The topic of team coordination and control in escalating situations makes the subject of the study conducted by Bergström, Dahlström, Henrikson and Dekker (2010), presented in their article “Team Coordination in Escalating Situations: An Empirical Study Using Mid-Fidelity Simulation”. As the title indicates, a simulation methodology is used for testing teams’ ability to coordinate in situations that aggravate, threatening the general organizational operations.
Structurally, the article includes five mains sections, respectively introduction, methods, results, discussions and conclusions. The introduction section presents the goal of the study, but also the definitions of main concepts, such as escalation and data overload (situations wherein an initial irregularity reaches higher proportions that threaten organizational security) and team performance coordination and control (cognitive systems that coordinate and control resources in order to achieve their goal). The methods section describes the qualitative methodology used, namely recording the teams during the experiments and evaluating their coordination and control performance against critical factors drawn from crisis management research: process, hierarchy, rigidity, goal formulation or overall management. The participants, materials and process of study are also described in this section. The most consistent section is the results, wherein the findings of the tests are described. In the following section, discussions, they are discussed their meaning in relation to the topic is discussed, and finally, the conclusion section summarizes the study and evaluates the case.
The study evaluates the team’s coordination based on three criteria, namely interpredictability (capacity to predict other members’ actions), common ground (capacity to agree on actions) and directability (capacity to adjust to different situations). For the control variable, there are four modes, respectively the scrambled mode (random, trial and error performance), opportunistic (limited planning and anticipation), tactical (perspectives rules and procedures) and strategic mode (management processes focused on the goal).
A number of 15 teams were formed and tested for a simulated real-life situation, at the board of a ship. The teams were diverse, from the maritime crisis management instructors, professional seafarers, maritime students, civilian crisis managers, air traffic control students and pilot students. Yet, the results of the study indicated that their ability to coordinate and control the team and reach performances in escalating situation depended not specifically on their know-how of the maritime environment, but rather on the model of coordination and the mode of control adopted. Like this, the results of the study show that within the teams wherein the interpredictability was high, namely in the situations wherein team members were proactive in sharing information, encountered an information blockage. This is a paradoxical situation that resulted in the challenge of making decisions in an escalating situation, because of data overload. On the contrary, within the teams wherein the leader took control, when the situations started to escalate, and stopped informing team members, but took the important decisions on his own, the information flux was better controlled, and the team reached a better coordination.
The same is not the case for the teams wherein there was a rigid model that discouraged the information sharing, as this led to improper coordination and control among team members, which led to failure. The discussion section revealed that the information sharing contrast not only the interpredictability, but also the common ground and directability, hence the entire coordination process, because escalation situations impose constant negotiations and rapid changes, which does not facilitate common ground. The study concludes that the base of joint cognitive activity informs contrasting view on how teams establish, maintain and regain control in escalating situations.
Bergström, J., Dahlström, N., Henrikson, E., & Dekker, and S. (2010) Team coordination in escalating situations: An empirical study using mid-fidelity simulation. Blackwell Publishing.