Can the design principles of coupling and cohesion be applied to organisation design in the same way they are applied to software design?
Coupling – is the manner and degree of interdependence between software modules; a measure of how closely connected two areas of software are.
Cohesion – is the degree to which the elements of a piece of software belong together.
The goal in software design is high cohesion with low coupling, to have a focused logically decomposed software system in which a change in area a, doesn’t require a change in area b and areas a and b are focused on doing the thing they report to do via their interface.
Basing organisational design on software design could clearly have pros and cons, Conway’s law states that: “organizations which design systems … are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations” (Conway, 1967). This could be seen to be a valid sociological observation or a constraint.
Given the effort to create transparency of approach and progress of software development within organisations, I would argue that logical organisational design focused on loose coupling and high cohesion improves focus, goal setting and visibility of progress . Also I would argue this approach draws on peoples intrinsic motivations and brings about Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose (Pink, 2009), which are highlighted as motivation factors (see previous post). For these reasons I think smaller autonomous groups are best suited to fast, quality software development.