to the left show results of contextual performance
regressed on collaboration and values to the right represent task performance as the
independent variable.
Table 3 Hierarchical linear modelling of contextual (left) and task (right) performance on
collaboration (N = 184, K = 44)

One-way random effects ANOVA (fully unconditional) model

Y = γ 00 + μ 0 + r
Fixed effect Coefficient SE t(df)
Intercept β0 γ00 4.084 / 4.286 0.043 / 0.050 96.1(43)*** / 86.0(43)***
Random effect Variance χ2(df)
Intercept μ0 0.047 / 0.047 102.3(43)*** / 75.2(43)**
Residuals r 0.141 / 0.269
Deviance (2 param.) 201.0 / 305.5
Compositional effect model
Y = γ 00 + γ 01 * Additive + γ 02 * Consensual + γ 10 * Collaboration + μ 0 + μ1 * Collaboration + r
Fixed effect Coefficient SE t(df)
Intercept β0 γ00 4.062 / 4.263 0.026 / 0.042 158.0(41)*** / 102.7(41)***
Additive γ01 0.531 / 0.503 0.127 / 0.167 4.2(41)*** / 3.0(41)**
Consensual γ02 –0.907 / –0.914 0.150 / 0.273 –6.1(41)*** / –3.4(41)**
Slope β1 γ10 0.228 / 0.292 0.074 / 0.093 3.6(43)** / 3.1(43)**
Random effect Variance χ2(df)
Intercept μ0 0.002 / 0.014 41.1(40) / 36.6(40)
Slope μ1 0.034 / 0.058 60.7(42)* / 44.4(42)
Residuals r 0.113 / 0.232
Deviance (4 param.) 146.9 / 278.1

Notes: All predictor variables are grand-mean centred.

Level: average team-level collaboration and agreement: rWG ( j)
*p < .05, **p < .01 and ***p < .001
The effects of collaboration on performance 25

The fully unconditional model provides a baseline on which the other model can build.
Results show that the overall mean for contextual performance is 4.084 (t = 96.1,
p < .001). Between-team variance significantly departs from 0 (i.e., χ2 = 102.3,
p < 0.001), suggesting the data are clustered by team membership. The plausible range in
average contextual performance levels among teams is quite high and a little less than a
full point on the 1 to 5 scale (i.e., 4.084 ± 1.96 * 0.047½ = 95% CI [3.66, 4.51]).
Group-level statistics that justify aggregation of contextual performance to the group

level are supportive. Specifically ICC(1), ICC(2), mean values for rWG(j) and rWG ( j ) were

.25, .80, .92 and .83, respectively (Bliese, 2000; James et al., 1984; Lindell et al., 1999;
Raudenbush and Bryk, 2002).
The compositional effects model adds three dependent variables to the unconditional
model discussed above: collaboration at the individual level as well as two team-level
aggregates: additive and consensus models of collaboration. A statistically significant
coefficient of γ10 = 0.228 (t = 3.6, p < .01) for the slope means the expected differences in
contextual performance between two members of the same team that differ by +1.0 unit
on individual-level collaboration is 0.228. At the team level, both additive (γ01 = 0.531,
t = 4.2, p < .001) and consensus (γ02 = –0.907, t = –6.1, p < .01) compositional effects are
statistically significant. Thus after controlling for individual-level collaboration, both
aggregates are still related to contextual performance (see Raudenbush and Bryk, 2002).
In the case of additive collaboration, 0.531 is the expected difference in individual-level
contextual performance between two people with the same individual-level collaboration
score, but who are in two teams that differ by +1.0 unit of team-level collaboration. In
the case of consensus, there is an expected reduction of 0.907 in individual-level
contextual performance between two people with the same individual-level collaboration
score, but who are in two teams that differ by +1.0 unit on consensus. Overall this
model explains about 20% of the variance left unexplained by the fully unconditional
model (i.e., 0.141 – 0.113 / 0.141 = 0.199). Statistically comparing misfit indices
(i.e., deviances) using a χ2 statistic with degrees of freedom equal to the number
additional parameters estimated in the compositional effects model (Hox, 2002) tells us
that the compositional effects model has a better fit than the fully unconditional model
(i.e., 201.0 – 146.9 = 54.1, p < .001). This means the collaboration variables significantly
add to the prediction of contextual performance.
Turning to task performance (values to the left in Table 3), about 15% of the variance
in task performance lies between teams (i.e., ICC(1) = 0.047 / (0.269 + 0.047) = 0.149)
with the range of plausible values for task performance located between 3.72 and 4.85
(i.e., 4.286 ± 1.96*0.047½ = 95% CI [3.72, 4.85]). ICC(2) is .47 and mean values for

