The manifestation of coordination failures in service triads

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This study focuses on coordination functions and activities between a buyer (a government department), a customer (a military service) and two service providers. Rich data on these normally confidential service ties are drawn from an official report into the causes of a fatal accident involving a UK reconnaissance aircraft and specifically from the evidence presented regarding the earlier development of its complex safety case. We also analysed a range of additional secondary data sources.
The paper investigates governance in service triads, specifically studying significant steering and connecting coordination failures in order to reveal typically hidden characteristics and consequences.

We examine the sources, drivers, and manifestation of coordination failures. We uncover a series of coordination failures driven from the bridge position, revealing that while bounded rationality and opportunism influenced steering coordination failures, connecting coordination failures were associated with knowledge asymmetry, dyadic inertia, and unethical practices.

Organisations and governments delivering complex projects and KIP services should guard against outsourcing the ‘coordination’ activity to a third party and thereby relinquishing the bridge position. Handing over the bridge position to an integrator would leave the client vulnerable to coordination dysfunctions such as bounded rationality, opportunism, knowledge asymmetry, dyadic inertia, and unethical practices.

The study links the previously separate research streams of service triads and coordination functions and activities. While extant research pays attention to mainly positive control functions, this study focuses on all three actors in two (failed) service triads— and highlights the impact of coordination activities and coordination failures.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)341-358
JournalSupply Chain Management
Issue number3
Early online date18 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2021


  • Service triads
  • inter-organizational relationships
  • Coordination
  • Coordination failures
  • Professional Services
  • service operations management
  • Secondary data analysis


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