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Exploring the Impact of Mental Models on Teamwork and Project Performance


An organization chart is a diagram showing graphically the structure of the organization and the relations between the roles and functions within the organization. It can also be considered as the viewing glass or perspective through which individuals see their organization and its environment. In this article, a project group within the space domain is discussed. The work performed in the project team covers many different tasks and has high demands on efficiency and quality of performance. Each team member may hold several different roles in the project both simultaneously and over time, the assigning of roles depending on the availability and preferences of the team members.

The project team members were asked to draw an organizational chart of the project team, and the resulting charts turned out to be quite different. The frameworks of role theory and mental models in organizations and teams, as well as knowledge management, are examined in order to uncover the reasons for this finding. The diverging mental models may be caused by a lack of discussion and agreement over the project organization, leading to the informal, team-based qualities of the organization and roles getting confused with the formal organization and functional roles. The practice of rotating the functional roles, though theoretically a positive influence on shared cognition, may exacerbate the confusion under these circumstances. Shared mental models can be expected to enhance team performance, and group interaction is the key process in aligning individual mental models. A team process of redefining the project organization and communicating role adaptations through constructive conflict is recommended. This approach fits well with the specific demands of the Nordic work life, allowing for a high degree of autonomy and participation. Supporting team training frameworks are suggested to enhance structured processes of knowledge creation.


Academic chapter/article/Conference paper





  • NTNU Social Research
  • Norwegian University of Science and Technology
  • SINTEF Digital / Technology Management




Academic Publishing International


ECKM 2014 - The Proceedings of the 15th European Conference on Knowledge Management






258 - 267

View this publication at Cristin