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Interface Communication

One of the most important findings, from a guiding process orientated view of organisations, consists of the significance of communication patterns, which form at the functional, procedural or project/team-based interfaces. Often, where and how structural conflicts are processed is not so purposefully and consciously decided within organisations. Normally the hierarchy (board meeting) is called upon or else specific committees (meetings for budget planning, production planning, product planning), where many specialist departments are then represented. In everyday life, though, many smaller conflict areas are likely to occur at the interface between teams, departments and areas. The question as to when, who, and with whom, what is discussed, is a question on a par with who should do what.

Committees and interfaces often suffer from rarely or never being able to command an outside perspective. There are hardly any neutral moderators. The protagonists act within their own interests, have internal influence; micro-politics and power games dominate. This makes communication in such contexts complex, ineffective and non-transparent. If opposing interests are at play, conflicts of interest dominate (the sales department immediately stops supplying sales figures, because a certain product characteristic is to be scrapped for reasons of cost), and agreement without a neutral authority immediately becomes more unlikely. Agreement, here, means

  • that affected parties can acquiesce without losing face or having revenge impulses,
  • that what takes place is what could be termed an interests balance, because all involved interests are legitimate,
  • that one can alternately see the perspective of the other party,
  • that one does not lose an overview of the whole (we are one firm) and
  • that there are agreed escalation rights and instances.

Usually professional moderation is required, because the pull leads to informal, conflict-ridden patterns if there is no counter-pressure to it.