Louise Home-Dewar

10 years of learnings from crisis and disruption

This month marks the 10th anniversary of the devastating 22 February Canterbury, NZ earthquake. To mark this milestone, we are sharing our top tips for organisations navigating crisis and disruption. We begin with Tip 1, Take care of your leaders.

10 years of learnings from crisis and disruption - Tip 1: Looking after your Leaders


This month marks the 10th anniversary of the devastating 22 February Canterbury, NZ earthquake. To mark this milestone, we are sharing our top tips for organisations navigating crisis and disruption.

We have learned these lessons through our years of research and working with organisations to build their resilience. We have gathered data from thousands of businesses impacted by the Canterbury earthquakes, by COVID-19, and other national and international disruptive events.

We start with a tip very relevant to our current challenging times - looking after your leaders.

NZ Lifelines Forum 2020

NZ Lifelines Utilities Forum 2020

Sharing knowledge, best practice and lessons learned – through both failures and success – is a crucial part of building resilience.

New Zealand’s annual Lifelines Utilities Forum provides the opportunity for essential infrastructure and service providers to do this. Attendees include utility providers for water supply, wastewater, stormwater, electricity, gas, telecommunications, roads, rail, airports, and ports, as well as researchers, emergency management professionals, and central government agencies.

This year’s Forum was held in Tauranga.  Tauranga City Council shared their long-term program to create resilient infrastructure, emphasising the need to understand all hazards to effectively prioritise investment. A series of presentations looking at climate change risks, recent flood event impacts and water infrastructure failures highlighted the increasing resilience challenges posed by ageing infrastructure, rising sea level, and increasing storm frequency and severity? We presented our work with the Resilience Shift’s Potable Water Primer that outlines challenges and recommendations for creating resilient water supplies.

The current COVID-19 pandemic also featured, with presentations from government agencies and businesses involved in the response. This fascinating session showed some of the serious COVID response challenges and the lesser-known unintended consequences of decisions (such as the closing of butchers leading to welfare issues for pigs as there was nowhere to keep them).

The event is extremely useful and if you work in critical infrastructure in a region or country that does not yet have this kind of event, get started on forming one now.

View the slides from the 2020 Forum.
To ensure you are on the invite list for the next event, get in touch with the organisers at the NZ Lifelines Council.

Have you captured your lessons learned from COVID-19?

Have you captured the lessons from your organisation’s response to COVID-19?

Our team has been busy working with organisations in a range of sectors to conduct COVID-19 response debriefs.  We are so impressed by the initiative, adaptability, and overall care for wellbeing shown by those we have been working with.

Our facilitated debrief process compiles data from interviews and/or workshops, surveys, and any other data sources. It provides you with recommendations to ensure all the lessons you learned on the fly are embedded in your response processes and any weaker or more challenging response areas are improved.

Capturing lessons is not about identifying failures or enacting blame.  It is about learning through battle and sharpening our tactics and strategy for the next encounter. Capturing lessons learned, before they are lost to memories, is a key part of building crisis response capability.

Get in touch

Give us a call or email us for a free no-obligation chat about your needs and what we can offer.

Tracy Hatton, Resilient Organisations
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  • Choose a facilitator

    It is better if it is someone not directly involved in the response.

    An external facilitator can help your team navigate any sensitive issues, critically assess their response actions, and challenge group think. Alternatively use a senior manager who is not heavily involved in the response or stretched with other responsibilities.

  • Remember it’s not a blame game

    Capturing lessons is not about identifying failures or enacting blame. It is about learning through experience and sharpening your tactics and strategy for the next encounter.

  • Time it before losing it to memory

    Time the debrief sooner rather than later, while the events are still fresh in everyone’s minds.

  • Ask the right questions

    • What is working?
    • What isn’t working?
    • What do we need to do differently?
             Now?         In the future?
    • How can we ensure we do it differently?
             Now?         In the future?
    • Who will drive the implementation of the changes identified

Live webinars to help Auckland small business owners navigate through crisis

Live webinars to help Auckland small business owners navigate through crisis

Auckland Emergency Management is offering two 30-minute business resilience webinars to be held on Thursday 15 October at 6pm and on Monday 19 October at 10am.

This series of two webinars will be facilitated by Resilient Organisations’ Joint Managing Director, Tracy Hatton. The webinars will include practical advice on managing the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 on small businesses. Participants will be encouraged to ask questions and share their experiences and ideas.

To register, visit resorgs.org.nz/aem-webinars or for further information visit aucklandemergencymanagement.org.nz/work-ready.

Resilience toolkit

Resilience toolkit launched in partnership with AskYourTeam

Tracy Hatton and Charlotte Brown feature in a video as part of our new partnership with AskYourTeam, providing some useful advice on resilience.

