“They Come in Wearing Their Rank”: The Dynamics of an Inter-professional Proposal Writing Team
Clow Bohan, Margaret
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Working on teams with professionals from other fields is often challenging. Researchers from the fields of Management and Writing Studies have frequently emphasized the tension and conflict experienced in such inter-professional, or cross-functional, teams. Whether studying engineering project teams, groups of medical professionals, or business teams, researchers have found that inter-professional work is often complicated by misunderstanding and miscommunication due to problems associated with inter-group professional identity. This interdisciplinary research draws from the fields of Management and Writing Studies in the exploration of a modern, inter-professional proposal writing team working at a commercial enterprise. A modified version of Grounded Theory, coupled with Rhetorical Genre Studies analysis, serves as a methodological framework for the study. The analytical framework is provided by the combination of Rhetorical Genre Studies, a model of successful team interactions, borrowed from Management Studies, and an expanded version of Wenger’s conceptualization of multiple communities of practice (CoPs). The research reveals the complexity of inter-professional team work. Professional identity of the team’s member is also presented as more complicated than previously anticipated. The study indicates that the team has been heavily influenced by a former, or an antecedent, CoP to which some of the team members belong. The genre and leadership preferences of the antecedent CoP are shown to moderate much of the predicted tension and conflict in the work of the team. The interdisciplinary study reveals the effects of antecedent CoPs and professional identity of the team members on the inter-professional team dynamics. Both researchers and practitioners may benefit from the findings of the study and a broader interdisciplinary approach used to investigate and interpret the dynamics of inter-professional teams.