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Process Coordination Indicators

Chenista Rae Straubel

BUS 4013: Organizational Structure, Learning, and Performance

Prof. Gregory Gotches

April 24, 2005

Galbraith states that “(…) lateral processes become the principal means of

coordinating activities” (2002). The successful coordination of activities requiring

the input of many talents across organizational boundaries identifies the need to

create information and decision making processes hence, a lateral process is

borne. Lateral processes decentralize decision making providing networks that

are capable of addressing organizational concerns. Lateral processes exceed

capacity when company strategies and tasks involve: 1) diversity, 2) rapid

change, 3) cross unit functional interdependence, 4) Internet connectivity, and 5)

speed (Galbraith, 2002).

The need for implementing coordinating processes are exhibited within an

organization when a current process or decision affects or will affect other

processes or departments within an organization. Coordinating processes are

shared by other processes, results are dependent upon the actions or non-action

of other individuals or departments, and the process or its results cannot be

reproduced or duplicated by a single process. Coordination creates a systematic

way of communicating, a means of integrating function within management, a

path to consensus (when organized by charismatic leaders), and a process of

asking and responding to questions, ideas, and problems. The purpose of


coordination is to acquire, provide or to share information; ensure complete and

coherent actions; avoid duplication of effort; resolve conflict; identify omissions;

review all aspects; and establish guidelines as to when to consult with others.

Individuals who participate in coordinating processes learn communication skills,

confidence, and discernment, build a sense of teamwork, and develop credibility

and trust.

Leaders are essential in lateral processes. According to Galbraith, “the

best way to find these individuals is to grow them” (2002). Individuals who

experience rotational assignments, create their own networks, engage in lateral

groups, and eventually chair groups have developed general managerial skills

that teach influence enabling them to move into leadership roles and positions

(Ibid.).

In research and development we use informal, voluntary processes quite

often. This is encouraged by the company as evidenced by interdepartmental

events, e-coordination, and co-location (when we work on site). When working

on projects, we often visit and converse with one another to “pick the intellect”

which in turn sparks our own creativity and adds a new depth and understanding

to the scope of the project at hand. We learn from each others experiences

which in turn broadens our own experiences while adding a new dimension to the

organization and to the project as well. This is our system of built in rewards –

we live for learning and for doing.

We also create formal groups (teams) of interdepartmental “talents”. We

brain storm, make decisions, solve problems, and engage our individual creative
synergies. Often we are members of many teams, multi-dimensionally.

Sometimes we are assigned one small piece of a larger project and we meet as

part of the team for a short period of time until our contribution is completed. We

then move on. We are often used as a consultant in differing situations where

we may have a particular expertise. For instance, I have a strong background in

TCP/IP technology (web). A project team may invite me to the meeting if they

need information or guidance in how to configure a product for a future web

application without redesigning the entire application from scratch. I attend the

meetings as required and I may never know anything more about the project.

When my talent or expertise is no longer needed, I am no longer invited to attend

the meetings.

I once worked for a custom software development company that provided

property and financial management software for the HUD (Housing and Urban

Development) industry. Because we dealt with the bureaucratic hierarchy typical

of governmental organizations, our company designed its structure to mirror the

departments and the titles of counterparts in the bureaucratic HUD industry. The

driving motivation for the strategy was to structure the organization to

create“equality” between counterparts within the two organizations. It was an

exercise in “ego-fertility” which created more power struggles than it dissolved

and soon grew to represent a grave waste of time and money. It was counter-

productive because we were not a bureaucratic hierarchy funded by Congress.

We were a struggling software development company trying to create an image

that we were larger than we were. We were not providing housing to low income
families who qualified, we were developing management software. Our

missions, visions, and goals were not even related! We ended up with

Presidents and Vice Presidents of departments that had only two or three

individuals in the department. The Board of Directors grew which made decision

making and problem solving inefficient and time consuming. It created animosity

across departmental boundaries. The company finally sold out to a competitor

who dissolved the bureaucracy and simplified the processes.

I have a recommendation for R&D departments everywhere. Galbraith

refers to these people as integrators, I call them Project or Product Managers. A

Project Manager should be assigned to every project or product. When team

members are left to resolve conflicts among themselves, the project suffers.

Reporting to two or three management people when you are assigned many

projects creates too much confusion within the working environment. Problems

and issues cannot be escalated for resolution and projects often fail or go way

over budget because they are not properly managed. It is chaos through which

organization never finds its way. The Project Manager should be charged with

the goals and authority to complete the project per guidelines and within budget.

The Project Manager should lead all meetings to maintain order and to

provide/ensure focus. It is very difficult for creative minds to think “structurally”.

Individuals assigned to the project need to report and to be held accountable to

the Project Manager for the duration of the project. Expectations should be

clearly identified and rewards for project completion should be the responsibility

of the Project Manager.


In R&D, strategy should focus on fruition and structure should include

Project Managers. All processes need to allow for integration of talents and

rewards should focus on quality and completion. This will create a balance of

power within the organization (and the teams), decentralized authority and

accountability, single point of customer / company contact, and ensure the quality

of the project and provide for the extension of lateral processes required to bring

the project to fruition – on budget, on time.

References

Galbraith, J.R. (2002). Designing organizations: An executive guide to strategy,

structure, and process. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.