AskYourTeam drives business improvement through continuous engagement with your team.

Read the LinkedIn post below to find out more and view the video.

Upcoming Webinar: Resilience for emerging leaders

Upcoming Webinar:
Resilience for Emerging Leaders

Thursday 20 August, 4.30 - 5.30pm NZST

There is no perfect leader. It’s time to lead your way.

The turmoil of recent times has tested many. Analysts predict even tougher times ahead. It seems the only guarantees are change, uncertainty, and that life will continue to present challenges. That’s why reinforcing a capacity for resilience is essential for everyone, especially for leaders and those who aspire to lead.

We are partnering with Keogh Consulting to present this short online webinar for emerging leaders who desire to do more than ‘cope’, but to excel through challenging times.

Keogh, Australian business transformation and leadership consultants,  will be focusing on individual resilience while we’ll be talking about how to lead and develop a resilient organisation.  Aspen Coaching will also be speaking about physical wellbeing.

Please join us for this free webinar on 20 August, 4:30pm NZST.

Read more

Boards Role in Crisis webinar available to view online

The Board’s Role during Crisis webinar available to view online

Erica Seville and Richard Ball presented a keynote presentation at the BCI Australasia 'Virtual' Summit 2020 in late July. They presented insights from their recent research project, The Board’s Role during Crisis.

Through interviews with Board Chairs, Directors and CEOs of critical service organisations that have faced significant crises, they explored the issues that are front of mind for Board members and provide key advice on the role of the Board during a crisis.

View the recorded presentation  (complete and submit the registration form to be taken to the recording).

A board’s role in a crisis

A board's role in a crisis

When a crisis event emerges, knowing what is expected of you and others is critical for an effective response. For many organisations, the role of the board in a response and recovery is not clear. These blurred lines can introduce uncertainty, slow the response, deepen the crisis and make everyone’s job harder.

The recent research conducted by Resilient Organisations’ Richard Ball and Erica Seville on the board’s role in a crisis sheds light on this grey area. It is a guide for boards members and managers alike. It draws on the combined wisdom of 12 board chairs, directors and chief executives, all of whom have led their organisations through numerous crises. These include earthquakes, reputational crises, market collapse, terrorism, critical infrastructure failure, worker fatalities, and of course, COVID-19. The 12 interviewees have been involved in many sectors, both public and private, across New Zealand and Australia.

The current COIVD-19 crisis has shown us that the unexpected does happen. There is no room for complacency. Being prepared and thinking about how to respond to the next crisis is time well spent if you want your organisation to survive, or even thrive in future events. Ensuring there is clarity at the top of the organisation is a great place to start.

The research was funded by QuakeCoRE and supported by the New Zealand Institute of Directors.

COVID-19 Resilient Recovery Planning

COVID-19 Resilient Recovery Planning

If you have not already, now is the time to ensure your team is thinking strategically about recovery.

It is easy to get overwhelmed with the response process and the complexities of adapting operations to our new normal. But it is vital for long term success to allow time for some strategic thinking. If you are a small business owner, this means extracting yourself from the operations. If you are a larger organisation it may be helpful to assign a separate team to start thinking strategically about recovery for your organisation.


Whilst there is still significant uncertainty as to how the pandemic will play out, planning at this stage requires adaptive decision making that evolves as uncertainty resolves. Your planning framework needs to deliver a clear unity of purpose across decision making and operational teams – this is a complex and chaotic space that requires structure and process to help people navigate uncertainties. Your forward-thinking needs to springboard off existing planning, coupled with critical reflection on what needs to evolve, and creating the right conditions for new and innovative approaches to be tabled.

  • 1

    Define or reaffirm what lies at the heart of recovery for your organisation.

    This includes your core purpose or mission as an organisation, your vision, and your values. This may include financial and non-financial objectives – such as community outcomes, staff wellbeing, and reputation.

    These principles should be the guiding light and common thread that holds your strategic thinking together.

  • 2

    Dust off and review your pre-COVID-19 strategy.

    Refresh yourself on what you were trying to achieve in the long term, and the short and medium-term actions you were taking to get there.

  • 3

    Take stock of the changed, and changing environment around you.

    Take time to talk to key business partners, customers, suppliers, and peak body groups. Are there emerging trends in your key market? What are your competitors doing? Where are your suppliers located and what is happening there? Where are their suppliers located? What is the global economy doing? What could the economy do?

    Think as broadly as possible – business disruptions can come from unusual places.

  • 4

    Test your current strategy against a range of possible futures.

    None of us have a crystal ball. Too often we ‘lock on’ to a single perspective of what the future might look like and design a strategy that works really well in that world. However, if the future is different to what we imagine, our strategy can be severely undermined.

