The Importance Of Redundancy In Organizations

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Every single system in the universe needs redundancy in order to survive. From mechanical systems to biological ones, redundancy guarantees their continuity.

Just look around the natural world, what seems a wasteful process of a species providing thousands of redundant offspring is in fact redundancy in action in order to ensure the survival of that species.

The same principle applies to technology, a plane would be unsafe to fly if it didn’t have many redundancies built into it.

How can we build redundancy into an organization?

There are only two ways to build redundancy into any organization:

  1. By having more people with the same skills (redundancy of ‘parts’).
  2. By having less people with more skills (redundancy of functions).

In the first case, people have been deprived of the ability to think and choose, as is the case in all bureaucracies. Hence, all the pathological implications we are all too familiar with, namely, lack of leadership, lack of responsibility, lack of collaboration, lack of innovation, lack of commitment, apathy, distrust, etc., etc., etc.

In the second case, people are given full responsibility to think and to act, as in the case of a truly participative democracy. Hence, they have a high sense of responsibility, commitment, leadership, collaboration, and all the antonyms of the bureaucratic pathologies.

Redundancy is paramount for sustainability. Redundancy provides ‘insurance’ within a system by allowing some of the redundant parts/components to compensate for the loss or failure of others. However, when the redundancy is of parts (e.g., Bureaucracy) it creates an error-amplifying environment, by restricting the ability of the ‘parts’ to take control and responsibility for their work as in a typical bureaucracy where the flow of communication is top-down to command and bottom-up to inform.

When the redundancy is of functions (e.g., Participative Democracy), an error-attenuating environment is created by allowing all ‘parts’ to take full responsibility and control over their work through fluid communication, collaboration, commitment, and synergy.

Redundancy of parts, thus, produces less, instead of greater reliability — it creates a more complex organizational structure which is prone to a myriad of issues leading to human pathologies such as irresponsibility (i.e., passing the buck), apathy, lack of commitment, etc., etc.,

Redundancy of functions, on the other hand, becomes highly valuable because instead of reacting to change the system becomes proactive and anticipates change or disturbances, or better yet, creates change, in other words, becomes tropophilic.

How do you build redundancy of functions into an organization?

The answer is straight forward and your organization can get started in a single day through the Search Conference and Participative Design Workshop as developed by Fred and Merrelyn Emery.

JC Wandemberg Ph.D.

President & Founder

Sustainable Systems International

About the author: Dr. Wandemberg is an international consultant and stocks trader, keynote speaker, published author, professor, and analyst of economic, environmental, social, managerial, marketing, and political issues. For the past 30 years Dr. Wandemberg has collaborated with corporations, communities, and organizations to integrate sustainability through self-transformation processes and Open Systems Design Principles, thus, catalyzing a Culture of Trust, Transparency, and Integrity.

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