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Towards Alignment and Shared Understanding in Teams
Uldarico REX Dumdum, Christopher J. Speicher

Last modified: 2011-10-10


Towards Alignment and Shared Understanding in Teams


Uldarico Rex Dumdum

Christopher J. Speicher

Business & Managerial Science Programs

Division of Management

Marywood University




The professional context in which business program graduates do their work has changed considerably over the past decade due to increased globalization, technological advances and changes in industry practices (Topi et al., 2008). Jobs now require capabilities in globally distributed development sourced through complex arrangements. Graduates are increasingly called upon to participate and engage in multi-team systems (Zacarro, Marks and DeChurch, 2011) that need to rapidly respond to highly complex, problematic, ambiguous and poorly understood situations that require improvement. These situations are complex because they are dynamic and involve many stakeholders whose demands and expectations for broader-impact improvements are rapidly rising in organizations experiencing massive pressures from within and without to survive and thrive. Such situations can be characterized by ambiguity, confusion and feelings of disorientation (Maitlis and Sonenshein, 2010). In such situations, achieving and sustaining alignment and shared understanding among team members is crucial.


This paper investigates a crucial component of alignment in teams: achieving and sustaining a shared understanding. First, it discusses concepts underlying mental models and then it provides a rationale for shared mental models. Second, it captures these concepts in a framework to show the stages crucial for the achievement of shared understanding. Third, it highlights a set of methods that enable teams to achieve a more robust and shared understanding of complex situations. It concludes by identifying high level capabilities and competencies our business students must possess to excel in a highly competitive global marketplace and by generating recommendations to further strengthen the education of business students.




Maitlis, S. and S. Soneshein (2010) "Sensemaking in Crisis and Change: Inspiration and Insights from Weick (1988)", Journal of Management Studies (47)3, pp.551-580.


Topi, Heikki et al. (2008) "Revising Undergraduate IS Model Curriculum: New Outcome Expectations," Communications of the Association for Information Systems: Vol. 23, Article 32.


Zacarro, S.J., M.A. Marks, and L. DeChurch (eds.) (2011), Multiteam Systems: An Organization Form for Dynamic and Complex Environments. Routledge Academic.


Teams, Alignment, Shared Understanding