ABSTRACT

Over the last 2 decades, the operating work environment has become exceedingly more challenging and complex (Ilgen & Pulakos, 1999). To wit, communication and information technology has grown exponentially, increasing the pace, scope, and scale of work (Hesketh & Neal, 1999). Such technology has also increased the globalism and geographic dislocation of organizational work (Ireland & Hitt, 1999). Because of the global reach of today’s business, and the increasing immediacy afforded by current technology, strategic issues, problems, and implications have greater interconnectivity across organizational boundaries. Traditional organizational forms have been typically insufficient to respond effectively to such changes. Accordingly, a number of different organizational forms that complement more conventional structures have emerged, including matrix and virtual organizations, as well as cross-functioning and ad hoc project teams. One of these forms includes different kinds of collaborations that

can exist across traditional team and organizational boundaries. Such cross-boundary collaborations have been observed in the past, of course, in the face of large-scale crisis events that require the interdependent responsiveness of multiple agencies (e.g., see response to Hurricane Katrina; Moynihan, 2007). The collectives formed from such requirements do not resemble traditional organizations or large-scale teams. Nor

do such collectives reflect more recent forms such as team-based organizations, virtual organizations, or matrix organizations. Instead, current environmental challenges have increasingly given rise to a form of aggregation that includes tightly coupled constellations of teams, where the different teams may possess very different core missions, expertise, structures, norms, and operating procedures to the collective effort. However, the performances of such constellations reflect the kinds of integrated and interdependent actions typical of more traditional teams and organizations. Mathieu, Marks, and Zaccaro (2001) defined these kinds of organiza-

tions as multiteam systems (MTSs), and argued that they represented a relatively new collective form that has emerged as adaptive responses to the aforementioned environmental challenges. Thus, they noted that “MTSs are usually formed or develop naturally to deal with highly turbulent environments that place a premium on the ability to transform work units and to respond rapidly to changing circumstances” (Mathieu et al., 2001, p. 290). They also asserted that existing organizational or team theories and models do not provide sufficient means of understanding the processes and dynamics of MTSs. Accordingly, they cited the need to recognize and study such collectives in the organizational sciences. Since the publication of Mathieu et al. (2001), several other studies, both empirical and conceptual, have been published that have provided some insight into MTSs (e.g., Coen, 2006; DeChurch & Marks, 2006; DeChurch & Mathieu, 2009; Hoegl & Weinkauf, 2005; Liu & Simaan, 2004a, 2004b; Liu, Simaan, & Cruz, 2003; Marks, DeChurch, Mathieu, Panzer, & Alonso, 2005; Marks, Mathieu, & Zaccaro, 2004; Mathieu, Cobb, Marks, Zaccaro, & Marsh, 2004; Standifer & Bluedorn, 2006). Other studies have examined specific types of MTSs, such as incident command systems (Moynihan, 2007), multisystem coordination in space missions (Caldwell, 2005), multi-unit human-robot systems (Hsu & Liu, 2005), and joint venture teams and other kinds of business alliances (Johnson, Korsgaard, & Sapienza, 2002; Marks & Luvison, 2008). MTSs have also been the subject of several conference papers and symposia at recent annual meetings of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (e.g., Burke, DeChurch, Salas, & Goodwin, 2008; DeChurch, 2010; DeChurch & Burke, 2009; DeChurch & Marks, 2008; DeChurch et al., 2010; Marks et al., 2010; Wooten et al., 2009), Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (e.g., Dean et al., 2008), Academy of Management (e.g., DeChurch, 2006), and Interdisciplinary

Network for Group Research (e.g., DeChurch, Burke, & Salas, 2009; DeChurch & Resick, 2006; Lyons et al., 2008). In June 2008, a conference sponsored by the U.S Army Research Institute

brought together several scholars to explore in more detail the concept of MTSs. This conference highlighted the necessity for an expanded and deeper focus on the nature of MTSs that (a) describes these organizational forms more fully, (b) builds conceptual frames that can guide research on such forms, and (c) begins developing tools to improve the study of MTSs. The purpose of this book is to respond to these needs. This book contains a series of chapters that expand prior conceptual frames of MTSs, defining in more detail the compositional and linkage attributes that characterize such units. It also explores how such systems emerge and develop, as well as the methods for studying MTSs. The intent, therefore, is to establish and nurture a strong conceptual and methodological foundation that can guide future research and practice with MTSs. In this first chapter, we provide a summary of the core concepts that

define MTSs. We then provide a listing of characteristics and dimensions that distinguish different forms of MTSs. We conclude with a brief summary of the major sections and chapters of the book.