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Article
Publication date: 18 December 2020

Jas Kalra, Michael Lewis and Jens K. Roehrich

This paper aims to investigate governance in service triads, specifically studying significant steering and connecting coordination failures, to reveal typically hidden…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to investigate governance in service triads, specifically studying significant steering and connecting coordination failures, to reveal typically hidden characteristics and consequences.

Design/methodology/approach

This study focuses on coordination functions and activities between a buyer (a government department), a customer (a military service) and two service providers. Rich data on these normally confidential service ties are drawn from an official report into the causes of a fatal accident involving a UK reconnaissance aircraft and specifically from the evidence presented regarding the earlier development of its complex safety case. The authors also analysed a range of additional secondary data sources.

Findings

The authors examine the sources, drivers and manifestation of coordination failures. The authors uncover a series of coordination failures driven from the bridge position, revealing that while bounded rationality and opportunism influenced steering coordination failures, connecting coordination failures were associated with knowledge asymmetry, dyadic inertia and unethical practices.

Practical implications

Organisations and governments delivering complex projects and knowledge-intensive professional services should guard against outsourcing the “coordination” activity to a third party, thereby relinquishing the bridge position. Handing over the bridge position to an integrator would leave the client vulnerable to coordination dysfunctions such as bounded rationality, opportunism, knowledge asymmetry, dyadic inertia and unethical practices.

Originality/value

The study links the previously separate research streams of service triads and inter-organizational coordination. While extant research pays attention to mainly positive control functions, this study focuses on all three actors in two (failed) service triads – and highlights the impact of coordination activities and failures.

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