By Andrew Owlett:
What does organizational resilience mean to you, your subordinates, your leadership, and your stakeholders? Is organizational resilience important to you? Do you know where to begin when building an enterprise-wide organizational resilience program?
What organizational resilience means to one organization may slightly differ from what organizational resilience means to another organization. There is no way we can create a “one size fits all” definition or approach. However, we can generalize and provide best practices and definitions. One generalized way to define organizational resilience is the ability of an organization to withstand and recover from crisis events, while learning from the unfolding events and strengthening future response and recovery efforts.
“Resilience Depends on
Your Organizational DNA”
The establishment of an organizational resilience program provides a business with the opportunity to form critical partnerships. Organizational silos can be broken down. Internal and external personnel can cross collaborate and build strong communication bridges that can be used before, during, and after a crisis event. Personnel can better understand their purpose and how their purpose fits into the overall operational and strategic approach of a business. More importantly, an organizational resilience program provides businesses with the ability to withstand and recover from crisis events. Having crisis confidence is something that does not come naturally – it comes with conviction your organization is ready to handle a bad day because you have helped prepare for it.
Introductory “ABCs” and Building Blocks
Assess: Baseline Your Organizational Resilience
Understand what your current state of resilience is by creating a simple checklist. Your checklist should include, at a minimum, line items for: program and project management, governance and policy, risk, strategy, business continuity, emergency communications, emergency operations, and test, training, and exercise. Develop a baseline understanding of specifically what actions have been taken to date by leadership. Understand the policies and procedures that govern your resilience activities. Understand the plans that are in place and develop a baseline understanding to ensure the plans are actionable and operational.
Next, asses your leadership’s perception of the current state of organizational resilience. Gather an understanding of what the leadership vision is and start to think of ways you can weave organizational resilience into your specific cultural DNA. Having tone at the top is critical, but equally as critical is having cultural understanding, so resilience activities can be implemented seamlessly.
Lastly, understand the risk to your organization. Not only risk from a day-to-day operational perspective, but also from a reputational and strategic perspective. Posturing your organization to be able to anticipate, mitigate and prepare, respond, and recover from a crisis event begins with understanding the risk to your organization. How can you effectively lead organizational resilience efforts without understanding your risk? You cannot. Focus on developing a baseline risk assessment, make risk a conversation topic at the leadership table, and continue assessing your tolerance and appetite for risk. The more leadership understands before a crisis event, the more likely they are to be able to control crisis event outcomes.
Build: Structure Your Approach
When you start to build your organizational resilience program, develop a strategy that encompasses both leadership and the grassroots employees. As stated earlier, understanding culture is critical. Sometimes leadership does not fully understand the tactical details that can hinder the ability of an organization to build resilience. Building trust, exhibiting empathy, and building transparency from the beginning, and from the ground up and top down, is critical to the success of an organizational resilience program.
After building leadership and employee buy-in and support, structure your policy and governance around the strategy. Make sure your policy and governance adhere to laws, regulations, and directives, but also make sure it incorporates the strategic directives from grassroots employees. This is one of the first tests for an organization and will show the employees the importance of their opinion.
It is important for an organization to start building a marketing, branding, and strategic communications campaign to start advertising the organization about the purpose and objective of organizational resilience. At the end of the day, an organization strives to protect their employees (their most critical asset), their technology, and their other assets. Show your employees you care through an integrated and comprehensive marketing, branding, and strategic communications campaign.
After an organization implements the previous steps, it is important the organization to posture themselves to be able to operational respond to crisis events. Creating plans and procedures is absolutely critical; however, do not just create a plan to “check the box” from a compliance perspective. Think through the operationalization of the actual plan. Sometimes this can be completed with creating a base plan, which is more compliance based, and then operational annexes which provide step-by-step operational and strategic checklists for key leadership and emergency essential personnel. It is important to determine what these operational and strategic steps should be through the frequent testing, training, and exercising of plans and procedures.
When designing a test, training, and exercise program always remember to “train like you fight”, an old military motto and adopted by first responders. Understanding there are sensitivities behind test, training, and exercise in some organizations, take a holistic approach through leadership and staff training and exercising. Involve everyone through a phased multi-year training and exercise program, using a building block approach.
Contemplate: Re-Baseline Your Organizational Resilience
Re-evaluate your organizational resilience approach every 30 days. Consider this a micro re-assessment. Ask yourself: how are we executing on our strategy, should be change our strategy, and is what we are trying to do just a fad? Understand how you are executing and analyze whether what you are doing is actually working. Define progress and success early on, so you can have quantitative and qualitative metrics to measure your progress. Showing leadership, employees, and other stakeholders how you are progressing is key and builds confidence in your ability to create proactive change. Additionally, conduct a macro re-assessment every year. Organizations and risk change often and it is your responsibility to be on the cutting edge of this change. Do not become complacent, be proactive and be responsible with your strategic organizational alignment.
Understand achieving organizational resiliency is an ongoing effort, and not something that can be achieved immediately. Measure your organizational impact by showing quantitative and qualitative results. The investment of time, personnel, and money has to be justified to leadership, staff, and stakeholders. One way to show impact is by providing leadership with periodic measurable dashboards to show progress on phased strategic implementation. In this leadership-level dashboard you can show the results of your branding, marketing, and strategic communications campaign. You can show the results of your planning initiatives by showing the percentage of plan completion to date. You can show the results of testing communications capabilities and how many personnel successfully responded to critical emergency communications. You can show the results of training delivered. You can show how you are mitigating risk. Regularly show progress and regularly show impact.
Take Action, But Focus on Baby Steps
When weaving resilience into your organizational DNA, remember the saying “it is not a sprint, it is a marathon.” Be patient and exhibit understanding. There will be growing pains. Organizational resilience often takes the back seat to the operations of a business. But without organizational resiliency, you won’t have a business when a crisis strikes.
About the Author: Andrew Owlett is a strategy, risk management, and resilience professional with over 13 years of private and public sector experience, most of which with CXO clients. He can be reached at Andrew.Owlett@gmail.com and on LinkedIn.