Task Forces

For expeditious completion of any Project, a task force is formed under the direction of the top management. A task force is a temporary team or committee designed to solve a short term problem involving several departments. Task force members represent their departments and share information that enables coordination. For example, two task forces in human resources helped to consolidate all employment services into a single area. The task force looked at job banks, referral programs, employment procedures and applicant tracking systems, found ways to perform these functions for all divisions in one human resource department and then disbanded.

In addition to creating tasks forces, companies also set up cross functional teams, as described earlier. A cross functional team furthers horizontal coordination because participants from several departments meet regularly to solve on-going problems of common interest. This is similar to a task force except that it works with continuing rather than temporary problems and might exist for several years. Team members think in terms of working together for the good of the whole rather than just for their own department.

Companies also use project managers to increase coordination between functional departments. A project manager is a person who is responsible for coordinating the activities of several departments for the completion of a specific project. Project managers are critical today because many organizations are almost constantly reinventing themselves, creating flexible structures and working on projects with an ever changing assortment of people and organizations. Project managers might work on several different projects at one time and might have to move  in and out of new projects at a moment’s notice.

The distinctive feature of the project manager position is that the person is not a member of one of the departments being coordinated. Project managers are located outside of the departments and have responsibility for coordinating several departments  to achieve desired project outcomes. Product managers set budget goals, marketing targets, strategies and they obtain the cooperation from advertising, production and sales personnel required for implementing the product strategy.

In some organizations project managers are included in the organizational chart.  The project manager is drawn to one side of the chart to indicate authority over the project but not over the people assigned to it. Dashed liens to the project manager indicate responsibility for coordination and communication with assigned team members, but department managers retain the line of authority over the functional employees.

Project managers might also have titles such as product manager, integrator, program manager or process owner. Project managers need excellent people skills. They need to use expertise and persuasion to achieve coordination among various departments and their jobs involves getting people together, listening, building trust, confronting problems and resolving conflicts and disputes in the best interest of the project and the organization.

Using project managers have helped companies to do things faster, better  and cheaper  than the competitors. Many organizations move to a stronger horizontal approach such as the use of permanent teams, project managers or process owners after going through a redesign procedure called reengineering.

Reengineering sometimes called business process reengineering is the radical redesign of business processes to achieve dramatic improvements in cost, quality, service and speed. Because the focus of reengineering is on process rather than function, reengineering generally leads to a shift  away from a strong vertical structure to one emphasizing stronger horizontal coordination and greater flexibility in responding to changes in the environment.

Reengineering changes the way managers think about how  work is done in their organizations. Rather than focusing on narrow jobs structured into distinct functional departments, they emphasize  core processes that cut horizontally across the company and involve teams of employees working to provide value directly to the customers . It is a process that is carried out in an organized group of related tasks and activities that work together to transform inputs into outputs and create value. Common examples of processes include new product development, order fulfillment and customer service.

Reengineering frequently involves a shift to a horizontal team based structure as described. All the people who work on  a particular process have easy access to one another so they can easily communicate and coordinate their efforts, share knowledge and provide value to customers. For example, reengineering at some professional companies led to the formation of product development teams that became  the fundamental organizational unit. Each team is made up of people drawn from engineering marketing and other departments and takes full responsibility for a product from conception through launch.

Reengineering  can lead to stunning results, but, like all business ideas, it has its drawbacks. Simply defining the organization’s key business processes can be mind boggling. Organizations often have difficulty in management  processes to support work design, and thus do not reap the intended benefits of reengineering. According to some estimates, more than half of the reengineering efforts fail to reach their intended goals because reengineering is best suited to companies that are facing serious competition.