Loosely or tightly coupled

Supervisors like all people are subject to a series of factors in relation to how they behave in the workplace. The environment in which you have been raised can impact on your later behaviour in the workplace. Your manger’s approach to work or organisation requirements may influence your workplace behaviours. You may have decided based on past or present work experience that there are particular approaches to managing people or tasks which ensure work is done.

However, much of our decision making on how we tackle our work is linked to the organisation systems and the restrictions which systems make on individuality in the workplace.

Organisations increasingly reduce the ability of line staff to vary procedures and implement new ideas into their workplace. The use of computerised resource management systems such as SAP, impose strict system requirements which remove the ability for human intervention and possibly for innovation at the operating level of the organisation. Computerised resource management systems provide an integrated approach to planning and carrying out work place activities. Each activity entered into the system can flow through to the various records that need to be kept.

For instance payroll can be managed by the one aspect of the computerised resourced management system is integrated into banking details, updates the organisation's cash flow and each individual personal record on human resource including leave adjustments at the same time.

The benefit of such systems is that they ensure that inputs are made in a consistent way. Using systems such as computerised resource management systems would mean that work activities would be tied to what might be described as a ‘tightly coupled system’ where an correct (or incorrect) input at one entry point updates the whole system correctly (or incorrectly).

Have you ever been in a shopping centre when the electricity supply has failed have gone out? What happens trading in the centre? It stops. Every shop stops trading. All the systems of the shopping centre are ‘tightly coupled’ to the electricity system and with no back up, all trading stops and people leave the building.

The converse of a tightly coupled system is what might be termed a loosely coupled system. An organisation, system or sub system where people have the flexibility to make decisions and influence what occurs. For instance in a classroom a trainer or teacher has the ability to vary the routine, to leave out or include particular items that as they desire or in response to the request of learner.

The decision making in this type of organisation, system or sub system as what is done is largely governed by the decisions of individual people. This is a ‘loosely coupled’ system.