Problem-Solving by Total Productive Maintenance Swift Teams: Communication Network Structure, Media Choice and Team Effectiveness

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Purpose: This study aims to look at the performance, communication structure and media choice for swift teams (STs) formed with the purpose of recovering from operational emergencies in manufacturing. The problem-solving process associated with these ad hoc teams include an early stage, where the main goal is to restore the process to working conditions, and a later stage, longer in duration, where the root cause of the problem is found and eliminated.

Design/methodology/approach: Based on field data from an industrial manufacturing operation, the authors test hypotheses by means of regression models.

Findings: It was found that in the evolution from early to later stage, media usage shifts from highly synchronous to asynchronous and the structural characteristics of the teams' collaboration networks mutate as well. These effects are different when comparing high- vs low-performing teams.

Research limitations/implications: The study contains data for only one company, limiting the external validity of the conclusions. The sample was predominantly male. Participant attrition and other potential covariates not included in the study can be additional limitations.

Practical implications: More successful teams adapt their communication patterns more rapidly, going from an initially decentralized organization to a more centralized one. These changes in network patterns open a new view of ST’s success, based on network characteristics rather than on aggregate measures. The conclusions yield insights for interventions that may increase the success rates of these teams and reduce production line downtime.

Originality/value: The two stages in the operational emergency problem-solving process have to the authors’ knowledge not been addressed simultaneously in previous research, which is attempted in this paper as its main theoretical contribution. Moreover, previous studies dealing with ST’s success have only looked at aggregated measures impacting effectiveness and never to how their communication networks evolve along the path to problem resolution. The network view of the evolution of the ST from a relatively disorganized impromptu agglomeration of individuals to an effective problem-solving organization is to the authors’ knowledge first presented.


85115277784 (Scopus)




Emerald Group Holdings Ltd.



Publication Information

International Journal of Quality and Reliability Management