Organisational Resilience

Building resilience in 2020

Building resilience in 2020

The construction industry has been left reeling from the body blow delivered by COVID-19. But this will pass, and being resilient will help navigate the crisis and prepare for recovery and future opportunities.

COVID-19 has impacted every corner of society and will do so for many months to come. With most construction work initially suspended, construction companies have struggled to manage cash flow, retain staff and remain viable.

There is some light at the end of the tunnel for the sector with the government’s pledge to fund significant built infrastructure projects. The challenge is bridging this immediate crisis and positioning to excel and take advantage of the economic stimulus activities.

Continue reading the full article.

Building risk management strategies into the vertical construction sector

Building risk management strategies into the vertical construction sector

Achieving a high level of productivity in the construction industry remains challenging. Within the sector, there are also differentiated performance outcomes between the horizontal and vertical construction sector. The recent successes of horizontal infrastructure projects such as the Northern Toll Road Gateway, Waterview Project, and Christchurch Infrastructure Recovery are in contrast to ongoing challenges faced by the vertical construction sector and hence present a unique opportunity for cross-sectoral learning.

A project team, including researchers from Resilient Organisations, Market Economics, and the University of Auckland, has published a  preliminary report from a comparative analysis of the vertical and horizontal construction sectors looking at what causes the varied performance between the two sectors. The report is the outcome of wide-ranging discussions across both vertical and horizontal sectors,  on risk management practice and the enabling factors that drive better risk management practice and productivity performance. The aim is to help initiate practice change in supporting the construction sector to improve risk management behaviours, boost confidence and enhance performance of the sector.

Read the full report

Keeping up with an evolving strategic risk landscape

Keeping up with an evolving strategic risk landscape 

By Erica Seville

The insurance sector, like many others, is at an interesting juncture, as the nature of the strategic risks facing the sector evolves and anticipated time-frames for change shorten.  At first glance, it is a sector populated by well capitalised, established and large incumbents.  It is a sector selling products that consumers need - and are likely to need more of in the future.  And yet, for all those positives, one also gets the sense that this is also a sector ripe for potential disruption.

Last week,  Resilient Organisations Executive Director, Erica Seville, presented at the AON Hazards Conference.  The theme for this year’s conference is apt - (R)evolution of Risk.  As our climate, society and technology changes at an ever-increasing rate, insurers face particular challenges to understand and price risk effectively.  This, coupled with growing expectations from customers requires that insurers shift gears for how they think about and manage risks.

None of us has a crystal ball.  Odds are, the changes that occur will not be the ones we are expecting.  We know that traditional ways of managing risks aren’t very effective at dealing with left-field events (the unknown unknowns).  To deal with these sorts of risks, we need to focus more on shoring up the key attributes that grow resilience in an organisation: building a solid foundation of good leadership and culture throughout our organisations; focusing on buildings networks and relationships that provide support and buffering during times of turbulence; and fostering an organisational attitude and posture that is proactive and positive towards change.  There is no rocket science about these three fundamentals – they are talked about in just about every management textbook.  But all too often good practice isn’t common practice.

The innovation, creativity, and adaptability that will be needed to keep up with our evolving strategic risk landscape needs to be built now. This is a timely reminder for us all to think about how our own organisations measure up on these fundamental aspects of resilience.

Mental Health Awareness Week coaching special

Resilience coaching special offer

We know that being the business continuity or resilience champion in an organisation can be both personally and professionally challenging. In acknowledgement of Mental Health Awareness Week, we are offering a special on our one-on-one organisational resilience professional development coaching. Connecting with others and sharing problems (and successes) can be a key part of managing your own wellbeing.

Our coaching and mentoring programme is an opportunity to build your (or your team’s) resilience understanding and capability and offers a safe space to troubleshoot and strategise on how to achieve change in your organisation.

Board’s Role in Crisis

Calling all board members and CEOs - A Board's Role in Crisis

  • Have you been on a Board of Directors or a CEO of an organisation that experienced a crisis within the last 10 years?
  • Do you feel you learned from that experience?
  • Would you like to share your experience to help others facing crises in the future?
We’d like to talk to you!

We are particularly interested in talking with Chairs, Directors and CEOs of organisations that provide of essential community services such as food, water, health, energy, communications, transportation, and banking.


1-2 hours of your time to meet with you at your convenience to gain your insights and professional experience on the role of the Board in times of crisis.


