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

Valerie I. Sessa, Jessica L. Francavilla, Manuel London, Marlee Wanamaker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)294-315
Number of pages22
JournalTeam Performance Management
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 2021


  • Learning processes
  • Learning triggers
  • Multi-team systems
  • Readiness to learn


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