Came across this video on Community Resilience today by Cultivate Ireland and thought some of you may find it of interest.
Lots of BCM managers are keen on the benefits that a resilience strategy provides but, it also seems like organisations are worried that their business continuity programme is not mature enough, so the assumption is that the organisation is not ready to think about being resilient.
Is there a good time?
Resilience does not have a beginning and an end, nor should it be thought of as an operational function of your business. Organisational resilience is a strategic mind-set and objective that you are aiming to achieve. It would be idealistic to have an effective business continuity programme before thinking about resilience, but is this task ever complete?
So to answer this question, no there is never a good time. Business continuity is an endless cycle of improvement, perhaps the right time is down to your organisation and its current position. But if your organisation holds back it resilience strategy you might be in a position where something large impacts your business and you are forced to change. It is always better to be one step ahead rather than playing catch-up.
Get your management on board, develop a strategy for resilience as an organisation, because you might have more resilience than you realise.
Perhaps 1st order adaptation using existing plans and resources doesn’t qualify as resilience
This morning I read an excellent post by Ken Simpson about a BCI lecture by Dr Robert Kay of Incept Labs.
The BCI lecture focused on providing more depth and discussion around a recent research report and introducing the idea of organisational resilience to a new audience. The research paper ‘CEO Perspectives on Organisational Resilience’ is exactly that, the result of interviews with over 50 CEOs to explore what resilience means to them, how they think about it and where it falls in their range of priorities.
In Ken’s post about other points raised by Dr Kay, he notes:
While our disruption is within the realm of the risks we have anticipated and the plans we have developed, then the core discipline of execution applies, not the step off into the realms of resilience. Adapting is what you have to do if you don’t have a plan, if the plan doesn’t work, or if you never thought about the risk/disruption that has occurred. Adapting is not following a procedure or pre-detailed plan.
So to explain what this 1st order and 2nd order are all about…
In 2008 Woods and Wreathall use the analogy of how organisations and materials cope with stress and strain to think about organisational resilience as adaptive capacity. They identify two regions, the first – the uniform response region, when an organisation copes using its existing capacity and capabilities; this is 1st order adaptive capacity and I would argue this is also the space of Business Continuity Management (BCM).
The second region, the extra region, occurs when the organisation can no longer cope using its pre-determined plans or business as usual resources, and must innovate and develop new ways of working. This is 2nd order adaptive capacity and Woods and Wreathall argue that only this emergent adaptation can be labelled as resilience.
Woods, D. D. and Wreathall, J. (2008) Stress-Strain Plots as a Basis for Assessing System Resilience. in Hollnagel, E. et al. (Eds.) Remaining Sensitive to the Possibility of Failure, Vol. 1, pp. 143-158, Padstow: Ashgate
I’ve seen several LinkedIn posts and heard many discussions where people question the difference and relationship between Business Continuity Management (BCM) and Resilience.
BCM vs. Resilience, its sounds as though Harry Hill will at any minute shout FIGHT! In fact BCM and resilience are not in competition of at odds, they are inextricably linked.
Business continuity is to resilience what sugar is to cake – BCM is just one ingredient. It is important however to recognise that BCM is just one of the tools which organisations can use to achieve resilience.
BCM on its own is highly operational and is concerned with how you can continue to do business. Resilience is strategic and integrates many different disciplines to avoid disruption where possible and respond adaptively and competitively before the case for change becomes desperate.
Business continuity is a process (something you do) and so it is easy to standardise. Resilience is a cultural ability or organisational aim (something you are) and so is very difficult to standardise. All organisations achieve resilience in different ways, it’s up to each organisation to find their balance between resilience and efficiency and to continuously tweak and maintain it.
My thoughts then turn to all of the BCM departments which have recently re-badged themselves as Resilience Teams. If they have all adopted a strategic focus, integrating previously disparate disciplines and are now enabling their organisations to adapt to conditions as they emerge, oscillating between pre-planned responses and adaptive innovation – I’ll be very surprised.
Just something to think about as we move through 2012 and consider whether talking the resilience talk is enough!
Stephenson Resilience will be exhibiting at Business Resilience in the Supply Chain Conference (BRiSC) 2011 on the 14th September, held at the Madejski stadium, Reading.
Aimed as a high quality, low-cost event this conference is affordable and informative. Places are still available, so jump onto http://www.brisc2011.com/ to book your place.
This years speakers include a mix from both academic and practitioners and shall be chaired by Robin Gaddum, a fellow of the BCI. So expect some interesting, relavant topics at this years conference. For further information on this years speakers see http://www.brisc2011.com/speakers.asp
If you are coming along to the conference please come and visit us at us at stand number 6.
See you there..
