Power of Resilience– Shape Change, Manage Adversity: Resiliency in Organizations is the New Imperative…

Resilience; it’s the new imperative… It’s the capacity to endure stress and bounce-back from adversity… it’s an organization’s capacity to anticipate disruptions, adapt to events, create lasting value… The concept of resilience is rapidly advancing as an important response to the needs of organizations, enterprises… to effectively address the issues of– security, adversity, risk, survivability… despite the anticipated and unanticipated challenges that might emerge…

The concept of ‘resilience’ first showed up in the corporate lexicon in the late 1990s with the release of Paul C. Stoltz book; ‘Adversity Quotient: Turning Obstacles into Opportunities’, and he theorized that an organization’s (or person’s) success in the world is based largely on the ability to cope with adversity, and according to his research; people with a high ‘adversity quotient’– make more money, are more innovative, and are better problem solvers than those less adept at handling misfortune…

resil thGJTOO7GX

But ask five researchers; What is Resilience? And you will get five different answers: But put simply; resilience is the ability to thrive in the face of adversity… According to Larry Mallak; resilience is more than just coping– that is, just keeping your head above water– being resilient means being able to walk out of the water, for example; resilient workers are able to satisfy customers’ needs on the spot, act quickly in times of crisis, and take advantage of opportunities that might otherwise be missed…

Resilience may sound like just the latest trend in pop psychology, but social scientists have long been intrigued by what enables some organization (or people) to thrive in the face of adversity while others buckle under the pressure… According to Rachele Kanigel; the new buzzword in organization board rooms these days is ‘resilience’… In an age of corporate– downsizing, mega-mergers, lightening-quick technological change… employers are realizing that to be successful they must manage stress in the workplace… Hence, the idea now is to seek out and develop a new kind of worker– one with the ability to weather adversity…

According to Al Siebert; in today’s workplace everyone feels pressured to get more work done with fewer people, in less time, with less budget, and in new ways… Organizations need people who are resilient, people who can adapt quickly, change directions, bounce back…

In the article Is Resilience the New Sustainababble? by Laurie Mazur and Denise Fairchild write: Resilience, like sustainability before it, is an idea with potentially transformative power… Resilience is all about people’s capacity to survive and thrive in the face of disruptions of all kinds. If you were to take resilience seriously (highly recommended in an increasingly disruption-prone world), you would be making some far-reaching changes in your organization…

However, the meaning of resilience is up for grabs– its become a buzzword; and it might be following the same trajectory as ‘sustainability’… The term sustainability shaped the thinking of a generation, but it devolved into just a buzzword, and co-opted to cover-up distinctly unsustainable practices, and mutating into what Bob Engelman called; ‘sustainababble’… After all, it may be more profitable to pretend to be sustainable than to actually be so…

Aside from out-and-out co-optation, there is a danger that the term ‘resilience’ will follow the same fate… Too often, resilience is simply seen as bouncing-back after a set-back or as protecting the status quo… You could say that ‘sustainability’ was hollowed out by co-optation, but also by a failure of imagination… If ‘resilience’ is just about a bounce-back theme, it too will ring hollow… So, is resilience the new sustainababble?

In the article How Resilience Works by Diane Coutu writes: Does resilience really matter in business? According to Dean Becker; more than education, more than experience, more than training, a person’s level of resilience will determine who succeeds and who fails– that is true in the– cancer ward, it’s true in the Olympics, it’s true in the board room… Almost all the theories on resilience overlap in three ways: Resilient people, they posit, possess three characteristics: a staunch acceptance of reality; a deep belief, often buttressed by strongly held values, that life is meaningful; and an uncanny ability to improvise…

You can bounce-back from hardship with just one or two of these qualities, but you will only be truly resilient with all three… A common belief about resilience is that it stems from an optimistic nature, but only as long as such optimism doesn’t distort your sense of reality. In extremely adverse situations, rose-colored thinking can actually spell disaster…

resil thPJMWVDIF

The ability to see reality is closely linked to another building block of resilience; the propensity to make meaning in terrible times. We all know people who, under duress, throw up their hands and shout: How can this be happening to me? But resilient people devise constructs about their suffering to create some sort of meaning for themselves and others…

