Magazine Fall 2022 Issue The 2022 Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize
The editors of
MIT Sloan Management Review are pleased to announce the winner of this year’s Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize, awarded to the most outstanding MIT SMR article on planned change and organizational development published in our winter 2021 through fall 2021 issues.
MIT Sloan Management Review
September 13, 2022
Reading Time: 2 min
This year’s award goes to Constance N. Hadley and Mark Mortensen for their winter 2021
MIT Sloan Management Review article asking the somewhat counterintuitive question, “ Are Your Team Members Lonely?”
As the authors point out, workplace teams have traditionally been relatively stable, with long-lasting group member roles underpinned by close working relationships. In today’s organizations, teams have not only become ever present in our work lives but have also grown in number and scope and become more flexible, less stable, and more time-pressed. The result is that we are often “alone together” in the organization.
Constance N. Hadley and Mark Mortensen
Are Your Team Members Lonely?”
MIT Sloan Management Review, Volume 62, No. 2 (winter 2021): 36-40; Reprint 62216
In one of the surveys behind this article, 76% of respondents reported difficulties making connections with their work teammates, and 58% agreed that their social relationships at work are superficial. Loneliness or the lack of social connections is often thought of as an individual issue, but in organizations, it is also a structural one that can emerge from the composition, duration, and staffing of teams. Four features of current team design foster such disconnection: fluid membership, with rapid turnover in team composition; modularized roles, with members chosen for discrete skills the team requires; part-time commitment, such that members can serve on many teams simultaneously; and short duration, with teams forming for short periods before disbanding. Such scenarios tend to promote transactional, limited, and shallow relationships among members.
Hadley, a lecturer on management and organizations at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, and Mortensen, an associate professor of organizational behavior at INSEAD, advise monitoring feelings of loneliness among employees. Leaders might create what the authors call core teams, with longer durations, stable membership, low turnover, common affinities or interests, and a shared work location. The authors’ call for managers to exercise more responsibility for the well-being of employees and their social interconnections would resonate with Dick Beckhard: He was a strong advocate for the use of diverse teams in organizations and was keenly aware of the features that encourage and discourage positive intrateam dynamics.
Our panel of judges consisted of the following members of the MIT Sloan School of Management faculty: Katherine Kellogg, the David J. McGrath Jr. Professor of Management and Innovation; John Van Maanen, the Erwin H. Schell Professor of Management; and David Robertson, a senior lecturer in operations management.
One of the founders and architects of the field of organizational development, professor Richard Beckhard was a member of the MIT Sloan School of Management faculty for more than 20 years. A longtime friend of
MIT Sloan Management Review, Beckhard was known for his efforts to help organizations function in a more humane and high-performing manner and to empower people to be agents of change.
His books include
Organizational Development: Strategies and Models; Organizational Transitions: Managing Complex Change; Changing the Essence: The Art of Creating and Leading Fundamental Change in Organizations; and his autobiography, Agent of Change: My Life, My Practice.
The prize was established in 1984 by the faculty of the MIT Sloan School of Management upon professor Beckhard’s retirement, and it was renamed the Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize after his death on Dec. 28, 1999.