rWG(j) and rWG ( j ) are the same as shown for contextual performance. Both compositional

effects are statistically significant and of similar magnitude and direction as contextual
performance; γ01 = 0.503, t = 3.0, p < .01 for level and γ02 = –0.914, t = –3.4 p < .01
for consensus. Finally, the compositional model fits better than the null model (i.e.,
305.5 – 278.1 = 27.4, p < .001). These results provide evidence of the predictive validity
of team-level aggregates in addition to that of the relationships both types of performance
have with collaboration at the individual level.
Because hierarchical linear modelling tests effects of team-level information on
individual-level phenomena (Heck and Thomas, 2000) it does not provide criterion
predictive validity evidence at the team level. To present additional evidence of team-
26 F. Chiocchio et al.

level phenomena (in a two-level structure) it is necessary to move measurements from the
individual- to the team-level of the construct and then to proceed with team-level
analyses. Our statistically significant compositional effects suggest collaborative average
and collaborative consensus are team-level constructs indicative of collaboration.
Predictive criterion validity is possible using project outcome performance, which has the
additional characteristic of being a ‘true’ team-level independent variable – the construct
and the measure are at the team level. Table 4 provides such information. Predictive
validity correlations show that both collaborative level and collaborative agreement at
week 6 predict team performance at week 13.

Table 4 Team-level descriptive statistics and predictive validity correlations of team performance
(K = 44)

Team-level measures M (SD) 2 3

1 Additive collaboration 4.19 (0.41)
2 Consensual collaboration .76 (0.25) .695**
3 Outcome performance 33.65 (3.84) .392** .347*
Notes: Additive collaboration is the team-level mean collaboration score obtained from
the individual-level average of the score on the 14-iteam collaboration scale.
Consensual collaboration is the result of equation (2) discussed previously.
*p < .05, **p < .01

11 Summary

Four aspects of our results provide evidence of the existence and complexity of
collaboration as a multilevel construct. First, consistent with Steiner’s (1972) view that
homogeneity combined with high average leads to high performance, our team-level
results show that additive and consensual collaboration predict team performance.
Second, hierarchical linear models show evidence that both additive and consensus
functional relationships are at play when examining collaboration-task/contextual
performance relationships at the individual level. Third, the apparent contradictions in the
direction of relationships involving additive and consensual collaboration can be
explained by qualifying absolute levels of consensual collaboration. Table 4 shows that
with an average of .76 and a standard-deviation of .25, consensual collaboration in teams
was low. Hence, the negative relationships between consensual collaboration and
contextual/task performance seen in Table 3 mean that moderate consensus led to high
performance as opposed to a crude interpretation where low consensus would lead to
high performance. Moderate consensual collaboration leading to high performance is
consistent with the view that that some amount of dissent prevents premature consensus,
promotes cognitive complexity, and enhances team decision making (De Dreu and West,
2001). Furthermore, if moderate consensus is indicative of moderate disagreements, our
results align themselves with Jehn and Bendersky’s (2003 p. 194, italics added)
contention that “some level of task-related conflict improves strategic decisions and
creative performance in groups, as well as inhibits groupthink”. Fourth, multilevel
explanations for our results can be drawn from Wilson et al.’s (2007) work on group
learning, and Kozlowski and Bell’s (2008) conceptualisations of team learning as an
The effects of collaboration on performance 27

