Organisational resilience in New Zealand

Sonia McManus

University of Canterbury, PhD thesis 2008


Organisations maintain our economy; they provide jobs, goods, services and a sense of community. The increasingly globalised nature of the modern world has lead to organisations facing threats that often are not recognise until the threat becomes a crisis. It is impossible for organisations, regardless of size, location or financial strength, to identify all possible hazards and their consequences; let alone plan for them. Therefore, the concept of increasing organisational resilience is gaining momentum. However, the term resilience has been used with abandon across a wide range of academic disciplines and in a great many situations. There is little consensus regarding what resilience is, what it means for organisations and, more importantly, how they may achieve greater resilience in the face of increasing threats. This study investigates 10 organisations from a range of industry sectors, sizes, localities and types within the New Zealand context to discover what are the common issues that foster or create barriers to increased resilience. Organisational resilience is defined in this study as a function of the overall situation awareness, keystone vulnerabilities and adaptive capacity of an organisation in a complex, dynamic and interrelated environment. A multiple case-study method has been used, and a facilitated 5-Step process for assessing and increasing resilience has been developed in conjunction with these organisations. Data was collected in the form of interviews, survey and participant observations in workshop environments. A set of 15 resilience indicators have been identified, and the organisations have been ranked according to their overall resilience relative to the other organisations in this study. Future work is likely to include further quantification of the methodology and the resilience indicators, resilience maturity models and work on understanding resilient leadership, communication of resilience concepts and international case studies to further determine the range of resilience for organisations.

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