Managing People: The Difference Between Coordination and Cooperation

A reader asked me to talk about the difference between coordination and cooperation when managing his team, so I’m addressing his question in today’s article. I appreciate questions, so please keep sending them in!

Cooperation refers to the voluntary interaction between members of your team. Hopefully if you’ve put together a good team, they naturally cooperate toward the end goal of your group, company and/or project.

So, for example, if you assign one member of the team to do computer research and statistical analysis, he or she will naturally bring in other members of the team to help, and those members will cooperate voluntarily and, hopefully, happily.

Coordination, on the other hand, is what you as the manager do to put together pieces of team. In the example above, you’d be the one telling each member of the team what aspect of the project to handle. You would be coordinating the various members of the team to make sure the project is finished well and on time.

Or perhaps your team cooperates internally to handle a project, but then you coordinate their results with the results of a another, separate team to ensure everything is finished on time for the project as a whole.

Of course, those two separate teams could cooperate with each other, too, bringing you the final result. Much (all?) depends on how your work environment is structured.

Basically, as the manager, you coordinate the various aspects of a project to make sure the company’s goals are fulfilled.

What are your thoughts about cooperation and coordination?

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