emergent multilevel regulatory process. For Kozlowski and Bell, individual and team
learning occur along two parallel self-regulatory processes in which intentions lead to
actions, which in turn lead to performance. Furthermore, they explain that self-regulatory
processes differ in that individual performance is predicted by self-focused efforts while
team performance is predicted by team-focused efforts. Finally, they theorise that
individual learning compiles over time to emerge as a team characteristic. For Wilson et
al., group learning is not the summation of individuals’ learning. Rather, group learning
is a change in the range of a group’s behaviour over a given period of time as a
function of storing, retrieving and sharing information. Recall that our measures were
taken at the mid-point of the project where teams are in a task or role compilation phase.
In those phases, members are in the process of acquiring task knowledge, negotiating
roles, and developing routines. The positive collaboration-task/contextual performance
relationships at the individual level and the positive effect of (team) additive
collaboration on (individual) collaboration-task/contextual performance relationships
might reflect self-focused efforts geared towards individual learning acquisition.
In other words, at this point, collaborative behaviours may serve as an acquisition process
aimed at storing information that benefits the individual (and hence individual
performance) and have not yet compiled in a fully matured team compilation phase
where roles are structured and information is retrieved and shared with others to enable
incremental improvements and adaptation capabilities. Both theories also explain
why we found a negative effect of (team) consensual collaboration on (individual)
collaboration-task/contextual performance relationships. Indeed, this may reflect
difficulties that come out of role negotiations and inefficient routines as team members
are transitioning from self-focused efforts to team-focused efforts. Stated differently,
overall collaborative behaviours lead to contextual and task performance. However,
looking at how team-level phenomena emerge from individual-level behaviours, a
positive additive collaboration effect stems from individuals’ knowledge acquisition
processes while a negative consensual collaboration effect surfaces from individuals’
difficulties with negotiating roles and routines.

12 General discussion

Together with Koslowski and Bell (2008) we consider the present organisational work
environment as increasingly turbulent, one that unexpectedly upsets organisations’
routines, technology, and culture. We consider project teams as one of the main elements
with which organisations respond to their pressures. We revisit team processes –
collaborative work – and offer validity evidence for a new instrument useful for theorists
and practitioners concerned with understanding and fostering optimal project team
performance. Our response is framed by McGrath et al. (2000), Johns (2006) and Bell’s
(2007) recommendations for research on teams. Accordingly, we view teams as
multilevel, dynamic, complex, adaptive systems that evolve over time. We discuss and
use a variety of methods that complementarily tap into team phenomena. We define
collaborative processes in the context of project teams and explain relationships with
performance at the individual and team levels. We avoid washing out valuable contextual
effects and referring to teams generically by interpreting project team results based on a
solid definition of a project (i.e., Project Management Institute, 2008) and a theoretically
28 F. Chiocchio et al.

sound understanding of their complexity (Kozlowski et al., 1999). We account for the
passage of time by carefully interpreting concurrent validity results in relation with the
period at which measures were taken, and by providing predictive validity evidence. We
tackle theoretical issues by
a defining project teams
b framing project teams in a multi-level theoretical space
c by jointly examining additive and consensual functional relationships in teams as
well as by addressing agreement as a dependent variable.
The result is a short self-report instrument which – we hope – will be useful across
different project contexts and at different periods of their life-cycle.

