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Decision Premises of the Organisation

One of the central occupations of an organisation is to coordinate many stakeholders. Of course, if some sewed shirts while others were building cars, something would go wrong. To achieve this performance, organisations utilise something which is named by H. Simon and Niklas Luhmann as decision premises.

Decision premises lay down the scope for decisions, but do not affect them causally. In this way they limit and enable complexity. This concept breaks quite radically with the image of a rational, functional, purpose-driven organisation which runs smoothly by the correct adherence to its inner rules. Instead, organisations coordinate the stakeholders by means of diverse and situational constraints to its scope for decision-making. Therefore, the costs and risks of the decision are reduced, which is particularly important for the individual, because that which is at stake is limited. Decision premises ‘only’ exist as long as they are utilised, i.e. taken heed of, fought over or sabotaged! According to Luhmann, there are basically three inter-related forms of premises: programmes, communication paths and people, as well as an overriding order, i.e. the organisational culture.

The guiding processes conceived here can also (but not only) be understood as a further development of the Luhmann concepts of decision premises. All nine guiding distinctions can, on the one hand, be observed in the form of situative, eventful (individual) decisions, and on the other hand in premises which are pattern-forming and -giving in the way decisions are made with regard to guiding processes.