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Coordinating occupational work through a temporal perspective

Groups of professionals hardly ever work alone. Often, occupational groups benefit from exchanging and relying on the expertise of other occupational groups. Or they many need to collaborate to complete a given project. These exchanges of knowledge and services require a considerable amount of coordination.

However, challenges arise when this coordination work is carried out because different occupational groups use e.g. differing vocabularies, methods, and implied understandings. Further coordination challenges can arise due to power struggles, or competing priorities. It is widely acknowledged that different occupational groups do benefit from coordinating their work. But when it comes to the question of how to coordinate that work, problems arise.

New research, conducted in part by House of Innovation affiliated researcher Michael Barrett from the Cambridge Judge Business School, is trying to understand more about how these problems can be alleviated and how coordinating cross-occupational work can be done well. This research focuses specifically on the way in which time and timing influences and is influence by coordination of occupational work.

Temporal structures of organization practices give rhythm to everyday work. But this rhythm may differ significantly between occupational groups, thus making it difficult to coordinate between them. This research builds on existing studies and literature by showing how and why occupations themselves develop their own unique temporal structuring, which in turn affects how they coordinate their work.

This study has three important implications for management.

  1. It suggests that those responsible for supporting coordination work between different occupational groups should be aware of how temporal dynamics do influence task coordination.
  2. It offers that management should think about the various temporal orientations of workers when choosing members of an inter-occupational team. Members laboring under to disparate temporal orientations may find it difficult to coordinate with each other.
  3. Managers should consider individuals’ different temporal orientations when giving out group tasks. It is important to match up the schedule of the task with the schedule of the group, otherwise, this can cause friction leading to frustrated professionals and confused work processes.

Researchers:

Eivor Oborn
Warwick Business School, University of Warwick

Michael Barrett
Cambridge Judge Business School, University of Cambridge

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