One important element of any organisation is the way the people who are involved in the organisation achieve the goals that are the base of the very existence of that organisation. According to what mechanism do the people deal with eachother’s contribution to that organisation? What motivates people?
Except for the most repetitive and monotonous tasks, where monetary incentives improve outcome, autonomy proofs to be an important motivator. As long as people can decide on how they work on their creative and complex tasks and responsibilties, they are intrinsicly motivated and the results are much better. No money can compete with autonomy when it comes to results.
This nice animation shows this point.
But with autonomy so important, where does the organisation with its structure and interaction come in? Does total autonomy not equal the disolvement of any organisation? I don’t think so.
Autonomy can be an interesting mould for the structure and the interaction. Autonomy becomes even more interesting when people involved in an organisation recognize that together they are more than the sum of the parts. At that point the design of the organisation has to be truly innovative. Then we have to depart from the 19th and 2oth century ideas of organisation as machines; the ideas that still dominate so much of organisational thinking given the attention for all kinds of inventive bonus and reward schemes.
When wanting to achieve a common goals, some kind of framework is necessary. But the framework should allow for room for autonomy. Some guidelines and agreements, some kind of strategic direction, shared values, a common view in what the organisation provides, will help to give autonomy a the context to thrive in.
Or even better: start with the essential autonomy and then determines which structure and working practices can help. In that way the autonomy shapes the organisation. Autonomy becomes the centre piece of the design and that might result in experiences that match beauty.