Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: The Effect of Top Management Team Heterogeneity on Performance in Institutions of Higher Education

Thursday, November 12, 2015 : 2:45 PM
Pearson II (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Amanda Rutherford, Texas A&M University
Organizations must be able to adequately respond to changing environments to maintain stability, efficiency, and satisfactory outputs.  In public administration, one of the most ensuring lines of research has focused on the ability of managers to guide their organizations through change via networking and collaboration efforts, strategic stances, and the use of performance information, for example.  Further, much literature now agrees that the individual characteristics, values, and experiences of managers affect their assessment of organizational needs and, subsequently, strategic decisions and organizational performance.  While current research often focuses on the managerial characteristics of a single manager, it is often the case that organizational-level decisions are determined by teams of top-level managers who are tasked with overseeing the organization.  Even where a single individual (a federal agency head, superintendent, police chief) holds ultimate responsibility for the performance of an organization, these individuals are often not making unilateral, top-down decisions, especially given recent trends related to the expansion of collaboration, networking, and bureaucratic growth.  Research on private sector governance has developed a generous amount of research on top management teams (TMT), or those executive-level individuals “who apply their knowledge, perspectives, and worldviews to contribute to decision making as well as the overall direction of the organization” (Opstrup and Villadsen 2014, 1), yet surprisingly little of this research has been applied to public sector organizations.

If management in public organizations is conceptualized to be the result of the effort of a top managerial team, then additional theoretical questions arise related to the interactions of individuals within these teams, the leverage and influence of individual members on others, and the effect of agreement or dissention in top management on organizational performance.  The purpose of this study is to determine if higher levels of diversity in one context of top management teams (education) have any effect on the performance of an organization.  Importantly, this study will not focus on diversity defined by gender or race and ethnicity alone.  Rather, diversity will also tap job-related, functional differences among individuals such as functional background, inside/outside status, and education.

To determine whether the diversity of top management teams matters for organizational performance, this research utilizes original data on presidents and provosts of public four year colleges and universities in the United States between 1993 and 2009.  These individuals are expected to lead their institutions through much uncertainty and change while also increasing student performance outcomes.  For example, while state appropriations per FTE student have sharply declined in many states, presidents and provosts are expected to become more efficient while also raising quality standards to raise student completion rates.  Descriptive analysis indicates that presidents largely select to work with provosts who do not share similar backgrounds.  Further, the presence of differences for two nodes of diversity—previous experience (internal/external hire difference) and functional background (h-index absolute difference)—tend to significantly bolster student performance at individual institutions.

Full Paper: