SME top management team and non‐executive director cohesion

Rosie Boxer (Brighton Business School, University of Brighton, Brighton, UK)
Lew Perren (Brighton Business School, University of Brighton, Brighton, UK)
Aidan Berry (Brighton Business School, University of Brighton, Brighton, UK)

Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development

ISSN: 1462-6004

Publication date: 15 February 2013



Research into top management team (TMT) performance and consensus has been equivocal; furthermore, research into the role of non‐executive directors (NEDs) in UK SMEs concluded that multiple perceptions of “reality” exist between directors. By adopting an innovative methodological approach to analysis, the “black box” complexity of SME board information processes, perceptions and TMT relationships are made visible. This allows the tension caused by differing perceptions of the NED role on a small company TMT to be explored. The aim of this paper is to do this.


In an in‐depth case study of one SME board, four directors' information and perception differences are investigated using a combined Johari window and set theory framework.


Application of this innovative analytical framework allowed the information process and differing perceptions of multiple directors to be plotted systematically. This surfaces the normally hidden “generative mechanisms” underlying the “real domains” of the SME board processes by explaining why and how the directors choose to share and hide information about the NEDs' role. Surfacing the nature of this information sharing and hiding is at the heart of appreciating the process of precarious equilibrium that achieves a fragile cohesion within the TMT.

Research limitations/implications

This study reveals the fragility of TMTs to the process of information sharing and hiding. It demonstrates the sensitivity of the group to perceptions of the NED role and the influence the NED can have on information processes within the group and potentially its cohesion. NEDs joining small company boards need to be sensitive to the existing informational asymmetries that may be vital to maintaining precarious equilibrium and cohesion. In their role they are likely to become the confidant of more than one director and thus nodal points of “secret” information. They need considerable interpersonal sensitivity and tact if they are to fulfil their role of challenging the directors without detrimentally disrupting the group dynamic.


This paper answers the call for more qualitative research to investigate the “lived experience” and “behavioural processes” of directors by adopting the combined Johari window and set theory framework. This analysis tool offers an innovative method that will be of value to other researchers and practitioners investigating TMT group dynamics. It provides a rare opportunity to understand the information process and perceptions of a small company TMT and the influence on the equilibrium and cohesion of the group.



Boxer, R., Perren, L. and Berry, A. (2013), "SME top management team and non‐executive director cohesion", Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, Vol. 20 No. 1, pp. 55-79.

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