Coupling refers to how a system connects to itself and its greater environment to share information and other resources. Agents connect with each other: individual parts connect with each other; the system connects with other systems like it, and; the system connects with the greater environment.
We can think about coupling as the ways in which humans connect to each other and to the information they need to do their work—supervision, feedback loops, data and information, resource sharing, and shared cultures are but a few examples.
The term “coupling” can also refer to how tightly linked, or coordinated, different phenomenon are in a system. It expresses a measurement of the degree of interdependence among the parts of the system.
Three levels of coupling occur, with any degree of connection possible along a continuum, in all three:
- Tight Couples – allow close, fast exchanges of information and resources; movement in one part triggers immediate and similar movement in the other: ‘’holding hands, direct supervision, lock-step benchmarking, high levels of interdependence, and close correlation of action and impact, etc.’’
- Loose Couples – allow greater freedom of movement, while still remaining connected; movement in one triggers response, but not necessarily immediate or similar movement: ‘’eye contact, periodic feedback, general performance comparisons, lower levels of interdependence, and less obvious connections between action and impact, etc.’’
- Uncoupling – complete disconnect with no sharing of resources: ‘’ending a relationship, physically moving away, total independence, and no connection between action and impact, etc.’’