Of, By, For: Interdependence in Business
By Theresa Schempp
“Interdependence” is defined as objects that rely on one another for survival. Society relies on the interdependence of people and their actions within it. In the same way, businesses are successful when all components (departments, employees, systems) work together to achieve a common goal. In the 1967 book “Organizations in Action”, author James D. Thompson defined 3 types of interdependence:
Pooled interdependence: each department operates separately, contributing a distinct piece to the business. While this may seem independent, each department must blindly depend on the other to succeed, for if one department fails the overall business could fail.
Sequential interdependence: one department produces an output necessary for the performance of another department. This is like a relay race, in which each department must do their part to propel the business’ success forward
Reciprocal interdependence: this type, like sequential, is when each department’s output is needed for another’s input. The difference is that it is a cycle, where a department does not “hand off” a process but rather needs another department’s input to continue its production.
While seemingly complicated, these types of interdependence are already implemented in each business.
In 2007, a group of small business leaders created a “declaration of interdependence”. This declared that as people work for a business, that a business should work for them in return. They “envision a global economy that uses business as a force for good”.
Today, many people consider their jobs a means to an end, where you work somewhere you don’t necessarily enjoy, and in return you receive a paycheck to live the life you want. This idea is reiterated through decades of poor working conditions, expensive life insurance, and the idea that businesses are only working towards greater economic success, no matter the cost to their workers.
The B Corp, the group that created the declaration on interdependence, sought to change this perspective. They stated that businesses should not only compete to be the best in the world, but also the best for the world.
“As B Corporations and leaders of this emerging economy, we believe: that we must be the change the we seek in the world. That all business ought to be conducted as if people and place mattered. That, through their products, practices, and profits, business should aspire to do no harm and benefit all. To do so requires that we act with the understanding that we are each dependent upon another.”
The B Corporation offers simple ideas to implement this mindset of interdependence within a business:
Open hiring programs, which help hire hard-to-employ workers to give them a quality job that will give them a more secure life.
Financing models, which helps workers afford items such as house upgrades that will prevent employees’ homes from being damaged or destroyed, bettering their quality of life (as well as saving the business money on insurance premiums).
Inclusivity programs, which ensure that diversity is celebrated and encouraged within a business, and that each person feels represented and respected within their workplace.
These simple initiatives have proven to not only improve the life of employees, but also the quality of success within a business. Through reciprocal interdependence, the success of people within a business will in turn produce the overall success of the business itself.
For more resources: https://www.bcorporation.net/inclusion