them to when delegating tasks; (b)
because you agreed to a subscription
or to the automatic “side benefits”
of online purchases; (c) because they
had other reasons to inform you even
though you did not ask.
3. Specific acts of coordination.
The normal way of minimizing type
1 information is to practice rapid deletion (ignoring) and use spam filters.
Most people have this under control.
The amount of spam or phishing expeditions reaching their inboxes is not a
major source of productivity loss.
The normal way of managing type
2 information is to make requests to
be excluded from distributions you
do not want to be part of. If people to
whom you have delegated tasks are
overdoing it, you can ask them to reduce the traffic.
That leaves type 3 information as
the main source of pushes that can
hurt your productivity. At first glance,
it looks like this information is in the
form of email, phone, chat, messaging, or even wikis, and can therefore be
managed with the filing and calendaring tools embedded into office productivity software. Unfortunately, this view
confuses communication of messages
with coordination of actions. With a
good model of coordination, you can
make a significant improvement in
your coordination productivity in spite
of the message traffic that coordination actions generate.
tem can support coordination, but is
not sufficient to achieve coordination.
The fundamental building block of
coordination is the action loop. We just
summarize it here because it has been
well documented elsewhere.
1, 3, 4 A loop
connects two parties, C (customer) and
P (performer) whose actions combine
to fulfill a shared condition of satisfac-
tion. It consists of the four phases:
C: prepares and delivers a request;
P: negotiates changes and promises
P: completes the task and delivers
the result; and
C: reviews and accepts the delivery.
Many messages can be exchanged
between P and C during each phase.
Tracking software can record the desired outcome and monitor progress
Either primary party (C or P) may
turn to secondary parties to fulfill subtasks for them. Thus the primary loop
generates a coordination network of
linked subtasks, involving other play-ers. Figure 1 shows an example.
If you do not see that you are inter-
acting with a coordination network,
your mailbox will look like a miasmic
mishmash of many messages man-
dating mindful ministration. You will
not see the loops and will not com-
plete them satisfactorily, causing you
lost time and ill will to fix the mis-
takes. Your reputation may suffer in
Larger outcomes need a team of people working together to produce them.
In fact, almost all organizations now
work in cross-functional teams, often spread over several countries. The
usual protocol for making these teams
work is repeat the following cycle until the job is done: hold a coordination
setup meeting and then split up to do
individual tasks. The meetings can be
held in person or online with a meet-
figure 2. the left figure shows what your workspace looks like during the planning stage
of a project, when it looks like your part of the project is a pile of personal tasks to be
managed. the right figure shows that the coordination tasks between you and others
can generate hundreds of email messages, which look like “fog” if you cannot see the
coordination network behind them.
Collaboration space in
person, or virtually with tools
like goto Meeting or Webex.
Collaboration with tools such
as File Sharing, Scheduling,
Basecamp, instant Messaging,
Communication is concerned with
transfers of messages from senders to
recipients. Coordination is concerned
with people aligning their actions to
achieve common goals.
It is important to make the distinction because most of the work we do
is not just our own personal tasks, it is
the tasks we do together with others.
We refer to the orchestration of these
shared tasks as “coordination.” Your
productivity to a large extent depends
on your skill at coordination.
Coordination depends on the parties making requests and keeping
promises. The human agreements
involved can be recorded, but not automated. A single coordination generates many messages among the parties
involved. A good communication sys-
personal productivity Tools
(for example, g TD, Xobini) help
people manage, prioritize, and
organize the things they
must get done.
hundreds of email messages are
generated when dealing with changes,
dependencies and breakdowns;
email messages increase as the project
gets closer to fulfilling an outcome.