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Limitation of Autonomy

There are two possibilities in organisations for limiting the autonomy of people, teams, departments or other subsystems, voluntarily and by means of instructions. These are not mutually exclusive, quite the opposite. Nevertheless, one must be clear that every unilaterally imposed limitation of autonomy produces costs.

• The organisation must control the limitation

• It must work on persuasion

• It must handle possible demotivation

• It must live with the negative consequences of inflexibility in those interface areas where the autonomy has been limited

• It must sanction deviations or informally (risky) tolerate them

• It must coordinate the communication flows

The more self-control the subsystems can practice, the less the costs on the entire system.

If one allows the scope for autonomy to remain broad, then one can compensate the resulting dependence by means of trust. This is at the risk of disappointment. Therefore it is sensible to work with control in those areas of an organisation where disappointments would be too dangerous ( wherever mistakes would have a major impact: liability damage or legal implications). The compliance cases from the recent past show how difficult this tightrope walk is for organisations.