Andreas Nachbagauer
Publication date
Course of studies
Project Management and Organisation


Modern organisations attempt to get a grip on he unexpected by anticipating changes as early as possible. Consequently, some organisations try to manage complexity by transferring it into defined, controllable structures and processes, aiming at the ability to deliver the desired strategic outcomes in a predictable and reliable manner. Others trust in a high degree of freedom at the shop-floor and team level allowing for quicker decisions and self-determined choice to successfully respond to unexpected events. Both solutions demand for new procedures to manage the unexpected, focusing on the need to arrange structure and flexibility. This conceptual article discusses which structures make sense for organisations in complex or even chaotic environments. I will focus at the team and organisational level and at the interaction between these two. By combining theoretical concepts of behavioural and organisational research, especially decision-making based on systems theory, situational awareness and sense-making, I aim to approach a more comprehensive discourse on ways of coping with the unexpected. Beyond common rational plan and command orientation, the article stresses the importance of a unique equilibrium of structure and autonomy for each given situation, organisation and team. Furthermore, I will argue that one can make use of autonomy and enable autonomous decisions on the shop-floor level just because one can rely on unquestioned structures: pre-determined communication paths, hierarchies, structures of orders, knowledge of one’s people and esprit de corps.
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