Coordinating Neglect - COORDINATION NEGLECT HOW LAY...

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COORDINATION NEGLECT: HOW LAY THEORIES OF ORGANIZING COMPLICATE COORDINATION IN ORGANIZATIONS Chip Heath and Nancy Staudenmayer ABSTRACT We argue that organizations often fail to organize effectively because individuals have lay theories about organizing that lead to coordination neglect . We unpack the notion of coordination neglect and describe specific cognitive phenomena that underlie it. To solve the coordination problem, organizations must divide a task and then integrate the components. Individuals display shortcomings that may create problems at both stages. First, lay theories often focus more on division of labor than on integration. We discuss evidence that individuals display partition focus (i.e. they focus on partitioning the task more than on integration) and component focus (i.e. they tend to focus on single components of a tightly interrelated set of capabilities, particularly by investing to create highly specialized components). Second, when individuals attempt to integrate components of a task, they often fail to use a key mechanism for integration: ongoing communication. Individuals exhibit inadequate communication because the ‘curse of knowledge’ makes it difficult to take the perspective of another and communicate effectively. More importantly, because specialists find it especially difficult to communicate with specialists in other areas, the general problem of communication will often be compounded by insufficient translation. Research in Organizational Behaviour, Volume 22, pages 153–191. 2000 by Elsevier Science Inc. ISBN: 0–7623–0641–6 153
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THE IMPORTANCE OF COORDINATION Highly motivated individuals often fail in their attempts at organizing. At Xerox during the 1970s, top managers feared that Xerox might falter when business transactions shifted from paper to electronic forms. They were savvy enough to create the group of researchers that invented the first desktop PCs (complete with mouse graphical interface) and easy means of networking them (complete with networked laser printers and e-mail). Then top managers failed continually to organize a structure that could bring the new technologies to the marketplace (Smith & Alexander, 1988). Why? Software developers who are urgently trying to finish a major piece of software frequently organize themselves in ways that actually slow themselves down (Brooks, 1979; DeMarco, 1995). Top managers at the best firms of the era systematically complicated their own jobs by diversifying into other lines of businesses, then floundered when they tried to design organizational structures to repair the complications they created (Chandler, 1962). Front-line workers who are earnestly trying to communicate with each other choose methods of communication that make it even more difficult to organize their efforts (Dougherty, 1992; Bechky, 1999). Even when motivations far exceed the typical range of motivations available in a business setting, highly motivated individuals still fail to organize effectively. During World War II the American Navy was suffering devastating attacks on its convoys by German submarines.
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  • Spring '17
  • Business, Organizational studies, Personal computer, Chip Heath, coordination neglect, NANCY STAUDENMAYER

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