Progressing to the center: Coordinating project work

Linus Dahlander, Siobhan O'Mahony

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

161 Citations (SciVal)


Project forms of organizing are theorized to rely upon horizontal as opposed to vertical lines of authority, but few have examined how this shift affects progression-how people advance in an organization. We argue that progression without hierarchy unfolds when people assume lateral authority over project tasks without managing people. With a longitudinal study of a mature, collectively managed open source software project, we predict the individual behaviors that enable progression to lateral authority roles at two different stages. Although technical contributions are initially important, coordination work is more critical at a subsequent stage. We then explore how lateral authority roles affect subsequent behavior-after gaining authority, individuals spend significantly more time coordinating project work. Our research shows how people progress to the center as opposed to up a hierarchy, and how progression differs by stage and specifies the theoretical relationship between lateral authority roles and the coordination of project work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)961-979
Number of pages19
JournalOrganization Science
Issue number4
Early online date15 Sept 2010
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2011


  • Communities of practice
  • Community forms
  • Community project
  • Coordination
  • Knowledge work
  • Lateral authority
  • Open source software
  • Project work
  • Technical community
  • Technical work

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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