From the Social to the Systematic: Mechanisms Supporting Coordination in Design

Peter H. Carstensen*, Carsten Sørensen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Large design and manufacturing projects are conducted in elaborate settings. Interdependent specialists work together, building complex systems. A substantial part of their daily work concerns the coordination of distributed work. This paper reports from a field study at Foss Electric, a Danish manufacturing company, where the development of an instrument for testing the quality of raw milk was studied. Scheduled and informal project meetings together with paper-based coordination systems were the primary means of managing the complexity of coordinating work within the project. This paper investigates the origination, use, and function of these coordination mechanisms applying a Coordination Mechanism perspective (Schmidt and Simone, 1996). We argue that the complexity of coordinating distributed work in large design projects result in the adoption of coordination systems. These systems formalize aspects of coordination work through artifacts, procedures for use and conventions.

Original languageEnglish
JournalComputer Supported Cooperative Work
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)387-413
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Coordination mechanisms
  • Design work
  • Field study
  • Formalization
  • Manufacturing

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