The Handbook of Research on Top Management Teams
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The Handbook of Research on Top Management Teams

Edited by Mason A. Carpenter

This Handbook presents original research and theory on executives, top management teams, and boards of directors and illustrates the vital importance of this field of study.
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Chapter 2: In Search of the CEO’s Inner Circle and How it is Formed

Ann C. Mooney and Allen C. Amason


Ann C. Mooney and Allen C. Amason Researchers have conducted hundreds of studies seeking to improve the understanding of how top management teams (TMTs) function and contribute to strategic decisions and organizational outcomes (for review, see Finkelstein and Hambrick, 1996; Finkelstein et al., 2009). Although much has been learned from this work, it still remains that numerous TMT studies have been inconclusive, offering mixed or non-significant findings. We believe a key to advancing TMT research lies in a more careful consideration of who is actually making the decisions and why. Researchers have indirectly tried to address this issue by adopting varying conceptualizations of the TMT based on assumptions of who in the organization makes strategic decisions. For example, researchers have identified the TMT as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and his or her direct reports (Fredrickson and Iaquinto, 1985; Sutcliffe, 1994), inside board members (Finkelstein, 1992), and the group of managers with titles above the rank of vice-president (Cannella and Hambrick, 1993; Cannella et al., 2008). Few researchers, however, have given the identification of the TMT more than cursory attention, and have provided little more than a quick notation in the methods section. Yet, who makes the decisions matters. Indeed, researchers have found that alternate definitions of the TMT significantly influence research findings (Flatt, 1992; Carpenter and Fredrickson, 2001). In this chapter, we offer a different approach to this issue. Specifically, we remove the assumption that the TMT should approximate the strategic decision-making group. Based on our experience with top...

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