Coordinating – A Management Function

Coordinating – A Management Function 

In every organization, different types of work are performed by various departments and work groups and no single department or work group on its own can be expected to achieve the goals of the organization as a whole. Hence, it becomes essential that the activities of different departments and work groups of the organization are harmonized. This function of management is known as ‘coordinating’ function. It ensures unity of action among individuals, work groups and departments, and brings harmony in carrying out the different activities and tasks so as to achieve the organizational goals efficiently. The concept of coordinating always applies to group efforts. There is no need for coordination when only single individual is working.

In other words, coordinating function is the orderly arrangement of individual and group efforts to provide unity of action in the pursuit of a common goal. In an organization, all the departments must operate in an integrated manner so that the organizational goals are duly achieved. Coordinating function involves synchronization of different efforts of the various departments so that the planned objectives are achieved with minimum conflict.

The significance of coordinating as a function of management mainly arises from the fact that work performed by different departments and groups form integral part of the total work for which the organization exists. Without harmonized effort or unity of action, achievement of goals in some departments may run counter to that of the other departments, or the timing of achievements may not match properly. The coordinating function of the management prevents overlapping and conflict so that the unity of action is achieved.

Coordinating function of the management consists of inter-relating the various parts of the work as well as the work of different departments. It involves coordinating the various job roles and responsibilities of the employees so that they have good relationship with the co-employees while delivering the output. It also consists of developing relationship with stakeholders and the environment under which the organization operates.

The significance of coordinating function becomes more important when the size and scale of operation is large in the organization.  This is because of the following reasons.

  • When the size and scale of operation is large, there is more number of people and work groups working. So there is greater possibility of people working at cross purposes as the unit and sub-unit goals may be considered more important by them than the organizational goals. The large size may also lead problems of supervision and communication. Hence coordinating the activities becomes a major task of the management in a large organization.
  • Large organizations generally tend to have activities located at different places, which may not permit frequent and close interaction among people. Hence, the need for coordinating becomes greater and it becomes a major responsibility for the management.
  • The large size of the organization is often associated with diversification of business activities. This may be due to a large number of different types of products being produced. Due to it, there are several division and sub-division of activities. At the same time, there are also increase in the number of managerial levels and vertical division of responsibilities. All these make coordinating function an important function of the management.

Since the coordinating function of the management is very important, it is sometimes called the ‘essence’ of management. It is a function of managers in all departments and branches of the organization, and applies to all the levels of the management. It ultimately helps in reconciliation of goals, total accomplishment of organizational objectives, and maintenance of harmonious relationship between different groups and ensuring economy and efficiency in the organization.

According to management experts, coordinating function of management is necessary since (i) it affects all the functions of management, viz., planning, organizing, and directing etc., and (ii) It is a mother principle of management and all other principles are included in this one principle.

Different management experts have described the coordinating function of the management in the following way.

“Co-ordination is orderly arrangement of group efforts to provide unity of action in the pursuit of common goals”.  – Mooney and Reelay

“Co-ordination is the integration of several parts into an orderly hole to achieve the purpose of understanding”. – Charles Worth

“Coordination is balancing and keeping together the team by ensuring suitable allocation of tasks to the various members and seeing that the tasks are performed with the harmony among the members themselves.” – Brech

“The first test of a business administration should be whether you have a business with all its parts so coordinated, so moving together in their closely knit and adjusting activities, so linking, inter-locking, inter-relating, that they make a working unit that is not a congenic of separate pieces, but a functional whole or integrated unit”. – Mary Parker Follett

According to Mary Parker Follett, coordinating is the “Plus-value of the group”. That is, if there is good coordinating between the groups then the combined achievement of the groups will be greater than the total of the achievement of the individual group, i.e. 3+2=6. This is impossible in the physical world, but it is possible in human affairs through coordinating.

Coordinating is an integral element or ingredient of all the managerial functions. It is a hidden force which binds all the other functions of management. It is required in each and every function and at each and every stage. Coordinating function cannot be separated from other functions as described below.

  • Coordinating through planning – Coordinating is a part of planning, because it tells what to include in a good plan and how to execute it. Planning facilitates co-ordination by integrating the various plans through mutual discussion, exchange of ideas.
  • Coordinating through organizing – Coordinating is the very essence of organizing. It is part of organizing, because it takes the first lead. In fact when the management assigns and groups various activities to the departments, coordinating of the activities is the uppermost in its mind.
  • Coordinating through staffing – Coordinating is part of staffing, because it specifies who will be a staff and its rational placement. Management always ensures that, for better coordination, the right number of personnel in various positions with right type of education and skills are taken so that there are right men on the right job.
  • Coordinating through directing – Coordinating is part of directing, because it gives it a clear focus. The purpose of giving orders, instructions and guidance to the subordinates is served only when there is a harmony between the superiors and the subordinates.
  • Coordinating through controlling – Coordinating is a part of reporting, because it makes it realistic. Management ensures through coordinating that there is no difference in actual performance as compared to the standard performance so as to achieve the organizational goals.

Coordinating function is an essential function for achieving a balanced organizational performance. The effective and efficient coordinating of internal and external organizational components help in reducing internal and external complexities and uncertainties in the organization thus increasing productivity, integrating macro and micro level organizational dynamics, connecting of roles among inter and intra organizational groups, bridging performance and trust among competing organizational groups, and defining organizational tasks and their accomplishment. With the effective implementation of the coordinating function, (i) there is clear definition of internal and external organizational interests and goals which helps in enhancing organizational reputation, (ii) there is utilization of external organizational elements in correspondence with internal organizational elements, (iii) there is an establishment of long term foundation for organizational performance and trust, (iv) there is securing of sustainable organizational relationships among unequal parties in unclear situation, which is often characterized by uncertainty, (v) there is the institutionalization of actions that help in realizing organizational vision, (vi) there is generation of higher profit through the creation of organizational focus, (vii) there is creation of organizational expertise along with strategic contents, (viii) there is the establishment of the competitive advantage for the organization, and (ix) there is establishment of result oriented structures in an organization.