Please contact Erica Seville, [email protected] or +64 (0)21 456 706.


The aim of this project is to create a guide for Boards of Directors to use in preparation for and in times of crisis. It will summarise the experiences of boards who have navigated through crisis, considering what worked, what didn’t, and what they would have done differently. All lessons will be confidential, and not attributed to any one person or organisation.

The focus will be on critical infrastructure organisations, and aims to extract lessons learned on the role, behaviours, and leadership of boards. We are looking to interview individuals to capture different perspectives on the board’s role in crisis, including Chairs of the Board, Directors on the Board, and CEOs of critical infrastructure organisations who have faced significant crisis within the last 10 years. This may include experience of natural disaster, reputational risk, health and safety incidents, cyber-attack, public safety concerns, or any other crisis.

This research is a collaboration between Resilient Organisations, QuakeCoRE, and the New Zealand Institute of Directors.

Resilient Organisations’ researchers are leading this project. Resilient Organisations Ltd is a research and consulting group passionate about building future fit organisations ready to adapt and thrive in any environment. The Resilient Organisations team are world leading resilience experts, who have worked in resilience enhancement for 14 years. They are the experts in translating cutting-edge research into practical real world advice for organisations, communities, and businesses of all sizes.  To find out more visit

This project is funded by QuakeCoRE, which is a Tertiary Education Commission funded Centre of Research Excellence focused on transforming the earthquake resilience of communities and societies.  QuakeCoRE does this through innovative world‐class research, human capability development, and deep national and international collaborations. QuakeCoRE’s vision is of an earthquake-resilient Aotearoa New Zealand where thriving communities have the capacity to recover rapidly after major earthquakes through mitigation and pre-disaster preparation informed by internationally-leading research excellence.   To find out more visit

The Institute of Directors is partnering on this research to share the findings with the broader governance community. The Institute of Directors in New Zealand connects, equips and inspires its more than 9,000+ members, to add value across New Zealand business and society. Through thought leadership, our extensive network, professional governance courses, events, and resources the Institute of Directors mission is to inspire and equip people in governance to add value across New Zealand business and society.  To find out more visit

ResOrgs to present at Canterbury Earthquakes Symposium: Sharing the lessons from the Canterbury experiences event

ResOrgs to present at the Canterbury Earthquakes Symposium: Sharing the lessons from the Canterbury experiences event

Resilient Organisations is thrilled to be presenting at the Canterbury Earthquakes Symposium: Sharing the lessons from the Canterbury experiences event on 29-30 November 2018 at the University of Canterbury.

Researchers Charlotte Brown, Ellie Kay and Tracy Hatton found inspiration at the Canterbury earthquake memorial wall brainstorming for our presentation on the Ten lessons for organisations: how to survive and thrive in a crisis.

Presentation Abstract

Organisations are a keystone species in the ecology of our cities.  So when disaster strikes, organisations play a critical role in keeping our communities and economy functioning. Resilient Organisations research group has spent the past six years learning about how businesses are affected by, adapt to, and recover from major disruption.  Organisational resilience depends on so much more than strong buildings and robust infrastructure. It requires adaptive systems and people, supply chain management, and quality leadership. We have surveyed and interviewed over 1000 organisations affected by the Canterbury earthquakes and have built a broad and rich dataset of insights that can now help organisations facing disruptions in the future.  Here we highlight the top ten lessons for managing through crisis, being agile and adaptive in the face of change and finding opportunities in disruptions.   The lessons are presented in a forward-looking, practical way that can be readily adopted by both organisations and policy-makers to prepare for, and respond to, future crises.

Resilience – the key to riding waves of uncertainty

Resilience - riding the waves of uncertainty

Kaylene Sampson, Senior Research Consultant, Resilient Organisations
August 2018

My home town has been rebuilding from crisis for almost eight years.  September 2018 marks the eight-year anniversary of the first of a series of devastating earthquakes to hit Christchurch, New Zealand. Since the first earthquake on 4 September 2010, thousands of aftershocks have rocked my city, including the 22nd February 2011quake which caused 185 fatalities and countless injuries alongside substantial damage to the city.

