In the current world scenario, which is marked by high volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA), threats are increasingly unforeseen. As organizations, we are striving for this concept of Resilience.
Resilience is one of those hot words, and like many hot business terms it can mean a few different things depending on who is using it, and that can lead to confusion. I tend to see the following uses, which are similar in theme.
|Physics||The property of a material to absorb energy when deformed and not fracture nor break; in other words, the material’s elasticity.|
|Ecology||The capacity of an ecosystem to absorb and respond to disturbances without permanent damage to the relationships between species.|
|Psychology||An individual’s coping mechanisms and strategies.|
|Organizational and Management studies||The ability to maintain an acceptable level of service in the face of periodic or catastrophic systemic and singular faults and disruptions (e.g. natural disasters, cyber or terrorist attacks, supply chain disturbances).|
For our purposes, resilience can be viewed as the ability of an organization to maintain quality over time, in the face of faults and disruptions. Given we live in a time of disruption, resilience is obviously of great interest to us.
In my post “Principles behind a good system” I lay out eight principles for good system development. Resilience is not a principle, it is an outcome. It is through applying our principles we gain resilience. However, like any outcome we need to design for it deliberately.
We gain resilience in the organization through levers that can be lumped together as operational and organizational.
The attributes that give resilience are the same that we build as part of our quality culture:
- The ability to anticipate problems before they build-up (includes risk management)
- Diversified structural flexibility to respond to both adverse and beneficial changes
- Broken down silos and glass ceilings to allow risk information to flow freely and prevent ‘risk blindness’
- Rapid response capabilities to avoid incidents escalating into crises
- Learn from previous mistakes from themselves and others making the necessary changes
Like many activities they key is to think of these as holistic endeavors proactively building resiliency into the organizaiton.