The more efficient coordinating at all the levels of administration results into cohesion which is achieved in a more efficient manner since coordination is a tool of cohesion. Effective and efficient implementation of the coordinating function in the organization needs the following.

  • It needs professional, competent leadership, a democratic style that leads to trust, open communication, and ease of information flow.
  • It needs a constant definition and communication of mission and objectives that are understood by all the managers.
  • It needs an open, two-way channel of communication.
  • It involves a sharing atmosphere as well as commonly agreed on direction. Because effective coordinating function requires cooperation and communication, the meeting technique is still the most effective format for assuring the interrelationships among the various job responsibilities.

Importance of coordinating function

The following points highlight the importance of coordinating function of the management (Fig 1).

  • It provides proper direction to the various departments of the organization by integrating (bringing together) the different activities of the departments for achieving the common goals or objectives of the organization.
  • It facilitates motivation. Coordinating gives complete freedom to the employees. It encourages the employees to show initiative. It helps them in getting the job satisfaction through achievement of the objectives and thus getting motivated.
  • It helps to ensure unity of action in the face of disruptive forces. By welding together different departments and sections into one entity, coordinating ensures the stability and growth of an organization. It enables the executives to see the organization as a whole instead of narrow sectional goals. Individual interests are sub­ordinated to the common interest more easily and effectively.
  • It encourages team spirit. There exist many conflicts and rivalries between individuals, departments, between a line and staff, etc. Similarly, conflicts are also between individual objectives and organizational objectives. Coordinating function arranges the work and the objectives in such a way that there are minimum conflicts between departments and the individuals. It encourages the employees to work as a team and achieve the common objectives of the organization.
  • It results into higher efficiency and economy in the organization. Coordinating helps to improve the efficiency of operations by avoiding overlapping efforts and duplication of work. Integration and balancing of individual efforts provide a smooth and harmonious team work. There is the synergetic effect of the coordinating function. Coordinating also improves workers efficiency since their work does not go waste and produces the desired results.
  • It makes optimum utilization of resources. Coordinating function helps in avoiding cross purpose work since it brings together the human and material resources of the organization. In this way it helps to minimize the wastage of resources in the organization and thus make possible the optimum utilization of resources.
  • It helps to achieve the organizational objectives quickly by ensuring a systematic and smooth working in the organization. All the work in the organization is done in a planned manner without any conflict.
  • It improves inter personnel relations in the organization. Since the coordinating is done through people, with people and between people, it helps in removing misunderstanding between the people and thus improving the inter personnel relationship between the employees. Composite and orderly effort established through team spirit and executive leadership enables employees to derive a sense of security and personal contentment from their job.
  • It improves organizational effectiveness. Coordination fosters loyalty and commitment among employees. This enhances the effectiveness and stability of the organization. According to McFarland, “if job satisfac­tions are present, executives will tend to remain longer with the com­pany. They will feel that they have a place in the organization. They will feel that they have earned that place. The presence of coordination becomes part of their job experience and hence can form a very useful part of their training.” Thus, coordination is indispensable for an effective management.
  • It improves goodwill of the organization. Through coordinating function the performance of the organization improves and it produces goods which are more acceptable to the customers. Its performance earns goodwill amongst its stakeholders.

Coordinating function of management

Fig 1 Importance of coordinating function

Coordinating function of the management has two forms of coordination namely (i) vertical coordination and horizontal coordination. These two forms of coordination are described below.

Vertical coordination is aimed at linking activities at higher levels and lower levels of the management for the achievement of the organizational objectives. The main parameters which determine the effective vertical coordination are (i) degree of formalization, (ii) hierarchical structure, (iii) centralization and decentralization of authority, (iv) delegation of powers, and (v) division of operational and functional positions. Formalization is the extent to which the organizational policies, tactics, rules, job descriptions and other official documents, on which the clear operational decisions are taken. It determines the expected behaviours of the employees. The degree of centralization of authority reflects the concentration of the upper levels in the organizational structure. Delegation of powers is another parameter of vertical coordination involving the transfer of responsibility and authority for the decisions of a managerial level to another immediately below. Unlike decentralization which standing downward movement of tasks and powers, the delegation is temporary, covering a period set by managers and subordinates. Operational position means a job or function constituting the organizational structure invested with authority and responsibility necessary to achieve the major objectives of the organization. Functional position is associated with a job or function designed to provide specialized knowledge and support operational work.

Horizontal coordination is intended to harmonize activities in hierarchical levels similar or close, but belonging to different departments. Frequency of use increases the extent of multiplication of horizontal links information processing requirements relating to production. By facilitating the transfer of information between organizational sub-units positioned on the same levels, horizontal coordination mechanisms supplement the actions of specific vertical coordination traditional pyramid hierarchy. Four major directions are known to promote horizontal coordination are (i) buffer resources, (ii) information systems, (iii) horizontal relations (cooperation) and (iv) managers coordinators. Horizontal relations facilitate aligning employees to the same hierarchical level, to cope with sharing of complex problems without the involvement of superiors. Since the development and deployment of hierarchical lines ease the bridges between departments, offices, departments, workshops with the horizontal relations, it is sometimes called “bridge relations”. The main ways of realizing the horizontal relations are (i) direct contact made between mid-level managers or lower in order to coordinate activities and resolve complex tasks, (ii) connection through the liaison agency role exercised by a manager who handle effective communication and continuous coordination between departments performing common tasks, (ii) task forces and interdepartmental work teams are groups set up for solving specific problems.