This dynamic of meaning-making, most researchers agree, is the way resilient people build bridges from present-day hardships to a fuller, better constructed future… Those bridges make the present ‘manageable’, and removing the sense that the present is ‘overwhelming’… It’s worth noting that resilience is neither ethically good nor bad: It’s merely the skill and the capacity to be robust under conditions of enormous stress and change…

In the article What Is This Thing Called Resilience? by Eric J. McNulty writes: The word resilience has become simultaneously; ubiquitous and meaningless… It’s not that the concept of resilience is not important anymore, but almost no one is clear on what the term actually means… The ability to survive and thrive despite significant disruption, which is the essence of resilience, is the new core competency for global enterprises…

Resilience, in its simplest form, is often thought of as the ability to bounce-back, but this is misguided as there is actually no ‘back’ to bounce to– since time moves ahead… It’s more accurate to think of resilience as the ability to bounce ‘forward’… Resilient individuals, organizations, cities, nations, and species survive, learn, adapt, and grow stronger as a result…

It’s important to note the distinction between ‘robustness’ (ability to withstand disruption) and ‘resilience’ (ability to recover): These ideas are complementary, for example; massive efforts to thwart cyber attacks are meant to build more robust systems; the ability to restore operations, public confidence, and reputation in the aftermath of a breach demonstrates resilience (or lack thereof)…

To foster resilience an organization must draw on the things that still work… However, becoming too wedded to outdated methodologies inhibits resilience and the ability to adapt to changed circumstances… an organization may need to radically reinvent itself, just as organisms and have done over millions of years… Resilience is a natural capacity; you can cultivate its growth by becoming more in touch with your organization and more aware of the world around you, particularly; relationships, interdependencies… Also you can remove impediments by constructing the organization to be responsive and agile in the face of rapidly shifting conditions. The world is getting more, not less, turbulent– your resilience is likely to be tested again and again…

According to Karl E. Weick; resilience is a reflex, a way of facing and understanding the world, which is deeply etched into a person’s mind and soul. Resilient people and companies face reality with staunchness, make meaning of hardship instead of crying out in despair, they improvise solutions, whereas others do not. This is the nature of resilience, and you will never completely understand it…

According to Michael Croy and David Halford; operational ‘resiliency’ is bigger in scope than traditional business ‘continuity’, and all business functions need to be included in resilience planning… Everyone needs to constantly be adapting and altering plans to meet changing needs… Business continuity means keeping your business moving in the face of any challenge, and transitioning your corporate culture to one of resiliency means staying ahead of challenges instead of only responding to them…

According to Gary Hamel; resilience is the ability to dynamically reinvent business models and strategies as circumstances change… According to Andrew Zolli; resilience is certainly a good goal for any organizations, however, it will never be achieved if an organization is — fragmented, silo, disconnected… organizations require a new way of thinking, there must be more coherence… 

In addition, the belief that leaders have an endless supply of– stamina, ideas, skills… that it takes to deliver success year after year is a fallacy of the past; great leaders are resilient– they have the ability to bounce-back, cope, renew, revitalize– it’s the key watchword for today’s savvy leaders…

resil res-org-diagram

Resilience is not just a flowery concept: It’s a way for the leadership to assess and align resources in the best way to support the achievement of the organization’s objectives in the most efficient way. It sets the landscape and context for the organization’s activities, and levers the skills and capabilities needed to improve performance… Organizational resilience is a vital step in management thinking that underpins pretty much every other process and resource used.

Building resilience takes time and focus, though the return on investment can be very significant, especially when you are in the midst of a crisis… but, getting the context and alignment is absolutely essential… Clear direction and leadership, strongly voiced from the Board; along with openness, commitment within the organization is essential to ensure real resilience…