Differentiation and Integration in Organizations

Coordination is a complement, even a counterbalance, to the division of work and job specialization. Specialization tends to separate people in organizations, because jobs are, by definition separate identifiable collections of activities. Coordination involves bringing people back together to ensure that work relationships between people with different but related jobs can contribute to organizational goals.

Ironically, the more organizations need efficient coordination, the harder it is to achieve. This is especially true when tasks are highly specialized. Division of work involves more than individual work duties such as managing a warehouse or writing advertising copy. It also influences the way employees perceive the organization and their role in it, as well as the way individuals relate to others. These differences – which can be called differentiation can complicate the tasks of effectively coordinating work activities.

Four types of differentiation are identified. First, people in different work units tend to develop their own perspective on the organization’s goals and how to pursue them. For example, accountants may see cost control as most important to the organization’s success, while marketers push for more varied products and improved quality. Second, people in work units often differ in their time orientation. Production people, for example, are accustomed to handling crises that have to be dealt with immediately, while people in research and development may be preoccupied with problems that will take years to solve.

Time orientation affects a third type of differentiation – interpersonal styles. In production, for example, where people usually need to make fast decisions, they may favor somewhat abrupt communication and clear cut answers. R&D employees may prefer more easy going communication that encourages brainstorming and consideration of multiple alternatives. Finally, departments may differ in their formality. While the production unit may need to have very specific standards of performance, more general standards may prevail in the personnel department.

Differentiation can lead to conflict among individuals and organizational units. But constructively resolved conflict is healthy for an organization’s operations. When various members of the organization present their viewpoint, argue them openly, and in general make certain that they get heard when problems exist, they force managers to consider the special needs and knowledge of individual departments. A study of managers in eight nations and four national groupings found that most managers appeared to be rewarded more for non-cooperativeness within reasonable limits, than for cooperativeness. Exceptions included Japan and the Scandinavian countries, where cooperativeness was more rewarded.

In place of the term coordination, integration can be used to designate the degree to which members of various departments work together in a unified manner. They emphasize that while departments should cooperate and their tasks should be integrated where necessary, it is important not to reduce the differences that contribute to task accomplishment. It may be useful for the sales department to give advice on advertisements to the graphic artists who will prepare them. However, if salespeople view themselves as adjuncts of the advertising department, then the functioning of both the sales and advertising units will be impaired.

Approaches to achieving Effective coordination:

Communication is the key to effective coordination. Coordination is directly dependent on the acquisition, transmission, and processing of information. The greater the uncertainty of the tasks top be coordinated, the greater the need for information. For the reason, it is useful to think of coordination as an information-processing task.

Using Basic Management Techniques:

Relatively modest coordination requirements can often be met through basic management mechanisms. One such mechanism is the organizations chain of command. BY specifying relationships among members and units, the chain of command facilitates the flow of information. Another useful tool is a set of rules and procedures designed to let employees handle routine coordination tasks quickly and independently. Still another basic technique is called management by walking around (MBWA). In this technique, managers take time to ‘walk around various departments and production facilities. They observe operations and talk informally with employees. Lewis Platt has already held dozens of face-to-face meetings with Hewlett-Packard employees.