Coordination Chaos

Why should I care

Every organization declines to Coordination Chaos, unless Leaders know what to do.


This is serious

Are you powerless in front of silos, confusion, and slowness? Is it difficult even to imagine a better way? Recognizing the signs of Modern Taylorism is both amusing and uncomfortable.

Management thinkers have given their warning. Allen Ward, Konosuke Matsushita, Clausewitz and von Moltke, Joseph Tainter, Chris Argyris and Gary Hamel explain the same pattern from different perspectives. Please check the entertaining video by Yves Morieux of BCG. A continuous stream of articles in management publications brings up the seriousness of the phenomenon.

Nokia Mobile Phones fell from 40 BN revenue and 9 BN profit to zero in five years.

Figure by Christian Sandström

Coordination Chaos was critical in the collapse of R&D productivity. It constrained the strategic decisions of the top management, and contributed to the management by fear.

Root Cause

Divide to unconquerable fragments.

Specialization to Role, Function, Task, or a Technical Component seems to work. Unfortunately, it by definition creates a fragmented organization, queues, uncontrolled growth, heavy coordination - and Waterfall processes. You can manage them only in a slowly changing environment.

Systems Thinking shows beautifully, how everyday decisions of the management kill learning and grow the fragmented organization.

Please see also Bas Vodde explaining the danger of asynchronous dependencies and how to avoid them.

See how Bureaucracy grows inevitably in a fragmented organization. How can you avoid the Tayloristic trap of "Define better roles and responsibilities"?

The key is how to split a large whole into smaller well-functioning wholes.

What to do

Create high-quality collaboration through the whole product development funnel.

We want to reverse the process of fragmentation and alienation, bring back the good old times when we had the power and wisdom in the same room.

Flow of work

In large organizations, working together is gradually replaced by bureaucrats managing plans and tickets. Especially Thinking Together is lost.

We want people across the workflow to contribute productively to all other phases. The shared knowledge will wipe out unnecessary bureaucracy.

From plan-driven to fast feedback

Feedback is the only way to control the big complex system with zillion details. It enables great performance at the team level.

Continuous Improvement

Reversing the fragmentation will gradually change everything:

  • Structures and policies, power distribution, rewarding, ...
  • Technical excellence, tools, processes, technology
  • Collaboration skills and culture
  • Leadership skills and culture

When changing with the deep and narrow principle, starting at smaller area, we minimize the risk and can afford enough support.

Both the overall system and the mass of detail at the team level need to be considered. The analysis and the change are only possible by establishing Continuous Improvement by the people who own their own work.