SME top management team and non-executive director cohesion: precarious equilibrium through information asymmetry

R. Boxer, Lew Perren, Aidan Berry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Research into Top Management Team (TMT) performance and consensus has been equivocal; further more 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. Methodology: 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. Findings: Application of this innovative analytical framework allowed the information process and differing perceptions of multiple directors to be systematically plotted. 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 NED’s 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 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 maybe 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. Originality/value: 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 which 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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-79
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Small Business and Enterprise Development
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013


  • SME directors
  • board cohesion
  • information asymmetry
  • Non-executive Director, Top Management


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