As per Henri Fayol’s theory of business administration, along with organizing, monitoring, and controlling, coordinating is one of the central functions the management. The term ‘coordination’ in this theory implies that the managers must harmonize the rules and the activities performed by the organization. This in turn means that every activity of each unit of the organization should complement and enrich the work of the other.
In an operational sense, coordination means, “an arrangement of the different elements of a complex body or activity to enable them to work together effectively”. Co-ordination also could mean “the ability to use different parts of the organization together smoothly and efficiently for ensuring more efficient use of the organization’s resources in pursuit of its specified goals”.
I believe that the coordination as a management function has received much lesser attention than what it merits from the practitioners, researchers, academicians, and the management itself. The term ‘coordination’ is known more in reference to the Supply Chain or the Manufacturing or the Sales function by virtue of the nature of their activities.
I was tempted to write this article based on a FIFA update recently published in the Times of India on 5 July 2014. It said that Lionel Messi is the third most productive distributor of the passes in the game and the primary scorer on his squad. For readers’ information, Messi plays generally in a very advanced position on the right-wing very much like a striker.
Like the central functions of the management, there are five key skills required for a football player. They are first-touch, dribbling, passing, striking the ball, and one-vs-one play. Passing is akin to the coordination. It determines how many scoring chances a team can create, how often a team is possessing the ball, and how quickly a team can advance the ball down the field. Without a strength in the passing competency, a team will quickly find itself “out of possession” more than “in possession”.
Messi’s completed forward passes are the highest among the Argentine players. Out of total 11120 passes that he has made, he has been successful in 84% instances. What a success ratio? When to pass the ball to a particular team member is decided in a microsecond and that requires a comprehensive understanding of the ‘live’ situation on the field. What Messi is doing essentially is an effective and efficient coordination and the results are so clear.
Coordination and the Business Management:
I find a great resemblance between the coordination skill in the business management and the passing skill in the soccer game. If we go a little deeper, then we find that the coordination in fact is the most common thread cutting across all the managerial & supervisory functions. The more the Managers & Supervisors master the coordination skill; the better is their performance or output and hence, the superior is the organization’s performance.
Like communication, coordination too is an embedded aspect of the day-to-day business management and if ignored, can lead to trouble. An effective and well-defined coordination process lends credence to the roles of the employees and predictability to the organization’s functioning.
The ensuing text attempts to signify the practical details of the coordination skill with three specific instances for the Mangers & Supervisors for highlighting its importance.
Information / Data Coordination:
This is the most usual kind coordination that each employee understands. Information and data are the software of the decision-making process at every stratum in the organization.
Who will receive what information? How much information the employee will keep and how much will be passed on and to whom? How the information will move forward, backward, and sideways? When the information will be passed on? How fast the information will flow and through which medium? Who will keep what information for how long period? Which information will move faster and to whom? What types of information / data need preservation for legal and other purposes? What is the information / data retrieval procedure? What type of enterprise system is the most suitable for the business?
This is about formally coordinating the information across the organization by the specified employees to make certain that everyone receives the right information in right quantum for making the required decisions at the right time. The Managers & Supervisors must have full comprehension and control of the information coordination paths. We often come across situations on a repetitive basis, wherein a particular task could not be executed, because the concerned employee either failed to pass on or give the vital information or withheld the information for inexplicable reasons.
Most organizations set up the Coordination Cell for larger projects. Such cells are more often than not a part of the President’s or the Director’s office. Such an arrangement signifies the importance given to the coordination process for the project execution as planned.
On a routine basis, how the resources (work force, material, financial, etc.) will come and who will coordinate? Who will be the site project coordinator and to whom he will report? What setup is necessary to resolve the interdisciplinary issues? Who will coordinate with the government agencies? How often the review meetings will take place and who all will take part? What new or more skills are required for the project execution? Who will make sure the effective procurement of the materials and services? Who are the members of the back-up team?
These are a few critical points on which, the Coordination Cell decides before or along with the commencement the project. In the project execution, nothing can be left to the chance and hence, such cells are a prerequisite, especially in the resource-conscious organizations. Project coordination is also about visualizing various scenarios and preparing a plan for each.
The organizations have the emergency management or business contingency plans for different purposes. For instance, an evacuation plan for an earthquake or a fire or a data recovery plan when the host server is damaged or a natural calamity or disaster management plan. The purpose of such plans is to make sure the least damage to the property & human life and continuity of the business.
Execution of such plans is akin to the soccer game in terms of the decision-making speed as the time available to manage the emergency is always lesser than required. All the business standards like OSHA, ISO, IMS, etc. and various legal statutes mandate that such plans are properly documented, duly approved by the management, communicated to all the concerned employees, shared with the concerned government agencies when required, and periodically reviewed.
For an effective coordination, the organization must convert all the Managers & Supervisors into Lionel Messi. Then, each Manager will compete for being the most effective coordinator or the ‘passer of the ball’. Because of his agility and clarity of direction, Messi on many occasions have taken the ball himself to the goalpost. This implies that for being an effective coordinator, the Mangers & Supervisors must have the goal-clarity, agility, knowledge of the peer’s abilities, an appreciation of the dynamic business situations, knowledge of the opponent’s strengths & weaknesses, and most decisively an ability to put the interpersonal issues aside while ‘the match is in progress’.