As I was adjusting to this new post-disaster city, the government began counting up the cost. The physical rebuild of the commercial sector was estimated at $16 NZD billion on top of the significant individual losses experienced through changes to the business environment. Media reports suggested that around two-thirds of New Zealand businesses were impacted. Loss of premises, supply chain problems, destruction of necessary infrastructure, low staff morale, changes in demand and diminished talent pools were among the challenges facing businesses up and down New Zealand.

A creative approach

In the new post-disaster environment, I saw the efforts of Christchurch businesses taking creative steps to adjust to their changed metaphorical and physical landscape. Some hospitality businesses reinvented themselves as mobile food outlets while others simply closed their doors, cognisant of the need to wait. Brightly coloured and modified shipping containers began to pop up all over the city. Serving everything from fast food to fashion, these relocatable retail outlets were a quick and agile solution to damaged buildings.

Some businesses increased their online presence in an attempt to address the dilemma and maintain turnover. As some residents exited and others migrated inwards, diversification of products or services was yet another solution to changing local circumstance. Parts of the construction industry partnered with the demolition industry, recognising the growth in demand for their new business partner as well as the likely halt on their own core business, at least in the short term. It seems creativity has become the new normal in much of recent Christchurch business activity.

Ensuring you can ‘hang out your shingle’

During business as usual most businesses sit in an approximate equilibrium; that is the demand for goods and services approximates the ability to meet it. However, what about a non-BAU environment? How does this equilibrium shift and how do businesses respond?

After a major disruption perhaps the most immediate and traditional concern focusses on ensuring you can continue to open your doors, ‘hang out your shingle’ and proceed. 

Much of standard BCP efforts focus on ensuring that your operation will still be able to meet the needs of your customers. Being certain you have back up for critical infrastructure and having potential alternative locations are among the kinds of well thought out actions that address this concern.  However, while maintaining operability is critical, the nature of impact can be unpredictable and complex, meaning that accounting for every likely scenario can be exhausting and costly. Additionally, focusing on operability is only half of the story; the other part relates to managing demand – the bit customers bring to the table. 

Winners and losers

In the years following the Christchurch quakes customer demand was simply not uniform across all businesses. Around one fifth of the businesses we engaged with told us that initial decreases in demand were followed by a rapid and sustained call for their goods or services.  While some owners reported that immediate demand was strong but short-lived, a small number of businesses experienced slow and gradual decline or perpetual volatility that preceded closing their doors permanently. It is perhaps unsurprising that a few as one in ten reported “no change” in the patterns of demand they experienced.

It seems that the nature of the disaster itself became instrumental in the kinds of goods or services the population sought out. Damaged buildings need demolition before builders can swing a hammer, and the influx of trades staff improved the turnover of fast food outlets and temporary accommodation. In short, the quakes produced clear winners and loser on the new business landscape in which demand changed in one way or another for almost all businesses. So, if that is the case, how can you be sure you are on the winning team?

The agile approach to business continuity

Disruption events come with both opportunities and challenges, much of which are unpredictable. Though stable or growing demand is a critical part of business recovery, there is great uncertainty as to how demand may change in a post disaster environment. In addition, from a continuity planning perspective, accounting for every potential scenario can be exhaustive and costly. Resilience thinking, in contrast, employs a more agile approach that will make you simply more adaptable to respond to the impacts of unpredictable events.

But what characterises resilient thinking? What enabled those businesses in Christchurch to get operational and to match their ability to operate with the level to demand that existed?  Local businesses employed creativity in the solutions applied to unknown problems, built and utilised connections with people and resources, and engaged in leadership styles that created high levels of staff engagement where solutions to business problems were generated by team members who worked together to get the business through. In short, bringing resilience principles into the proactive management of your day to day operations, will position you well to ride the waves of uncertainty during times of crisis.

Shakeout Preparedness Tips for Business

Shakeout Preparedness Tips for Business

New Zealand ShakeOut, our national earthquake drill and tsunami hīkoi, is taking place on Thursday 18 October 2018 at 9:30 am.

ShakeOut is held across the world to remind people of the right action to take during an earthquake, Drop, Cover and Hold - and to practise a tsunami hīkoi (evacuation) if in a coastal area.

With the ShakeOut exercise coming up, it is a good reminder for businesses to improve their preparedness.

Resilient Organisations have put together a few tips and simple actions organisations can do to significantly improve their resilience and preparedness.

Download the ShakeOut Preparedness Tips

If you are a New Zealand organisation and want to find out more about ShakeOut and how to participate, go to the ShakeOut website,

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