Organic vs. Mechanistic Coordination in Distributed New Product Development (NPD) Teams

Céline Péréa*, Max von Zedtwitz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

New Product Development (NPD) processes commonly involve distributed teams. The more dispersed team members are, the less frequently and easily they will communicate, and the more challenging it will be to form a cohesive team. One solution is to reduce task interdependence and adopt a mechanistic coordination mechanism, which reduces the need for team communication, has a hierarchical structure and relies on process formalization. An alternative solution is to increase task interdependence and rely on an organic coordination mechanism, which is participative and communicative, in order to stimulate team interfaces and favor team integration. These two solutions employ diametrically opposed coordination strategies and highlight tensions arising from team distribution, task interdependence and coordination mechanisms in NPD. In this paper, we examine these tensions in depth and explore the influence of coordination mechanisms and task interdependence on NPD team integration according to their level of distance. We adopt a contingency approach to coordination strategy in order to answer the following questions: what coordination strategy is better adapted to team distribution? What coordination strategy most favors NPD team integration at distance? By applying structural equation modeling to data from 88 questionnaires completed by NPD project teams we find evidence that the coordination strategy of distributed teams in NPD is contingent on the degree of team distribution. The results are relevant to the study of coordinating innovation in distributed organizations, and have implications for the practice or R&D and NPD management.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Engineering and Technology Management - JET-M
Volume49
Pages (from-to)4-21
Number of pages18
ISSN0923-4748
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Coordination mechanisms
  • NPD team
  • Task interdependence
  • Team distribution
  • Tensions

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