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Abstract: A key feature of group facilitation is motivating and coordinating people to perform their joint work. This paper focuses on group coordination which is a prerequisite to group effectiveness, especially in complex tasks. Decision-making in groups is a complex task that consequently needs.

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Studierende, die zum Zeitpunkt der Antragstellung mindestens die Hälfte ihres Studiums absolviert haben. Teams, die sich mehrheitlich aus Studierenden zusammensetzen, werden nur in Ausnahmefällen gefördert. For example, during a group discussion, "summarising opinions", "proposing a procedure" and "requesting clarification" can be considered as mechanisms of explicit coordination. In instances of implicit coordination , group members anticipate the actions and needs of the other group members and adjust their own behaviour accordingly RICO et al.

Contrary to explicit coordination, messages of implicit coordination are not necessarily clear and conclusive nor observable by all group members. Instead, coordination is reached tacitly through anticipation and adjustment. For instance, during a discussion group members might explain task-relevant information without being requested to do so. Thus, effective implicit coordination requires accurate shared mental models of the decision task and procedure.

Both coordination modes have their advantages and disadvantages. Explicit coordination is unambiguous and understandable but requires communicative effort and time. Given the inherent hierarchical nature of organisational groups, explicit coordination can even offend. Implicit coordination is rather timesaving, but it is only successful if the group members have shared and correct mental models of the task and the team interaction.

If this is not the case, implicit coordination can be risky. They suggested that divergent goals and intentions, unequal information distribution, and ambiguity of opinions and preferences require explicit coordination.

As described above, group decision-making is a complex and interdependent task, which involves high information requirements and evaluation demands. Particularly, it is the sharing of individual knowledge and the discussion of its meaning relative to the group's final decision that needs to be coordinated explicitly.

Thus, successful information exchange, sound evaluation of decision alternatives and consensus-finding are impossible to achieve without communicating. The relations between coordination, communication, and group performance have been especially investigated in aviation. Similarly, medical research recently focused on the role of team communication in ensuring patient safety. In fact, they showed that besides an ineffective dealing with distractions and conflicts, the lack of questioning decisions is a mean source of error.

The current state of research does not allow conclusions on how team members communicate in order to explicitly coordinate information exchange and decision-making, which is interesting given the growing body of guidebooks for practical use e. This article attempts to contribute to a more profound theoretical conceptualisation of explicit coordination by focussing on facilitators' subjective coordination theories such as their intentions and competencies when being explicit.

Explicit coordination mechanisms are actively and purposely used to coordinate group members' behaviour. Thus, the question arises as to what people do typically intend when they coordinate explicitly and why do they prefer one coordination mechanism to another. In order to obtain a deeper understanding of explicit coordination mechanisms, we studied this within the concept of individual subjective coordination theories and the related behaviour of eight group coordination experts.

A subjective theory is not simply a single cognition e. Also, in terms of action regulation theory, subjective theories are complex action-guiding cognitions on a superior level because they direct individual actions on subordinated levels.

This term refers to if-then expectations: In sum, subjective theories serve a similar function for individual behaviour as objective theories do for scientific behaviour GROEBEN, In the next section we will outline the relation of subjective theories to individual behaviour. However, the question arises as to how far the individual subjective theories are actually related to an individual's behaviour.

Empirically, the effectiveness of subjective theories on action has been demonstrated numerous times see MÜLLER, On the highest level of goal definition within a subjective theory, the hierarchy and sequence of goals and subgoals are defined see Figure 1.

On the strategic level within a subjective theory, the action process is cognitively regulated by structuring it into plans and strategies. As has already been stated, group decision-making is a complex task requiring explicit coordination. Explicit coordination is described as those mechanisms which are intentionally used for coordinating information and behaviour and which are expressed in a definitive and unequivocal manner with the assumption that there will be no doubts left regarding the individual's underlying intention.

In order to learn more about this assumption and the specific intentions of those rendering explicit coordination, we decided to investigate the subjective coordination theories of experienced leaders and group facilitators, requiring a qualitative research approach in order to elicit their subjective theories.

