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The role of star performers in software design teams

Judith Volmer (Department of Psychology, Social Psychology Group, University of Erlangen, Nuremberg, Germany)
Sabine Sonnentag (Department of Psychology, University of Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Article publication date: 29 March 2011




This study seeks to extend previous research on experts with mainly ad‐hoc groups from laboratory research to a field setting. Specifically, this study aims to investigate experts' relative importance in team performance. Expertise is differentiated into two categories (task functions and team functions) and the paper aims to investigate whether experts in task and team functions predict team performance over and above the team's average expertise level.


Longitudinal, multi‐source data from 96 professional software design engineers were used by means of hierarchical regression analyses.


The results show that both expert members in task functions (i.e. behavior that aids directly in the completion of work‐related activities) and the experts in team functions (i.e. facilitation of interpersonal interaction necessary to work together as a team) positively predicted team performance 12 months later over and above the team's average expertise level.

Research limitations/implications

Samples from other industry types are needed to examine the generalizability of the study findings to other occupational groups.

Practical implications

For staffing, the findings suggest that experts are particularly important for the prediction of team performance. Organizations should invest effort into finding “star performers” in task and team functions in order to create effective teams.


This paper focuses on the relationship between experts (in task functions and team functions) and team performance. It extends prior research on team composition and complements expertise research: similar to cognitive ability and personality, it is important to take into account member expertise when examining how to manage the people mix within teams. Benefits of expertise are not restricted to laboratory research but are broadened to real‐world team settings.



Volmer, J. and Sonnentag, S. (2011), "The role of star performers in software design teams", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 26 No. 3, pp. 219-234.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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