12.1 Theoretical relevance

By providing rich information on a clear set of interlaced processes, the instrument

is relevant for multilevel theory building in general teams, and project teams in
particular. At the individual level, for example, personality plays a role in the generation
of adaptive strategies that underlie team effectiveness (Salas et al., 2004). Traits such
as extraversion and openness to experience enter the team space as (individual)
behaviours that impact communication between team members and the team’s focus on
tasks, which in turn are predictors of team outcomes (Barry and Stewart, 1997).
However, because communication is the carrier of other processes such as coordination
(Dickinson and McIntyre, 1997; Salas et al., 2004), it is not currently easy to determine
which personality characteristics affect which process differentially. The collaborative
work questionnaire’s four-process model alleviates this problem. At the team level,
theorists may now be able to better circumscribe which process affects or is affected by
other processes or emergent states. For example, team conflicts are often defined
as relational, task, or process oriented (Jehn and Bendersky, 2003) and how such
conflicts arise as a function of group composition is becoming important due to
globalisation. Jehn et al. (2008) theorised that teams with strong informational
faultlines (i.e., sub-group formation and alignment based on similar work experience and
tenure) will not experience process conflicts because these teams expect logistical
difficulties and proactively act to better coordinate their efforts. Framing this
hypothesis using our instruments’ collaborative framework and one of its sub-processes,
one can see that Jehn et al. consider explicit coordination as a full mediator of the
process conflict–team performance correlation in teams with a strong informational
faultline. Such specificity would add considerable refinements to our body of
knowledge. Another area of further theorising stems from the recent work of DeRue et al.
(2010) on dispersion as a dependent variable in multilevel research. They theorise
that the shape of dispersion of within-team efficacy beliefs (i.e., shared efficacy, minority
belief, bimodal, and fragmented) have differential predictive validity over team
performance. The structure of their theory is transferable to collaborative processes.
The effects of collaboration on performance That is, we hypothesise that, in addition to
additive and consensual effects, the dispersion of agreement on collaborative processes
impacts team performance. Our instrument could be used to test this hypothesis.
The effects of collaboration on performance 29

12.2 Practical relevance

Because the collaborative work questionnaire has predictive validity at the individual and
team levels of performance and takes full advantage of additive and consensual
information, it offers project managers more control over solutions for improvements.
Specifically, it helps focus on combinations of individual-level interventions such as
training on teamwork skills (Stevens and Campion, 1994), and team-level interventions
such as team-building (Klein et al., 2009). Skills training is rather technical and aims at
improving one’s repertoire of behaviours (e.g., learn to communicate more clearly), while
team-building involves the whole team on a variety of issues such as goal-setting (e.g.,
team-member motivation and action planning), interpersonal relations (e.g., trust,
cooperation, and cohesiveness), role clarification (e.g., understand how roles are
interdependent), and problem solving (e.g., address task-related issues within the team).
Both approaches are pertinent solutions, but can be costly and ineffective, if applied to
the wrong problem. For example, high team-level averages with high consensus would
suggest that no intervention is required. Medium-to-high team-level averages with low
consensus would suggest that some individuals need teamwork skills training, but that
embarking on team-building would be a costly and unwarranted solution. Medium-to-low
team-level averages with high consensus signals that all individuals on the team should
engage in individual-level teamwork skills training as well as engage collectively in
team-building. Interestingly, medium-to-low team-level averages with low consensus
signals a collective effort in terms of team-building is warranted but suggest only some
individuals engage in teamwork skills training.

