Organisational Resiliency – 7 questions
If the future is highly uncertain, how important is resiliency and what can you do to improve it? Being resilient arguably matters the most when the future is uncertain (in the UK, think of Covid & Brexit combined) – in biology, species survive change thanks in part to their genetic diversity.
As a small business or a budding entrepreneur, having resiliency (strength, bounce back, endurance) allows you to counteract trouble, or exploit opportunities – whether it’s turning ‘lemons into lemonade‘, or developing great ‘lemonade‘ for your thirsty customer base.
Meanwhile having action plans gets you out of immediate trouble and helps you capitalise on opportunities, whenever they present themselves.
Preparing an annual budget in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) environment is problematic, since its shelf life becomes incredibly short. Planning in VUCA environments , whether you’re a SME start-up or a large corporate becomes less about one annual budget. And more about scenarios, if/then protocols and rolling forecasts.
Having good business plans can convince investors, or commercial lenders to make your business more resilient to fluctuating cash flows too.
Therefore, think of resiliency and plans as mutually-reinforcing things.
To be resilient as an organisation, where do you start? Starting with personal resilience is a great foundation. Developing self belief and developing a degree of self reliance, is as important as reaching for help when it’s available and accepting help when it’s offered. Sometimes when the shocks hit, all you can do is tactical adjustment and brace for impact. Try to take business complaints professionally not personally. Mostly, failure is a learning opportunity, not a death sentence! Personal ego and organisational resiliency are distant cousins who hate each other. Easily your most powerful & valuable business resiliency tool is your own brain – remind yourself and believe that you have the imagination to imagine-up a solution to a novel problem. And if you want a reality check on how people use their imagination, watch young children at play -creativity & resourcefulness at its best!
How is organisational resilience (OR) linked to business flexibility (BFL)? OR is part of something bigger – BFL. Business Flexibility includes: adaptability, resilience, agility and managing options. And Time Flexibility (buying time, playing for time or reinventing time) is also a great asset for business resiliency.
What can viruses teach us about organisational resilience? Viruses combine a simple, specialised structure with constant and dramatic innovation (jumping host species and mutating). The message for your business – keep it simple, but keep it innovative.
What growth is better for organisational resiliency – ladders or ramps? Growth is a powerful force for resiliency. If you want steady business growth (ramp ascent), small efficiency improvement is trumped by step-change innovation (ladder ascent). Perhaps the ideal growth pathway is a succession of efficiency ramps then innovation ladders then efficiency ramps etc. And the agility to jump sideways from one ramp to another, or one ladder to another, when the opportunity arises.
How is organisational resilience related to organisational risk? Resilience is your ability to cope with various business risks arising. Step one is to evaluate the risks as openly & honestly as you can. Step Two is to think about how to become more resilient to those risks (better risk mitigations and more mitigations per risk).
What books can you recommend on this subject if I want to learn more?
Resilience – Emotional Intelligence. HBR Press 2017
Harvard Business Review on Managing Through a Downturn. 2009
Business Flexibility Consultant