Control verses Coordination, the Importance…

Control or Coordination?

Words are powerful tools and something worth considering in this vein are the concepts of “control” verses that of “coordination” as in most business relationships especially in the manufacturing arena seem to be driven under the premise of “control” in that you as the customer have the money so you should be in control right? Let’s say we turn this scenario around to say you’re now on the vendor side of the equation receiving the money, should the customer not be in “control“?  As “those that have, control” seems to be the business mantra coming from the age of industrialization and the iron horse.

Well let’s take a minute before we start answering these questions, as if we take a moment to understand the difference in the two words, there might be something there.   Since we started our discussion with “control” we will tackle that one first, as what does it mean when one is in control.  Yes, they issue “orders” and by doing so they are in affect creating a unidirectional communications flow.  Whereas if we look at the word “coordination” what we see happening is the “facilitation of communication” among parties.  In doing so, what we find is the act of “coordination” is actually about forming a bidirectional communication flow between themselves and the “partners” which they are interacting with.

With these two aspects defined we see a key factor arise between the two as being an intrinsic ability to create a feedback loop within “coordinated” activities in stark comparison to a “controlling” function.  As let’s look at it this way, what’s the definition of insanity; it’s the concept of expecting change from doing the same thing over and over again.  So with this said, in a controlling relationship is change possible? Of course not, and without the ability for change we know that Darwin’s concepts of the “survival of the fittest” will soon be nipping at our heels.

Let’s analogize this a bit further to see in practical terms the impact of these two words by using an iconic example of a ship’s captain.  As he is in control correct, what he says is law thus his communication unidirectional as if he says turn right, you better be turning right.  Yet how does he know to turn right if his communications are solely unidirectional? To this point, one can see that they (the captain) is in fact a point of “coordination” as they are taking in many data points which they then have to use in order to make the decision to issue the communication stream to turn right.

In fact, what if after being issued the command to turn right, maybe the helmsman sees an iceberg out the starboard window; will he not feed this back to the captain?  Also in turn, will the captain not accept this communication as feedback to reassess his decision?  In fact Malcolm Gladwell does a good job in his book Outliers where he looks at the “multiple” crashes of South Korean Airline planes because of this very fact as the reason each was discovered to be the communication was solely unidirectional thus resulting in a failure state and in these cases “control” over “coordination” cost many human life’s…

About Joseph Campbell

As a strong believer in the fact that "people work for people", it has been a life driver to better to understand the complexities of the various aspects which drive efficiency within this axiom, especially the concepts of leadership. Supporting this, I have been fortunate enough to having experienced this as leader on a global basis over the last decade and half. During this time it has been clear there are three core drivers being Life, Leadership and Economics.
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