What is it that makes some organisations able to not only survive, but also to thrive in the face of adversity?
Indicators of Resilience
We have identified 13 indicators that we look for to assess the resilience of an organisation:
- Leadership: Strong crisis leadership to provide good management and decision making during times of crisis, as well as continuous evaluation of strategies and work programs against organisational goals.
- Staff Engagement: The engagement and involvement of staff who understand the link between their own work, the organisation's resilience, and its long term success. Staff are empowered and use their skills to solve problems.
- Situation Awareness: Staff are encouraged to be vigilant about the organisation, its performance and potential problems. Staff are rewarded for sharing good and bad news about the organisation including early warning signals and these are quickly reported to organisational leaders.
- Decision Making: Staff have the appropriate authority to make decisions related to their work and authority is clearly delegated to enable a crisis response. Highly skilled staff are involved, or are able to make, decisions where their specific knowledge adds significant value, or where their involvement will aid implementation.
- Innovation and Creativity: Staff are encouraged and rewarded for using their knowledge in novel ways to solve new and existing problems, and for utilising innovative and creative approaches to developing solutions.
- Effective Partnerships: An understanding of the relationships and resources the organisation might need to access from other organisations during a crisis, and planning and management to ensure this access.
- Leveraging Knowledge: Critical information is stored in a number of formats and locations and staff have access to expert opinions when needed. Roles are shared and staff are trained so that someone will always be able to fill key roles.
- Breaking Silos: Minimisation of divisive social, cultural and behavioural barriers, which are most often manifested as communication barriers creating disjointed, disconnected and detrimental ways of working.
- Internal Resources: The management and mobilisation of the organisation's resources to ensure its ability to operate during business as usual, as well as being able to provide the extra capacity required during a crisis.
- Unity of Purpose: An organisation wide awareness of what the organisation's priorities would be following a crisis, clearly defined at the organisation level, as well as an understanding of the organisation's minimum operating requirements.
- Proactive Posture: A strategic and behavioural readiness to respond to early warning signals of change in the organisation's internal and external environment before they escalate into crisis.
- Planning Strategies: The development and evaluation of plans and strategies to manage vulnerabilities in relation to the business environment and its stakeholders.
- Stress Testing Plans: The participation of staff in simulations or scenarios designed to practice response arrangements and validate plans.
Resilient to what?
Each organisation has their own 'perfect storm' – a combination of events or circumstances that has the potential to bring that organisation to its knees. For a financial system, the worst nightmare might be sudden loss of customer confidence creating a snowballing 'run on the bank'. For other organisations it may be the failure of a key supplier, contamination on the production line, a disgruntled employee wreaking havoc, etc.
Resilience is a strategic capability.
It isn't just about getting through crises; a truly resilient organisation has two other important capabilities –the foresight and situation awareness to prevent potential crises emerging; and an ability to turn crises into a source of strategic opportunity.
Organisations sit within a larger system
While our research focuses on the resilience of organisations (businesses, government agencies, institutions etc), an organisation sits within an ecological like system and resilience is required at all levels of this system.
No organisation is an island
The resilience of an organisation is directly related to the resilience of the other organisations on which it depends (customers, suppliers, regulators, and even competitors). An organisation is also dependent on and also contributes to the individual resilience of its staff and the resilience of the communities that they live in. Similarly, an organisation's resilience is directly related to the resilience of its sector, and the sector's resilience is intertwined with the resilience of the nation.