We explored a which explicit coordination mechanisms are known by these experts, b how they explain their use of coordination mechanisms and c what effects they expect as consequences of their coordinating behaviour. The results of our study should give us a more applied understanding regarding coordination of group decisions and sharpen the theoretical concept of explicit coordination.

A common method for assessing subjective theories is the qualitative expert interview e. A further advantage of the interview method is its familiarity to experts, especially in contrast to standardised questionnaires. By its very design, experts are more inclined to elaborate upon their expertise when asked focused questions in an interview vs.

The interviews were conducted as focused interviews and their methodology is presented in the following section. The interview aims at broadening the topic, which may occur when discussing aspects that have not been anticipated by the researcher.

Depending on the chosen topic, interview guidelines are developed depicting basic anticipated aspects of the topic. A final advantage has been suggested by TRINCZEK that guideline-based interviews are especially useful for questioning leaders because of their expectations of a structured interview setting and a clear distribution of roles interviewer vs.

The interviews conducted for this study focused on explicit process coordination. We developed an interview guideline that allowed us to assess the experts' subjective theories regarding coordination beginning with their experience of a group-decision making task that they facilitated.

The experts were asked to think of a difficult situation during their facilitation of this group decision-making process and to describe their own behaviour in this situation. Thus, we could ensure that the experts talked about behaviour and gave reasons for it, instead of expanding upon their abstract knowledge. At the beginning of each interview, we explained its primary objective and our procedure. We emphasised our interest in group coordination, especially in explicit coordination see Appendix 1 for the interview guidelines.

Subsequently, the experts were asked to think of a problematic group discussion that they had facilitated. It had to be a situation in which they had felt the necessity to make use of their entire group facilitating competencies and intervene. We asked the interviewees to first describe this situation, specify the difficulties and challenges they had faced during this situation, and then describe their thoughts and feelings in detail.

We then asked them to explain the behaviour they used in order to deal with what they specified were the situational difficulties and challenges. For further and deeper analysis, we asked the experts if there was any professional behaviour they had especially liked or disliked. In order to further assess the expert's expectations regarding the effects of their respective interventions, we asked them for the factual or potential consequences of their interventions. Finally, we elicited from the experts the sources of their competencies e.

The aim of our study was a multi-faceted description of the experts' subjective theories on explicit group process coordination. Eight experts from different occupational fields and with different experiences with work groups were interviewed. Table 1 shows their occupation, age, and gender. The experts were recruited from the work area of the authors. All eight experts had many years of experience with facilitating small group processes.

Administrative officer department of environment , responsible for approval procedures. Experts' profession, age, gender, and work context [ 28 ]. All interviews were conducted by the primary author and took place either in the interviewees' offices or homes.

After initial greeting and small talk, the interview objective and procedures were explained and permission to audio-tape the interview was requested. In no case did the interviewees object to being audio-taped. Beside audio-taping, major points were noted during the interview. At the end of each interview the experts were thanked and offered a report on the results of the study.

Immediately afterwards a protocol was written containing basic impressions and notes concerning the atmosphere of the interview. The interviews lasted between twenty-five and ninety minutes. The method comprises data summarising, inductive development of categories, and theoretical abstraction. It consists of six steps: We will now summarise the procedures taken for Steps 1 through 3.

Step 4 topical comparison and the combination of Steps 5 and 6 theoretical generalisation will be presented in the results section. Audio-taped interview content was transcribed but not what was said during breaks, nor intonation or other para- or nonverbal behaviour.

Analysis of the interview discourse was not a research objective, so we opted for a relatively time-saving transcription procedure. As described above, the interviews were structured on the basis of a guideline, but variances in content were possible and sometimes the interviewees talked about something that was not related to the coordination topic. These interview sections were not transcribed. During Step 2 we reformulated the experts' statements to a comparable level of abstraction in order to serve the caption coding in Step 3.

In Step 3 we developed captions for the paraphrased section. Within each of the eight paraphrased interview transcripts, similar topics were coded to a main caption. After having assigned similar sections to main captions within the interviews, the results could be compared between the interviews. Similar to Step 3, in Step 4 we looked for comparable sections between the interviews and adapted the captions accordingly.

In Steps 5 and 6, which we combined, we were allowed to leave the terminology of the interviewees and analysed the acquired knowledge regarding explicit coordination.

