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Effects of trust, structure and processes on effectiveness in a military organization: exploring a moderated mediation model

Anne Lise Bjørnstad (Department of Strategic Analyses and Joint Systems, Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI), Oslo, Norway)
Pål Ulleberg (Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Article publication date: 5 March 2021

Issue publication date: 2 June 2021

733

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to better understand the consequences of trust between personnel at different hierarchical levels for organizational effectiveness. The authors aim to explore the direct effects and the interaction effects of trust with organizational structure and processes. The study focuses on military organizations and expands on models and research from this context.

Design/methodology/approach

Survey data were collected from a Norwegian military exercise organization at two different hierarchical levels. The hypothesized relationships between the variables were tested using moderation and serial mediation analyses.

Findings

Trust between personnel at different hierarchical levels was found to positively influence organizational effectiveness in terms of higher shared awareness of tasks and responsibilities, better information sharing and, in turn, better decision-making. A perceived flat organizational structure and decentralized processes were found to increase flexibility, an increase that in turn improved decision-making. Moderation analyses further suggested that trust between hierarchical levels could attenuate the negative effects of personnel's perception of their organization as hierarchical and centralized.

Practical implications

The study’s results suggest that, at least in Norwegian military contexts, practitioners should be concerned with building trust between personnel at different hierarchical levels, flattening the organizational structure, and decentralizing processes to increase organizational flexibility and effectiveness.

Originality/value

The present study contributes to a better understanding of the role of trust between personnel at different hierarchical levels in the effort to achieve effective organizational structures and processes in military contexts.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank colleagues at the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI), Hilde Hafnor and Ann Kristin Elstad for their much valued part in the data collection. The authors thank also go out to all the military participants and the units that cooperated with the authors to make this data collection possible. Both authors contributed equally to this work.

Citation

Bjørnstad, A.L. and Ulleberg, P. (2021), "Effects of trust, structure and processes on effectiveness in a military organization: exploring a moderated mediation model", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 42 No. 4, pp. 564-579. https://doi.org/10.1108/LODJ-06-2020-0255

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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