12.3 Limitations and future research

We identified six limitations of the present research. First, this study does not provide
test-retest reliability estimates. On the one hand, items are simple and short and therefore
prone to memory effects when used with short delays (Nunnally and Bernstein, 1994).
On the other hand, research on team processes is scarce and mute on the longest amount
of time that could be used as a retest delay to indicate stability before natural changes
occur. To complicate things further, appropriate delays are likely to vary as a function of
team type (Devine, 2002). Second, although our validation process is rich as we
proceeded with one sample for the measurement model after which we cross-validated its
structure onto project teams, we did not validate the multilevel aspects using both
samples. Future studies should verify if the factor structure holds and if additive and
consensual collaboration emerge from other types of teams. Third, we provide some
validity evidence of sub-processes (see Table 2) but focused on multilevel tests of the
second order collaboration factor. Fourth, response patterns on our questionnaire yielded
small variances. Allen and Hecht (2004) suggested that there is a strong positive social
value linked to teamwork in our society which leads people to consider teamwork as
“quite desirable” (p. 441). Moreover, they added that “employees might try to present
themselves, via speech and action, as people who are quite keen on working in teams” (p.
454). This combined with our five-point agreement scale might have contributed to small
variances. Fifth, our initial validation data focused on the “My teammates and I…”
formulation. Testing the impact of different referents on team-level constructs is of
considerable theoretical importance. In addition to asynchronous and bisynchronous
30 F. Chiocchio et al.

items (Young, 2003), a multi-source perspective would also be interesting. For example,
a three-member team could see each member respond to some of the following five
items: “I get involved in discussions regarding the work to be done”, “George involves
me in discussions regarding the work to be done”. “I involve George in discussions
regarding the work to be done”, “Mary involves me in discussions regarding the work to
be done”, “I involve Mary in discussions regarding the work to be done”. All of these
items are extensions of the referent shift perspective suggested by Chan (1998) in
qualifying the kind of functional relationship at play in his typology of composition
models. Finally, we provided time-appropriate interpretations, but we did not test growth
curves, which would be a formal way to account for the passage of time. We hope that
these limitations will be used to inform future research.
Despite these limitations, our instrument and the rationale we used to develop and
present initial validation evidence are, in our view, important steps forward in team
research in general and project teams studies in particular. Many emphasise the
importance of team processes in predicting team performance (Chiocchio, 2007; Tesluk
and Mathieu, 1999) – we believe our instrument could provide more nuance in making
such predictions.


This paper was made possible by a grant from the Fonds québécois de recherche sur la
société et la culture (FQRSC). The authors gratefully acknowledge Stacey McNulty and
Stephanie Hastings for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper as well as
Lucie Houle for her assistance in gathering data.

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The effects of collaboration on performance 37

1 The term composition is used differently by many authors. For Chan (1998) a compositional
model is one of several specifications of a functional relationship among phenomena or
constructs at different levels of analysis. For Kozlowski and Kline (2000) and Bliese (2000),
composition refers to conceptual isomorphism between individual and team levels. Finally,
Raudenbush and Bryk’s (2002) definition of a compositional model differs from when
composition is used to express the configuration of member attributes in a team (e.g., Bell,
2007). In Raudenbush and Bryk’s lexicon, composition models test a narrow and specific form
of relationship across levels.
2 We believe the very significant challenge of developing a 2-language X 7-version X 30-item
matrix at the onset outweighs the disadvantages of developing ‘independent’ versions over
time. This processes enabled us to maintain the same meaning across language and parallel
versions, while avoiding vocabulary, formulations, syntax, and grammar problems that would
render versions dissimilar and would require retrofitting in later studies.


Collaborative work questionnaire

Rate the extent to which you agree with each statement using the following scale:
1 = totally disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = neither disagree nor agree, 4 = agree, 5 = totally

1 My teammates and I provide each other with useful information that makes work
2 My teammates and I share knowledge that promotes work progress
3 My teammates and I understand each other when we talk about the work to be done
4 My teammates and I share resources that help perform tasks
5 My teammates and I communicate our ideas to each other about the work to be done
6 My teammates and I carry out our tasks at the appropriate moment
7 My teammates and I make sure our tasks are completed on time
8 My teammates and I make adjustments in order to meet deadlines
9 My teammates and I make progress reports
10 My teammates and I exchange information on ‘who does what’
11 My teammates and I discuss work deadlines with each other
12 My teammates and I can foresee each others’ needs without having to express them
13 My teammates and I instinctively reorganise our tasks when changes are required
14 My teammates and I have an implicit understanding of the assigned tasks

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