Weick (1976) notes that more loosely-coupled organizations offer advantages
in complex environments. More autonomous groups may be more sensitive to
environmental change, and offers more simultaneously adaptation to conflicting
demands at the institutional level. If problems develop in one part of the
system, it can be sealed off from the rest of the system. The resulting
total system may be more stable when loosely-coupled. Allowing local organizations
to adapt to local environments can reduce coordination costs for the whole
Tight vs Loose Coupling
"Much of what passes for organizational structure consists of varying
types of mechanisms for controlling the behavior of participants" (Scott
p. 278). Many perspectives of organizational structure (mostly rational)
emphasize tight coupling between managers and subordinates. But natural
systems perspectives point out that it's hard to observe these tight couplings
in real organizations, and find that employees resist close supervision.
But all formal structures do not imply tight coupling. Some rational mechanisms
like decentralization, delegation, professionalization are methods to build
some looseness and flexibility into organizational structures (Scott p.
278). Often managers do not have the basic understanding to closely supervise
specialized employees. Meyer and Rowan (1977) take this further and argue
that often the peripheral activities are sometimes ceremonialized for external
legitimacy purposes and are loosely coupled to the technical core, because
they do not offer consistent guidelines to manage it. This decoupling is
particularily useful when there are conflicting demands by the environment.
Meyer (1979) points out that structural changes are often signals to external
constituencies of organizational commitment regardless as to whether the
new structure is effective or implemented. These institutional theorists
that often structure has meaning and importance regardless of whether they
affect the behavior of performers in the technical core (Scott p. 280).