Same Page, Different Books: Extending Representational Gaps Theory to Enhance Performance in Multiteam Systems

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    Multiteam systems are increasingly used by organizations, but are difficult to coordinate effectively. Building from theory on representational gaps, we explain why coordination between teams in multiteam systems can be hindered by inconsistencies that exist between them regarding the definition of shared problems. We argue that frame-of-reference training, an intervention that is theorized to reduce representational gaps, can facilitate coordination and subsequent performance in multiteam systems. We studied the effects of frame-of-reference training on multiteam system coordination and performance in 249 multiteam systems comprised of specialized teams. Supporting our expectations, we found that: (a) frame-of-reference training had a positive effect on multiteam system performance by enhancing between-team coordination; (b) within-team coordination improved the relationship between frame-of-reference training and between-team coordination, ultimately improving multiteam system performance; and (c) the patterns by which within-team coordination leveraged our intervention depended on teams’ specific functions. Our findings extend representational gaps theory, highlight the interdependencies between team-level and system-level coordination, and demonstrate the utility of frame-of-reference training in a new setting.


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