The results of Steps 4 through 6 will be presented in the following section. Five main topics emerged from the interviews which we present in the following sections. All experts reported about the general conditions in which they led or facilitated decision-making groups. In addition to regular team meetings, group conflicts, meetings with external persons and crisis interventions were mentioned.

Depending on their role, the experts directed the group either as a leader or were asked for support as an external group facilitator. Furthermore, specific occasions for coordination were pointed out, such as intervening when group members did not follow the suggested procedure or persevered a certain topic.

According to our interviewees, there was a consensus that the goals of effectively coordinating group decision-making were realising equality, objectiveness, consensus, and structuring the discussion. Basic subgoals of such decision-making discussions were receiving and sharing information, solving problems, dealing with emotions during conflicts, and then eventually making decisions. Frequently, the experts would anticipate the expectations, competencies, and moods of the group members—demonstrating that their explicit coordination mechanisms were augmented by skills in implicit mechanisms.

The experts spoke about demands they had to meet. Such demands were patience, attention, appreciation, coping with private problems of single group members, knowing oneself and dealing with own feelings, and not relinquishing their role of directing the discussion. Often, these demands were related to expressed concerns during group decision-making facilitation such as dislikes, role conflicts, maintaining neutrality, and dealing with disturbing group members.

Can I shift quickly enough? Or do I even overlook it? Expert D administrative officer described some of his concerns with the following words:. There are also those who will trap you when you perhaps say something that's not totally correct, and then want to prove to you with such overreaching relish that you are not up-to-date.

The coordination experts had intentions in terms of specific attitudes towards their job as facilitators. In their general attitude , they perceived their own responsibility regarding the decision differently: For instance, Expert G manager described his attitude with the following words:.

Contrary, Expert C consultant described her attitudes towards her job in the following way:. And it's my job to drive the process, also at the same time to respect that because of this, everyone—he and she—can contribute how they need it. Furthermore, some experts had attitudes toward the gender-specific potential for conflicts, towards the effectiveness of their interventions, and towards the behaviour of the group members e.

Questioned on the sources of their competencies in leading and facilitating groups, the experts stated that they had obtained their competence by both experience and training. They also reported to have learned from other people e. Not all competencies were perceived as teachable by training. For example, Expert B consultant described the learning possibilities in the following way:. But what you can really teach are the methods. However, in every phase there are specific interpersonal challenges.

Expert D administrative officer described the role of experience in learning group facilitating with the following words:. And there are things one can't somehow learn from a textbook, not through book-learning. That's acquired by—I repeat—that's acquired by experience.

Detailed inquiries revealed that the experts had precise knowledge about their behaviour during leading a discussion and how it either minimised or exacerbated process losses. The actions and interventions mentioned by them could be classified into categories of preparation e.

For example, Expert C consultant described a situation regarding specific use of facilitation techniques with the following words:. Maintaining very clear eye-contact, I'll also have everyone else in sight, but then I very clearly focus on this person. And usually that has the consequence that they also look at me.

And then I address the person directly, asking them to reduce it to a core sentence. And if they start from the beginning again, that's the point where I, if I see that happening, I stand up, for instance. It's made absolutely clear that in wrestle around this situation the cycle is closed—the meaning of me observably standing up. And I, the idiot, had laid this out to them as a choice.

Then a small power struggle ensues between two of them. Then everyone looks at me. Then I revoked discussing it out. Then everyone was completely unsure. But that I didn't revoke. What I learned from that is, it's good to introduce cooperative measures, but there are simply situations where the best thing you can do is give clear directives.

These techniques are of special interest for the concept of explicit coordination because they contain explicit coordination actions which are organised as production knowledge. In the next section we will present the transformation of the results of Steps 1 through 4 into a theoretical concept of explicit group coordination. This was, by definition, an interpretative step, mapping key terminology used by the interviewed experts e.

The ideas reported by the interviewees were summarised to the five topics of Step 4 within the context of either leadership or facilitation. Both are related to explicit coordination, although differentiating between leadership and coordination is conceptually difficult.

