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Patterns of coordination (part I)

Blog: Process transformation - interventions for meaningful change

In my last blog item, I described a number of typical work patterns, that people usually pick when faced with the need to work together, in some type of (process) way. The main patterns that I will work in this blog item are:
– Procedure delivery: a pre-defined procedure can be established, which needs to be executed. The procedure might contain various decisions and paths, but all are known beforehand.
– Dynamic adaptive delivery: a set of typical activities (most standard) are known, but the path is emergent (due to unforeseen events, needs or insights). Many possible paths exist, too many to capture effectively in a procedure.

In this article, I will describe a number of typical coordination mechanisms that people pick how to coordinate the execution of the process, e.g. how are people triggered to get work done, and relate them back to the work patterns.

Pattern 1: ‘Relay race’ (Dutch: estafette)

In the coordination pattern ‘Relay race’, there is someone that starts the process, following a certain trigger (an incoming e-mail, order form, etc). The person executes a number of tasks, and then hands over the execution to a next person, and so on. 
This patterns works great for:
– Procedural delivery(see my previous blog-item)
Here, each person can find out the next in line, using the procedural agreements (process model / workinstructions)
– Dynamic delivery
Here, each person can decide, based on case specifics to whom he or she will hand over to. 
Advantages of this pattern: 
– There is always clear ownership 
Disadvantages of this pattern: 
– All activity usually takes place serially (where some parallel activities could speed up through put time)
– It takes time to find out ‘where’ a case is and what the status is
Pattern 2: ‘Cloverleaf’ (Dutch: klaverblad)

In the Cloverlead pattern, there is someone centrally coordinating the execution of the process. This coordinator or case manager will step by step perform certain tasks, then give an assignment to someone, wait, perform some tasks, and then again assign someone a certain activity, until the coordinator decides the work is done.

This pattern can be used for procedural delivery, but this pattern is expensive, as the procedure is known but in every step, the coordinator needs to take action (e.g. many hand-overs)

The pattern is great for dynamic delivery, as the coordinator can assess the state of the case, and dynamically decide who should do what next to move forward in the case.

Advantages of this pattern: 
– There is always clear ownership
– The coordinator knows what the status is 
Disadvantages of this pattern: 
– All activity usually takes place serially (where some parallel activities could speed up through put time)

Pattern 3: ‘Collaborative Planning & Monitoring’
In this pattern, a group of people, often multidisciplinary assesses a certain case, and together come to an agreed activity plan. The people will each perform their activities, and will update each other on the status and results.

This pattern can be used for procedure delivery, but again is expensive, as the procedure is known.
The pattern is great for dynamic execution, if the knowledge required to assess the situation and to decide on actions is advanced, and requires more people.

Advantages of this pattern: 
– The team knows what the status is
– Progress is monitored and social controls can be used to adhere to rules and agreements
Disadvantages of this pattern: 
– It requires quite some time of various people (cost, productivity) for the planning, status reporting and monitoring
– Disagreements might cause delays
– Unforeseen events require the response of the group, but people might not be (timely) available, causing delays or risks

In a next article I will cover:
Pattern 4: ‘Predefined Workflow Driven Orchestrator’

Pattern 5: ‘Situation Specific Configurable  Orchestrator’

Pattern 6: ‘Flexible Next Best Action Advisor’
Pattern 7: ‘Garbage can’

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