Organizational Levels of Autonomy

What are the six levels of organizational autonomy?

Let's talk about "full organizational autonomy".

Have you ever stopped to think about what organizations might look like once people are no longer required to manage or operate them? The organizational constraints imposed by the human desire to create offices have been the prevalent mindset of most businesses for over a century. With the desire to reach full autonomy, organizations are rethinking office spaces and focusing their time on automation, software, and robots.

Organizations have been designed around the way people communicate and make decisions. With the rise of remote work, the cost of communication dropping to zero, and the explosion of machine learning models, assumptions about the role of organizations are now starting to be questioned. With the spread of COVID-19, many organizations are asking themselves: "Is there a better way?"

At Produvia, we believe modern companies must aim to achieve full organizational autonomy not only to survive but also to thrive in the post-COVID world.

Traditional organizations are based on social status. Centralized organizational structures, hiring human workers, and physical spaces are the norm. Decentralized organizational structures, hiring robot agents, and digital workspaces are the new norm of modern companies.

What are "autonomous organizations"?

Autonomous organizations are legal entities that are operating autonomously. Autonomous companies require less supervision and oversight than traditional companies based on human teams. Autonomous organizations are able to make decisions and react in real-time based on changing market conditions. The speed of decision making is powered by artificial intelligence and blockchain technologies.

Imagine a car is an organization. Taylor Pearson describes this concept in The Blockchain Man:

"What happens when you mash blockchains, Uber and Self-driving cars together? The self-owning car. A car that pays for its lease, its insurance, and its gas, by giving people rides. A car that is not owned by a corporation. It is a corporation. The car exists as an autonomous financial entity, potentially with no human ownership."

Why do companies want full autonomy?

Modern companies want to generate revenue, maximize shareholder value, and crush their competition. To achieve these business goals, businesses must use the latest technologies to be more autonomous.

At Produvia, we propose there six levels of organizational autonomy:

Level 0 - No Automation

  • Human teams: human attention or interaction is required.

  • Manual control. The human worker performs all tasks.

  • Every action and decision in the business is performed by a human agent.

Level 1 - Worker Assistance

  • Human-robot teams.

  • The organization uses software to augment the human agent.

  • Business is controlled and operated by human coworkers, but certain functions performed with the aid of robots or software.

Level 2 - Partial Automation

  • The organization uses software to achieve automation.

  • People still monitor all tasks and can take control at any time.

  • Business is still controlled and operated by human workers.

Level 3 - Conditional Automation

  • The organization can perform most tasks, but the human worker override is still required.

  • Business is guided by people.

  • Robotic agents perform most of the operational activities.

Level 4 - High Automation

  • The organization performs all tasks under specific circumstances. A human agent override is still an option.

  • Full autonomy of the business exists, but only in certain, restricted problem spaces.

  • Robotic agents perform most, if not all, operational activities.

Level 5 - Full Automation

  • Robot teams: zero human attention or interaction is required.

  • The organization performs all tasks under all conditions.

  • Robot workers have completely replaced the need for human workers across all business domains or functions.

Most organizations are still operating under Level 1 (Worker Assistance) or Level 2 (Partial Automation). Some organizations operate under Level 3 (Conditional Automation) or Level 4 (High Automation). Modern organizations strive to achieve Level 5 (Full Automation). At Level 5, the organization has reached nirvana, operating with one or no principals or owners.

Companies are transitioning from no automation to worker assistance, partial automation, conditional automation, high automation, and full automation. Companies are transitioning from human-only teams to human-robot teams and robot-only teams.

To reach full autonomy, organizations must accept robotic coworkers and embrace robotic autonomy. Modern organizations must use artificial intelligence and distributed ledger technologies to be more autonomous.

Next Step

Most companies struggle to reach full autonomy. At Produvia, we develop artificial intelligence technologies so organizations operate more autonomously.

Are you interested in organizational autonomy? Schedule a discovery call with Produvia.


This post was inspired by Matt Mullenweg's Five Levels of Autonomy and Craig Armour's Six Levels of Autonomous Organizations and Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE)'s Levels of Driving Automation.