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Learning in multi-team systems: a qualitative study of learning triggers, readiness to learn and learning processes

Valerie I. Sessa (Department of Psychology, Montclair State University, Montclair, New Jersey, USA)
Jessica L. Francavilla (Department of Business, Washington University in St Louis, St Louis, Missouri, USA)
Manuel London (College of Business, State University of New York at Stony Brook, Stony Brook, New York, USA)
Marlee Wanamaker (Department of Psychology, Montclair State University, Montclair, New Jersey, USA)

Team Performance Management

ISSN: 1352-7592

Article publication date: 8 April 2021

Issue publication date: 8 June 2021

294

Abstract

Purpose

Multi-team systems (MTSs) are expected to respond effectively to complex challenges while remaining responsive and adaptable and preserving inter-team linking mechanisms. The leadership team of an MTS is expected to configure and reconfigure component teams to meet the unique needs of each situation and perform. How do they learn to do this? This paper, using a recent MTS learning theory as a basis, aims to begin to understand how MTSs learn and stimulate ideas for future research.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors use two case studies to address research questions. The first case was a snapshot in time, while the second case occurred over several months. Interviews, documents and participant observation were the data sources.

Findings

As suggested by theory, findings support the idea that learning triggers, the timing of the triggers and readiness to learn (RtL) affect the type of learning process that emerges. The cases showed examples of adaptive and generative team learning. Strong and clear triggers, occurring during performance episodes, led to adaptive learning. When RtL was high and triggers occurred during hiatus periods, the associated learning process was generative.

Originality/value

Using an available theoretical model and case studies, the research describes how MTS readiness to learn and triggers for learning affect MTS learning processes and how learning outcomes became codified in the knowledge base or structure of the MTS. This provides a framework for subsequent qualitative and quantitative research.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Special thanks to Lionel Brock, Vivek Kuppili, and Margaret Toich for their help with data collection and analysis.

Citation

Sessa, V.I., Francavilla, J.L., London, M. and Wanamaker, M. (2021), "Learning in multi-team systems: a qualitative study of learning triggers, readiness to learn and learning processes", Team Performance Management, Vol. 27 No. 3/4, pp. 294-315. https://doi.org/10.1108/TPM-11-2020-0095

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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