Resilience of Organisations

2resilience of organisations - ross0729What is it that makes some organisations able to not only survive, but also to thrive in the face of adversity? Our team have been researching this question for the last eight years.

Our research has included in-depth case studies of organisations of different sizes, sectors and ownership structures to understand what qualities they draw on to see them through times of crisis.

We have also developed a resilience assessment took which organisations can use to better understand their resilience profile, and the particular resilience strengths and weaknesses of their organisation.

Organisational Resilience: The ability of an organisation to survive a crisis and thrive in a world of uncertainty.

Organisational Resilience consists of three interdependent attributes that build Business as Usual (BAU) effectiveness as well as robust and agile response and recovery from crises. The 3 attributes are:

Leadership and Culture


Change Ready

The adaptive capacity of the organisation created by its leadership and culture identified by the following indicators:

  • Leadership
  • Staff engagement
  • Situation awareness
  • Decision making
  • Innovation and creativity

The internal and external relationships fostered and developed for the organisation to leverage when needed; identified by the following indicators:

  • Effective partnerships
  • Leveraging knowledge
  • Breaking silos
  • Internal resources

The planning undertaken and direction established to enable the organisation to be change ready; identified by the following indicators:

  • Unity of purpose
  • Proactive posture
  • Planning strategies
  • Stress testing plans

Want to know more? 

You can find definitions for each of these indicators and more information on our What is Organisational Resilience? page.



Tools and Resources:

Here are some assessment tools to support the development of resilience within an organisation:


Where possible, we have made available copies of the original papers with permission. If you are interested in something you see here and would like to source a copy, please contact us.

Factors Influencing Impacts on and Recovery Trends of Organisations: Evidence from the 2010/2011 Canterbury Earthquakes
Charlotte Brown, Joanne Stevenson, Sonia Giovinazzi, Erica Seville, John Vargo
International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction Volume 14, Part 1, December 2015, Pages 56–72

From Disaster to Opportunity: Reviving Urban Function after the Canterbury Earthquakes.
Joanne Stevenson, Sonia Giovinazzi, Erica Seville, Charlotte Brown, Yan (Alice) Chang-Richards, Suzanne Wilkinson.  In the book:  Pierre Filion, Gary Sands and Mark Skidmore (Eds) Cities at Risk: Planning for and recovering from natural disasters.  Ashgate, UK, 2015.

Organisational Resilience  and Recovery for Canterbury Organisations after the 4 September 2010 Earthquake
Hlekiwe Kachali, Joanne Stevenson, Zachary Whitman, Tracy Hatton, Erica Seville, John Vargo and Tom Wilson. R Bhamra (ed), Organisational Resilience: Concepts, Integration and Practice, Chapter 10, CRC Press, Florida, October 2015.

Skills Shortages in the Christchurch Subcontracting Sector
Imelda Saran Piri, Yan Chang-Richards, Suzanne Wilkinson
ANDROID Residential Doctoral School Proceeding, 5th International Conference on Building Resilience, Newcastle, Australia, 15-17th July 2015. The paper received the ANDROID Residential Doctoral School 2015 Best Paper Award.

A Systems Approach to Managing Human Resources in Disaster Recovery Projects
Dr Yan Chang-Richards, Professor Suzanne Wilkinson, Dr Erica Seville, David Brunsdon
ANDROID Residential Doctoral School Proceeding, 5th International Conference on Building Resilience, Newcastle, Australia, 15-17th July 2015. The paper received the Emerald Best Conference Paper Award 2015.

A Study of Factors Influencing Post-Earthquake Decisions on Buildings in Christchurch, New Zealand
Jenna Jihyun Kim, Kenneth J. Elwood, Stephanie E. Chang, Frederic Marquis
11th Canadian Conference on Earthquake Engineering, Canadian Association for Earthquake Engineering

Understanding Post-Earthquake Decisions on Multi-Storey Concrete Buildings in Christchurch, New Zealand
Frederic Marquis, Jenna Jihyun Kim, Kenneth J. Elwood, Stephanie E. Chang
Bulletin of Earthquake Engineering, May 2015.

 Investment in the Construction Sector to Reduce Disaster Risk Management
Suzanne Wilkinson, Alice Yan Chang-Richards, Zulkfli Sapeciay, and Resilient Organisations, New Zealand.
Input Paper to the Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2015

 Addressing Inter-Sectoral Linkages and Interdependencies:  A study of the past disaster events
Alice Yan Chang-Richards, Erica Seville, Suzanne Wilkinson, Hlekiwe Kachali, Joanne Stevenson.
Input Paper to the Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2015

Post-Disaster Challenges and Opportunities: Lessons from the 2011 Christchurch Earthquake and Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami
Frederico Ferreira Pedroso, Joel Teo, Erica Seville, Sonia Giovanazzi, John Vargo.
Input Paper to the Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2015

Industry sector recovery following the Canterbury earthquakes
H. Kachali, Z. Whitman, JR. StevensonJ. Vargo, E. Seville and T. Wilson.
International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, Volume 12, June 2015, Pages 42–52 (pre-print Link to attached/published link to:

Resilience and Recovery: Business Behaviour Following the Canterbury Earthquakes
E. Seville, J.R. Stevenson, J. Vargo, C. Brown, S. Giovinazzi.
NIST Workshop on the Economics of Community Disaster Resilience, 29-30 April 2015, Washington DC.

