Tight Vs. Loose Coupling Organizational Structure
You may have heard it said of a business owner that he "runs a tight ship." This means that manager uses tight coupling, in which employees work under close supervision, and supervisors continually justify their decisions and actions based on how they align with company objectives and policies. A loose coupling allows more independence and encourages teams or individuals to explore options without having to show how they fit in with company goals.
Your entire company may gain efficiency from tight coupling. When each department justifies its activities based on how they contribute to your company direction, you can identify wasted efforts and eliminate them. This can save time and money. In addition, you can hold managers accountable for the actions of their subordinates, since you require strict accountability throughout your hierarchy. People working in an environment of tight coupling understand their place in the company structure.
A rigid hierarchy can make it difficult for a company to adapt. In fast-changing markets, a tightly coupled organization may waste time passing authority up and down the chain of command, when the person in the field can readily see what to do to take advantage of market changes. In addition, tight coupling assumes that managers and supervisors have the knowledge and skills they need to mentor and guide employees. In fact, managers may not be equipped to manage some specialists whose fields require unique education and training.
Loose coupling gives individuals or teams the autonomy to experiment and explore. This frees up resources to exploit new markets, create new products or services and change management methods on a per-task basis. This is not unsupervised experimentation, but management does allow more decision-making at the lower levels of the hierarchy. Such an organization may reward novel ideas through bonuses.
Experiments don't always work, and in fact, novel notions can get so far from the corporate vision, they are useless. Loose coupling may threaten to uncouple employees from corporate policies and methods. This can result in inefficiency in the use of both time and money. Also, loose coupling can break the communication thread in a company, so that management may not be aware of what groups, teams and even whole divisions are working on.