In other words, YUKL considered leadership a superordinated concept with coordination being one of its key features. In a similar vein, WEST , p. Thus, because of their overlapping definitions, coordination and leadership remain confounded. Similarly, it is also difficult to distinguish coordination and facilitation in the context of group decision processes. Contrary to leadership, facilitation does not include goal-directed influencing of others, but merely supporting the interaction and communication within the group.

A group facilitator is not responsible for the decision outcome but only for the decision-making process. Obviously, the term facilitation is not used in a consistent manner throughout the literature and instead is used rather non-specifically to describe directing group discussions HARTMANN et al. At this point we depart from further debate regarding the terminology of leadership vs. We will now transfer the reported methods of directing decision-making discussions by the expert to the concept of explicit coordination.

Table 2 shows the theoretical generalisation of the subjective coordination theories. The experts interviewed were able to report precise details of the necessity for coordinating actions. They regarded the coordination demand depending on the occasion and intention such as the group task e.

Special coordination demands were perceived through the anticipation of the behaviour of different group members. These assumptions about others' behaviour were reflected in attitudes towards group members. Furthermore, the results convey that the experts could describe their goals e. Therefore, we can assume that the experts' subjective coordination theories are organised hierarchically and sequentially in terms of action regulation: Sometimes, these operations were additionally organised in a temporal sequence e.

Reacting to very different group members regarding competence, gender, mood …. Get to know the group members; goal clarification; time schedule definition; definition of main points; prepare written notes; explain own role. Ask somebody to do something; to allow somebody to speak; suggest a procedure; define rules; advising. Goal definition; explain one's own behaviour; making and using notes; summarise; repeat; decide; structure the process in phases.

Do not interrupt; open body position; maintain eye contact; monitor the group members; verbalise problems; choose mechanism dependent on the situation in the group. Experts' group coordination subjective theories [ 56 ]. Regarding the subjective coordination theories of each expert interviewed, we were especially interested in their production knowledge, which, as mentioned earlier, is characterised by if-then-expectations.

The results showed that depending upon the problem e. A consequence following the coordination mechanism was perceived e. Concerning group decision-making, we were particularly interested in mechanisms used by the experts to coordinate information exchange. The reported coordination mechanisms can be classified see Table 2 into mechanisms used before the discussion e. These mechanisms were used depending upon a particular situation production knowledge.

In other words, based on a coordination occasion, a specific coordination mechanism was used, followed by a certain consequence. This sequential structure is shown in Figure 2. Illustration of the experts' production knowledge about appropriate use of coordination mechanisms [ 58 ]. After the following summary of the results of the content analysis, we will discuss the theoretical importance of these results.

The study focused on coordination of group decision-making, highlighting the importance of sophisticated coordination and communication for groups' effective information sharing and optimal decision-making. We explored the subjective coordination theories of eight experienced group facilitators and investigated which explicit coordination mechanisms were known by these experts, how they explained their use of coordination mechanisms and what effects the experts expected as consequences of their coordinating behaviour.

We can sum up the results of the content-analysis of the expert interviews with five essential points:. Prior to and during the coordination of group discussion, the experts perform coordination mechanisms based on assumptions about the behaviour of individual group members and of the group as a whole. These assumptions affect their choice of coordination mechanisms. This relationship is predominantly organised in the form of non-deterministic if-then clauses which form the basic components of the experts' production knowledge.

This production knowledge is not confined to single propositions but instead is comprised of two elements serving as explanations of why a specific coordination mechanism might fit as an appropriate tool to manage a specific occasion. One element is the expert's attitude towards coordination e. These two components provide an explanatory basis for the expert's choice of a coordinative intervention and their reasoned expectation regarding the effects of this intervention.

The coordinating intervention is rarely conceived as a single act but as a set of actions organised hierarchically as well as sequentially.

The temporal structure of coordination activities spans not only the actual group decision-making process but extends to the phase prior to group interaction. The experts prepare the meetings by negotiating their role and delivering written notes and schedules. They use implicit e. The coordination activity displayed by a group facilitator influences the group situation and will be followed by yet another, subsequent coordination activity.

Such coordination cycles occur throughout the entire group decision-making process. The model describes a sequence where, starting from an occasion or a critical event within the group process input , the coordinator performs a specific coordination activity process and then perceives the reaction of the group or individual group members outcome.

