Purpose – This paper aims to generate insight into the processes that lie at the heart of multiteam system (MTS) coordination and how MTS coordination develops. The four propositions developed can set a future MTS research agenda and enable MTS leaders to increase MTS performance.
Design/methodology/approach – A military and civilian construction MTS has been studied over several months. The longitudinal character, micro-level focus and abductive research approach respond to the call for more in-depth, empirical studies of MTS processes.
Findings – Based on the research findings, four propositions are advanced: the interrelatedness of trust, communication and shared mental models is at the heart of MTS coordination; MTSs are sensitive to a downward spiral triggered by the negative relationship between MTS coordination and the occurrence of negative events; a salient component team identity accelerates this downward spiral; and effective MTS leadership is a perquisite for successful MTS coordination. The findings also indicate that because the MTS research field is still maturing, there is value in testing the degree to which existing knowledge on teams is generalizable to an MTS context.
Practical implications – The research generates three practical suggestions for MTS leaders to increase MTS performance: usual ways of structuring or leading a team might elicit intergroup behavior in MTSs, a conventional “fun” teambuilding program is not effective in an MTS situation and balance formal and informal coordination.
Originality/value – The abductive and empirical character of this study is unique in the field of MTS research. Moreover, the four propositions on MTS coordination advance current knowledge on MTS processes. Additionally, the study generates new insights that could enable MTS leaders to increase MTS performance.
- Intergroup behavior
- Multiteam systems
- Shared mental model
- Case study research