Many organisations want to survive the next ‘big thing’ that could impact them, and I am sure your organisation would love to emerge even stronger and more competitive than before. Knowing how well equipped your organisation is in areas such as business continuity, risk management, IT disaster recovery and emergency planning (resilience disciplines) helps to identify how your organisation’s resilience is performing. This blog post will look at how you can use the Resilience Measurement Tool to identify areas for improvement in your organisation’s resilience programme.
Knowing your organisation has achieved an excellent score with the Resilience Measurement Tool is great, but consider how useful it would be to know what your weaknesses are. Resilience is built through continuous change and improvement, through internal and external reflection. It is about being pro-active and adapting to the changing environment, not sitting comfortably knowing you are resilient. Your organisation’s environment is constantly changing, now more than ever – financially, environmentally, technologically, politically and the list goes on … being ready to flex and adapt is a key capability of a resilient organisation.
- (of a substance or object) able to recoil or spring back into shape after bending, stretching, or being compressed.
- (of a person or animal) able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions
Referring to the extract from the Oxford Dictionary above if you’re an organisation, are you a ‘substance or object’, or a ‘person or animal’. Well, you are probably neither or a combination of the both. If you are a person resilient to a disease, you probably have a good immune system, which is helped by strong cells working together in unison. If you are a man mad object, you have been designed to meet a certain specification or requirement and will demonstrate some resilience under the conditions of your design. Organisations are run and maintained by people where the goal and requirements can change over time. While we would all like to think that our organisation is akin to a fine tuned athlete, this is not always the case. We must continuously pursue the organisation’s health, otherwise we will no longer be as fit and dynamic as we once were. People in organisations do not always work naturally in unison like the cells of a human body. We must encourage the communication and processes within our organisations and ensure that resilience is not just procedural but cultural too.
Going back to the question “Do you want to know your organisation’s resilience weaknesses?” – Yes you do, even more than your strengths! Just like I mentioned above, to be an “athlete” organisation, you need to constantly check and test yourself. We recommend checking the balance of resilience in your organisation every 12-18 months by measuring your resilience, and running training and exercises across your organisation and across your supply chain, so that you can check that your resilience strategy is still aligned with your organisation’s objectives.
Discovering your organisation’s weaknesses can easily be done with the Resilience Measurement Tool. We can compare different departments and business units to identify whether they score high or low with against certain resilience capabilities. We can identify how well these capabilities have been embedded across departments and the whole organisation.
The Resilience Measurement Tool uses responses from staff across the organisation taking part in a survey, used as the ’intelligence’ for creating a custom report specific to your organisations needs. To find out more about measuring resilience click here.
Please feel free to comment or ask questions below.
Resilience is a yound field and is difficult to define…
Yes yes, every paper I read starts with the same sentiment. Sometimes they add a bit of the story of the evlolution of resilience, but after what must now be about 8-10 years of organisational resilience research, haven’t we moved on from that yet?
It seems like we are going around in circles because despite all of the definitions and approaches to resilience that have been published, even based on empirical research, none has been widely accepted or adopted. Although many important papers have been published which discuss examples of resilience, we are still scrabbling to find the seminal paper which will set out and define the basic theory of organisational resilience, which all others will acknowledge.
But where does this leave practitioners?….it leaves them with a lot of questions and not many answers! A friend of mine who recently started reading about resilience, was convinced he was missing something. He could find lots of papers discussing what resilience is, but could not find any that would tell him how to do it. While there are a few that could contribute, I told him that what he was looking for probably didn’t exist yet.
Every academic or practitioner researching resilience seems to start from the beginning. In research, we all understand the need to go back to first principles and examine the concept at its ‘roots’ by when then, after reviewing all of the available resilience literature, why does everyone seem to reject what is already there, and try to define resilience all over again….why isn’t what’s already available good enough, and what are we looking for?
To answer this question, over the next few weeks I’ll be blogging to try and identify some criteria for a definition and theory of resilience. Armed with this criteria we should at least be able to recognise a good resilience theory and definition when it comes along, if not be able to create it ourselves. It’s important to recognise that the challenge is not to come up with a theory and definition of resilience, not at this stage, but to develop criteria that tells us what a theory and definition of resilience should include or look like.
The is a challenge for all of us, and if reading this you think you might like to volunteer to write a guest blog on how you think we could identify, recognise or define a theory and definition of organisational resilience then please email email@example.com
A few of our clients have asked about the questions in our Resilience Measurement Tool and have remarked on how it appears to measure cultural resilience very well, but may not seem to cover more operational areas.
Yes and no
Yes the Resilience Measurement Tool does measure the more cultural aspects of resilience. That is what enables us to get right to the capabilities that actually make organisations resilient, rather than just measuring the extent to which they have the right paperwork.
At the same time, each question in our tool is specifically designed to measure resilience using common every day language. While our questions appear cultural or ‘soft’ we are in fact measuring more operational areas by asking about peoples’ actual experience of these areas. It’s the difference between having a policy in place, and that policy actually being embedded into the organisation’s way of working – it’s culture.
