A Dialectical Model of Organizational Loose Coupling: Strategy, Modularity, and Innovation



Orton and Weick’s (1990) and Weick’s (1976) research on loosely coupled systems provides an important starting point for conceptualizing how innovating organizations exhibit both modular and non-modular features simultaneously.  We assume that organizational systems must be responsive in order to respond to environmental stimuli (and be capable to adapt to the environment) and / or provoke changes into the environment (and therefore create conditions for their own adaptability).  ‘Automatic responsiveness’ reflects the conditions discussed and predicted in the modularity literature.  Whereas this description of organizational responsiveness achieved through predefined interfaces has great merit, it also has limitations.


The focus of this paper is on ‘enacted responsiveness’ in innovative environments, which are characterized by the introduction of changes at the component-level or at the architectural-level (or both).  Under such circumstances, firms must be able to develop heuristics, routines, procedures to change their internal and external patterns of communications and command, information filters, and the like.  Responsiveness is enacted when interfaces across organizational units are not precisely defined ex ante and therefore are to be actively managed in order to ensure consistency.  Enacted responsiveness calls for managerial action and intervention.


Contact information:

Dr.ir. Jan van den Ende