Resilient Organizations

What is a Resilient Organization ?

We often hear the term resilient organizations being mentioned in the press and business conversations. This term is used to indicate how organizations emerge from setbacks stronger as well as how they fight the global odds that contemporary businesses have to confront in the business landscape. Simply put, resilience is defined as the ability to weather failures and emerge stronger in addition to learning from past failures and not repeating them. Indeed, resilience is an important component of building learning organizations as we will discuss subsequently. Before that, it is important to note that the business landscape and the external and the internal environments of organizations in the 21st century are such that resilience is no longer a luxury but a critical and crucial determinant of success.

Resilience in the Face of Disaster

Consider the example of the 9/11 attacks and their aftermath. Firms such as Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and others could resume operations within 2-3 days as they were resilient and had a strong culture of being able to overcome the temporary disruptions to their operations. Indeed, in the months and years following this, many global corporations made it a point to institute organizational resiliency especially in the way they responded to natural and human caused disasters. No wonder that subsequent disruptions such the 2011 Japanese Tsunami did not result in significant disruption to the operations of many of these global corporations.

How to Institute a Resilient and Learning Culture ?

Organizational resilience can be instituted by analyzing the past cases where the organization has had to deal with disasters and disruptions. Once the analysis is done, the learning’s from such disruptions must be used to recommend strategies that would be rolled out in case of any disruptions. Having said that, it must also be noted that resilience is not just about dealing with external events but also includes responding to changes and shocks in the internal environments.

Resilience can be Internal as well

For instance, Apple was able to move on after Steve Jobs died as it had already put in place an organizational learning strategy of following his legacy, building on that, and then improving its approach to business. Indeed, the fact that in many cases, businesses simply have to deal with internal shocks means that resiliency is as much to do with the external events as it is to do with internal setbacks. As the saying goes, chance favors a prepared mind, and hence, those organizations that are learning from their past mistakes and past failures and are prepared for future uncertainties are the ones that endure and are resilient.

Organizational Culture Makes the Difference

Apart from this, building a resilient organization also requires vision and an ability to stay calm in the face of disaster. For instance, organizations such as Unilever and Proctor & Gamble are so professionally run that external and internal events do not cause them to panic and instead, they respond in a calm and calibrated manner. Indeed, the fact that these organizations have established procedures and failsafe processes as well as the fact that almost all employees know what to do in case of an emergency increase their resiliency.

The Role of Individual Employees as well as Collective Learning

Finally, whether an organization has a continuity plan in place or not, it is the individuals in the organization who have to display personal resiliency. Disasters and unanticipated events are becoming commonplace in these times and hence, it is important for organizations to cultivate a culture of resiliency. This can happen only if the organization is like a thriving and throbbing organism which is in a symbiotic relationship with its environment wherein it contributes as well as receives support and sustenance from the environment. Taking this analogy further, such organizations who are organically driven would ensure that whenever the external environment changes, the reorient their internal strategies and learn in the process so that they can use the learning in the future.


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