Our probe into subjective coordination theories reveals that this basic IPO-sequence is considered to be moderated by three additional group coordination variables: Integration of the subjective coordination theories in the input-process-outcome-model of explicit coordination of group-decision-making BOOS et al.

The perception of a specific state of the group process being an occasion requiring coordination activity depends on the expert's perception of the group task in question. The outcome of the coordination intervention is compared to the intended coordination goal and assessed by criteria from the coordinator's attitude towards coordination and knowledge about the functioning of groups. The results suggest a significant extension of the conceptualisation of explicit vs.

However, our findings suggest that implicit coordination mechanisms can also be used purposefully. For instance, using eye contact instead of explicitly asking somebody to do something was reported as a face-saving and unobtrusive way of giving orders. Thus, the presence of a coordination intention might not be considered as the differentiating feature of explicit versus implicit coordination. Possibly one of the most important methodological challenges of research on expertise is the fact that although experts perform their area of expertise skilfully and intelligently, they are often not able to verbalise their knowledge to its full extent BROMME, , p.

Our results provide insight into the subjective coordination theories of experts. Nevertheless, we can only assume that the entire breadth of attitudes, intentions, and heuristics guiding the expert's coordination behaviour was not captured by our interviews.

Subjective theories are not necessarily accessible to consciousness and therefore not necessarily consciously available for verbalisation GROEBEN, This sets a limitation on interviews as a method of full retrieval of expertise. The goals are by definition conscious, but the experts might not be fully aware of their subgoals and concrete actions for goal attainment CRANACH et al.

However, this tendency toward decreasing conscious control renders the assessment of subjective theories that are much more worthwhile. Regarding our method, the limited number of eight interviewees might be another point of discussion. We are aware of the fact that drawing generalisations from empirical data requires an appropriate number of participants. However, we contend that the manifoldness of the responses counters some of the limitations of the small sample size.

The objective of our study was to gain insight into the individual's perspective of coordination. For that exploratory reason, we think that eight well-experienced experts serve as a reasonable and valuable source to identify subjective coordination theories.

Our study shows that experts dispose of a variety of coordination mechanisms. However, its focus on the subjective perspective of the experts does not support conclusions regarding the actual effectiveness of these mechanisms for group decision-making, e. This leads to the need for studies examining the impact of specific coordination mechanisms on group-decision process and outcome.

We have performed some past studies that addressed questions of whether the use of particular coordination mechanisms leads to better group decisions. For example, in a group decision-making experiment having three-person groups discuss a personnel selection decision, we examined the efficacy of two coordination mechanisms reported by the experts in this study. The group discussion was supported by a neutral facilitator being trained in two mechanisms of group coordination, asking for information and repeating already mentioned information.

The study showed that asking for information did not improve the decision quality. However, regularly repeating already mentioned information significantly enhanced group decision quality KOLBE, Further studies are necessary to validate these results in different settings. From our point of view, further coordination research should focus on three points. Firstly, context-dependent effectiveness of single and combined coordination mechanisms should be systematically evaluated.

Secondly, we need more knowledge on the transition and interaction of implicit and explicit coordination and their task-adaptiveness. As a prerequisite, the definitions of explicitness versus implicitness should be clarified. And thirdly, because both coordination and motivation are key functions of leadership, their interplay should be investigated in order to promote progress on leadership theory development.

We also gratefully acknowledge the time and effort of our interview partners. Finally, we thank the editor and the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on an earlier version of the draft. We are studying communication and coordination in small groups and are particularly interested in explicit coordination direct and verbal intervention used by group leaders or facilitators during group decision-making.

Thus far, there is little known about the nature of explicit coordination. We are therefore conducting these interviews in order to learn what experienced group coordinators think of it. I will begin the interview by asking you to imagine a certain situation.

Afterwards we are going to talk about this situation. I am interested in your experiences and ideas, thus I will let you talk and minimise my interruptions. I would like you to tell me everything that comes into your mind, even if you think it might be useless, trivial, or irrelevant. Remember a difficult situation during a group decision-making process you were in charge of coordinating as a leader or facilitator. In this situation you might have felt the necessity to make use of your entire group-facilitating competencies.





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