“Coordination is about making commitments”

I’m currently reading some issues of “Communications of the ACM” and came upon an author’s comment regarding a letter to the editor. Ronnie Ward asked about workflow tools for distributed teams, to which the author of the original article (“Orchestrating Coordination in Pluralistic Networks”), Peter J. Denning, replied with:

Workflow tools are not the issue. Many people simply lack a clear model of coordination. They think coordination is about exchanging messages and that related coordination breakdowns indicate poorly composed, garbled, or lost messages (as in email). Coordination is about making commitments, usually expressed as “speech acts,” or utterances that take action and make the commitments that produce the outcome the parties want. People learning the basics of coordination are well on their way toward successful coordination, even without workflow tools. We don’t yet know enough about effective practices for pluralistic coordination to be able to design good workflow tools for this environment.”
Peter J. Denning, Communications of the ACM, June 2010 (vol. 53, no. 6, page 6) [bold by me]

Working in (more or less) teams for the last few years I agree, although it wasn’t this clear to me until I read Denning’s reply — and I think it’s important enough to share.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.