Implicit Coordination Strategies for Effective Team Communication

TitleImplicit Coordination Strategies for Effective Team Communication
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsButchibabu, A., C. Sparano-Huiban, L. Sonenberg, and J. Shah
JournalHuman Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES)
Start Page595-610
Date Published06/2016
Type of ArticleJournal
Keywordscommunication analysis, deliberative communication, implicit coordination, task complexity, team collaboration

Objective: We investigated implicit communication strategies for anticipatory information sharing during team performance of tasks with varying degrees of complexity. We compared the strategies used by teams with the highest level of performance to those used by the lowest-performing teams to evaluate the frequency and methods of communications used as a function of task structure.

Background: High-performing teams share information by anticipating the needs of their teammates rather than explicitly requesting the exchange of information. As the complexity of a task increases to involve more interdependence among teammates, the impact of coordination on team performance also increases. This observation motivated us to conduct a study of anticipatory information sharing as a function of task complexity.

Method: We conducted an experiment in which 13 teams of four people performed collaborative search-and-deliver tasks with varying degrees of complexity in a simulation environment. We elaborated upon prior characterizations of communication as implicit versus explicit by dividing implicit communication into two subtypes: (a) deliberative/goal information and (b) reactive status updates. We then characterized relationships between task structure, implicit communication, and team performance.

Results: We found that the five teams with the fastest task completion times and lowest idle times exhibited higher rates of deliberative communication versus reactive communication during high-complexity tasks compared with the five teams with the slowest completion times and longest idle times (p= .039).

Conclusion: Teams in which members proactively communicated information about their next goal to teammates exhibited improved team performance.

Application: The findings from our work can inform the design of communication strategies for team training to improve performance of complex tasks.

URL Factors_ The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society-2016-Butchibabu-595-610.pdf
Refereed DesignationRefereed