    Create different future scenarios

    Now that you have a good sense of what is happening, get creative and think of what could possibly happen in the future. Using the situational awareness you have developed, create 3-6 credible and diverse scenarios of what the future might look like. For example reopening of NZ borders within 6 months; within 18 months; a resurgence of COVID-19 within NZ; wide adoption of working from home. Base your scenarios around the factors that will influence your business the most.

    Evaluate your current strategy against those scenarios

    What works and what doesn’t work in each of those scenarios? You want to prioritise actions that work best across multiple possible futures, even if that decision is not optimised for your assumed future. For example, if pursuing a new type of customer works well in one scenario but not at all in another, you should consider how you can hedge your bets – potentially investing a little, but not putting all your eggs in the one basket.

    Also, check if there any opportunities in those futures that you haven’t currently included in your strategy?

  • 5

    Design a strategy that is deliberatively flexible.

    Now you know the parts of your strategy that work best, and those vulnerable to disruption, it’s time to build some flexibility into your strategy. One way to do this is to develop a staged strategy with key decisions points along the way. For each decision point think about alternate paths that could be taken if your initial strategy is no longer viable. Aim for strategic decisions that are equal part least regret and opportunity. And that maximise the diversity of your operations – be it the market you serve, the suppliers you use, or the staff you employ.

    Diversity can be an insurance policy for your business. Make sure that you recognise and act on opportunities that emerge from a crisis. It may mean you need to re-prioritise, defer or create new strategic aims.

  • 6

    Have some critical friends review your strategy.

    Organisations don’t operate in a vacuum. The success of their strategy depends on staff, current customers, potential customers, funders, shareholders, suppliers, etc. So it is important that the strategy is reviewed in light of these diverse perspectives.

    You can do this yourself, or better yet, get some key partners to cast a critical eye over the strategy. The review process should be ongoing. Where possible identify triggers that might indicate you need to review your strategy. For example, if sales of a particular product reduce by 20% or if a competitor closes. Be prepared to review your plans frequently as new information comes to light and be prepared to change direction to avoid losses or to seize an opportunity.

Don’t forget to bring your team along on the journey with you. They’ll have great ideas and will be more invested long term.

Visionweek NZ 2020 – day four

Visionweek NZ 2020 - day four

Visionweek - Some of the best and brightest minds from across NZ and the globe envision what the new New Zealand could look like.

Quality Living

One core theme to emerge from today’s discussion was the importance of community and the need to put people at the centre of all our infrastructure decisions, whether it be housing, transportation systems or electricity networks.

The idea of the 20-minute city, already being tested in Sydney and Paris, promotes the design of communities where education, healthcare, shopping and work are all within a 20-minute walk or bike.  Could this be the future blueprint for decentralised cities?

A number of the speakers spoke about housing and urban design and the importance of creating safe places for people to gather and connect and develop a sense of community. Sir Peter Gluckman noted the need to reduce the depth of control of bureaucracies on vulnerable people and enable communities to support themselves.

The importance of achieving quality living sustainably was also noted. Kate Boylan encouraged us to work with what we have instead of always focussing on building new.  Kirsti Luke and Tamati Kruger spoke of new design that exists in harmony with the environment: net zero water, energy, waste.

The newly established infrastructure Commission has been tasked with the job of developing a 30-year infrastructure strategy for New Zealand.  Community and wellbeing is at the centre of their thinking.  Their challenge – to balance the need for bold changes with strategies that are achievable and affordable.

Jon Grayson (CEO, InfraCom) noted the need to develop an infrastructure strategy that builds agility into our infrastructure systems.  Agility and infrastructure are traditionally quite juxtaposed.  So how can this be achieved?  We’ve been working with the critical infrastructure community since we began in 2004.  Over that time we’ve seen a gradual shift from infrastructure as an asset to infrastructure as a community service.  NZTA now see their role as ‘connecting people’ rather than building and managing roads.  Auckland Transport are focussed on ‘easy journeys’.  We need to take the next step and, working with community, design the next generation of infrastructure.

When we think about the resilience, adaptability, and agility of our built infrastructure we need to radically shift our thinking.  Are our centralised infrastructure systems suitable for the high change world we live in?  Do we invest in upgrading old systems or invest in new decentralised systems (grid electricity to household generation)?  How can we design houses that are adaptable to the changing needs of our communities?  Can we build transport systems that meet today’s transportation preferences with tomorrow in mind?

We need to be testing our decisions against multiple futures to ensure they are robust in the face of uncertainty.  We need to involve diverse stakeholders to get creative and relevant ideas.  We need to create an enabling regulatory environment that empowers new ideas and allows us to rapidly respond to disruptions and take advantage of opportunities that emerge through new technologies or crises.  And of course, community and wellbeing must be at the heart.

Visit #visionweekNZ for details of the speakers and to listen to webinar.

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