A Primer in Resiliency: Seven Principles for Managing the Unexpected.  Erica Seville, Debbie Van Opstal, John Vargo. Global Business and Organizational Excellence.  March/April 2015.  DOI: 10.1002/joe.21600.  (we are unable to post a copy of this article online, but if you would like a copy, please contact us)

Resilient Opportunities Workshop Summaries. Report prepared by Charlotte Brown, Erica Seville, John Vargo. Resilient Organisations Research Report 2015/01, February 2015.

Bay of Plenty Lifelines Group Resilience Benchmark Report.  Report prepared by Charlotte Brown, Erica Seville, John Vargo. Resilient Organisations Research Report 2014/06 September 2014

Grey District Readiness for a Major Catastrophic Event: Grey District Council.  On behalf of the Grey District Council. Report prepared by Ian McCahon, David Elms, Rob Dewhirst, Hlekiwe Kachali.  August 2012

Organizational Networks and Recovery Following the Canterbury Earthquakes. J. R. Stevenson,  Y. Chang-Richards, D. Conradson, S. Wilkinson, J. Vargo, E. Seville, and D. Brunsdon. Earthquake Spectra, Volume 30, No. 1, pages 555–575, February 2014;

Organisational resilience following the Darfield earthquake of 2010 (pre-print version) Zachary Whitman, Joanne Stevenson, Hlekiwe Kachali, Erica Seville, John Vargo, and Thomas Wilson. (2014) Disasters, 38: 148–177. doi: 10.1111/disa.12036 (published version)

Organisational Resilience to Natural Disasters: New Zealand's experience. (English translation) Alice Chang-Richards, John Vargo, Erica Seville. China Policy Review, Volume 10 – 2013, pp 117 – 119. 

Employee Resilience Scale (EmpRes): Technical Report. Katharina Näswall, Joana Kuntz, Morgana Hodliffe, Sanna Malinen. Resilient Organisations Research Report 2013/06.

Short-Form version of the Benchmark Resilience Tool (BRT-53) (pre-print version) Z.R. Whitman, H. Kachali, D. Roger, J. Vargo, E. Seville. (2013) Measuring Business Excellence, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp3-14. 2013 (published version)

Lee, A., Vargo, J., and Seville, E. (2013). "Developing a Tool to Measure and Compare Organizations’ Resilience." Nat. Hazards Rev., 10.1061/(ASCE)NH.1527-6996.0000075, 29-41.

Benchmarking Resilience: Organisational Resilience in the Australian Water Industry. (2012)  John Vargo, Jessica Sullivan, David Parsons

Improving the Resilience of SMEs: policy and practice in New Zealand Tracy Hatton, Erica Seville, John Vargo (2012).  Resilient Organisations Research Report 2012/12

Crisis Strategic Planning for SMEs: Finding the Silver Lining (pre-print version)  John Vargo and Erica Seville (2011) International Journal of Production Research - Creating Resilient SMEs special issue, Vol 49, Issue 18, Sept 2011, pp 5619-5635.

Benchmarking the Resilience of Organisations  Amy Stephenson, University of Canterbury, PhD thesis 2011

Benchmarking the readiness of road controlling authorities to meet their obligations under the Civil Defence and Emergency Management (CDEM) Act 2002. A. Dantas and S. Giovinazzi. (2010) New Zealand Transport Agency research report 409, October 2010

Measuring and Comparing Organisational Resilience in Auckland.  Amy Stephenson, John Vargo, Erica Seville (2010)  The Australian Journal of Emergency Managment, Volume 25, No 2, pp 27 – 32, 2010

Benchmark Resilience: A study of the resilience of organisations in the Auckland Region. Amy Stephenson, Erica Seville, John Vargo, Derek Roger. Resilient Organisations Research Report 2010/03b - updated version.

Resilience: Great concept but what does it mean for organisations?  Erica Seville (2009)  Tephra, Vol 22 pp 9 - 15. 2009. Community Resilience Special Issue

Facilitated Process for Improving Organizational Resilience.  Sonia McManus, Erica Seville, John Vargo, David Brunsdon.  Natural Hazards Review, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp81-90.,2008

Organisational Resilience: Researching the reality of New Zealand Organisations.  Erica Seville, Andre Dantas, Jason Le Masurier, John Vargo, David Brunsdon, Suzanne Wilkinson (2008)  Journal of Business Continuity and Emergency Planning, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp 258-266, April 2008.

Organisational Resilience in New Zealand. Sonia McManus, University of Canterbury, PhD thesis 2008

Resilience, Vulnerability, and Adaptive Capacity: Implications for System Performance

Dalziell, E.P., McManus, S.T. (2004)
Implications for System Performance. 1st International Forum for Engineering Decision Making (IFED), Stoos, Switzerland: 5-8 Dec 2004.

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