The importance of understanding interdependence at work



A Forbes’ survey reported that “a third of all clients report that they manage over 50 agencies and 22% have a roster of over 100 agencies! Clearly, Forbes was surveying the biggest brands, but having five or six agencies involved in a brand that spends under $10 million annually in measured media is commonplace these days.” (MediaPost)

So let’s talk interdependence!

But first a tip of the hat to the other side of the coin: independence. According the people who study this stuff, we show our independent selves when we are focused on the need to be unique, authentic and natural.

When we focus on relationships with people and on our families and traditions, we are demonstrating our interdependent selves.

Though you might think (as I do) that this is counter-intuitive, we are most effective as innovators (according to Stephen Covey: The Seven Habits guy) when we are more focused on the role of interdependence in our work. So if your success depends on another team’s actions and you are sharing resources, knowledge, equipment, then you are interdependent.

This interdependency mean you have to talk to the others who can make for your success or failure – to co-operate with them and to manage the way information flows between you.

While, at best, working with others can be extremely productive, it can lead to squabbles, turf wars, sabotage and massive loss of sleep. Sound familiar? And the more complicated the systems, the more frequently you have to interact, the greater is the probability of conflict. When you lose a person who is a key and effective communicator, it can really mess up your overall performance.

It falls to managers and leaders – CMOs in the above agency example – to make sure that everyone plays nice together, that there are systems for dialogue and that communications are appropriate and productive. It also is their job to spot when things are going off the rails and to get the process back on track.

In this interdependent environment success does not just come from skills and craft, it’s very much about the quality of communication as well.