What is Resource Dependence Theory (RDT)?

Resource Dependence Theory (RDT) definition

Resource dependence theory (RDT) is concerned with how organisational behaviour is affected by external resources the organisation utilises, such as raw materials. The theory is important because an organisation’s ability to gather, alter and exploit raw materials faster than competitors can be fundamental to success.

Some commentators encourage organisations to view customers as a resource predisposed to scarcity.

The theory originated in the 1970s with the publication of The External Control of Organizations: A Resource Dependence Perspective by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Gerald R. Salancik.

RDT is underpinned by the idea that resources are key to organisational success and that access and control over resources is a basis of power. Resources are often controlled by organisations not in the control of the organisation needing them, meaning that strategies must be carefully considered in order to maintain open access to resources.

Organisations typically build redundancy into resource acquisition in order to reduce their reliance on single sources e.g. by liaising with multiple suppliers.