If you’d like to understand this in more detail, feel free to contact us.
One of the questions that we sometimes get asked about resilience, is how is resilience different from disciplines like business continuity, risk management etc?
If you’ve read our other posts you’ll notice that we see resilience as an organisational goal or aim which can be acheived through integrating and balancing those other continuity, risk and crisis disciplines; however we also know that resilience is different. Resilience is an entirely new way to look at your organisation, it has a different approach, a different focus, and different assumptions.
The resilience approach
Resilient organisations approach the problem of disruption differently. They organise their thinking around the idea that there are different resilience strategies for different organisations in different situations. Organisations often assume that resilience is costly, and that it relies on creating redundancy of facilities and inventory through duplication and stock piling. Resilient organisations do not see it this way at all!
The trick is to focus not on the redundancy of materials or facilities, but rather the redundancy of capabilities.
Cavanagh, T. E., Klauber, S. and Luhrs, M. (2010) Bouncing Back: How Companies Approach Resilience. New York: The Conference Board Inc. p6
Redundant capabilities refer to the flexibility to be able to reasign, reallocate and rebalance existing resources so that they meet the needs of the emerging situation. On the face of it this sounds like nothing new, but imagine the level of adaptive capacity, flexibility, innovation and creativity required, imagine the spread and planning of capabilities that goes into providing redundant capabilities. These capabilities also play a role in day to day business, redundant capabilities not only help to manage disruption, but also help to respond more quickly and effectively to market changes – it all links to competitiveness.
Thus, a focus on resilience can improve the firm’s ability to adapt to its strategic environment at all points in the value chain.
Cavanagh, T. E., Klauber, S. and Luhrs, M. (2010) Bouncing Back: How Companies Approach Resilience. New York: The Conference Board Inc. p6
Resilience also relies not on plans and documentation, but on people, and this is because resilience takes whatever other disciplines provide in terms of planning, documentation and preparedness, and internalises it as part of the organisation’s culture. Resilience takes planning, and turns it into capabilities!
The resilience focus
Resilient organisations focus not on specific scenarios, but on impacts and outcomes. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a flood, fire, security breach, fraud etc. what’s important is how will it impact the organisation and what will the outcome be? This is the essence of creating a capabilities-based approach. Resilient organisations realise how important it is, and they focus on adaopting resilience principles such as those outlined by Weick and Sutcliffe (2007):
- Preoccupation with failure
- Reluctance to simplify
- Sensitivity to operations
- Committment to resilience
- Deference to expertise
Weick, K. E. and Sutcliffe, K. M. (2007) Managing the Unexpected: Resilient Performance in an Age of Uncertainty (2nd Ed.), San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass
The assumptions of resilience
Resilient organisations make very few assumptions, however as with any discipline, there are assumptions built into the resilience paradigm.
Assumption 1 – we want to survive and thrive
While many organisations would like to be very successful and would like to be around for many years, there are those who would rather close their doors in the event of a crisis rather than invest in being resilient. Resilience is not for everyone!
Assumption 2 – resilient people and resilient organisations are linked
The resilience of an organisation is not always linked, or necessarily determined, by the individual resilience of staff, however link is being studied more closely. As resilience researchers begin to look at the resilience of projects in complex environments and resilient teams, the resilience of individuals and it’s role in creating resilient organisations is also being investigated.
Assumption 3 – resilience can exist at different scales
We’ve mentioned that you can get resilience individuals, teams, projects and organisations, but the idea of resilience is also applied to other scales. The assumption is that any social, ecological or technical system can exhibit resilience – economies, geographic areas, ecosystems,
The day is finally here and the secret is out!….the Resilience Measurement Tool is available and you can take a sneaky peak at mini version of the tool by clicking here which will give you an idea of what the full version looks and feels like, and we’ll even send you some results!
So what is the Resilience Measurement Tool?
Ah good question…..it’s a web-based tool that enables us to measure and compare your organisation’s resilience. The idea behind the tool is very simple…
As business continuity, resilience, emergency and crisis managers we can often struggle to actually quantify how resilient our organisations are, and also to demonstrate progress or success towards becoming more resilient as a result of our efforts and investment. The Resilience Measurement Tool solves those problems for you.
The tool provides a quantitative measurement of your resilience and clearly identifies your organisation’s resilience strengths and weaknesses. We’re in the process of developing some case studies so that you can see how it works from start to finish (keep your eyes peeled for these in the near future), but you can also see an example of an organisation’s resilience results summary graph here.
In addition to measuring your organisation’s resilience, the tool can also compare it. So, say for example you decide you would like to compare resilience between your office or site in the UK, and another office or site in Switzerland – no problem, we can do that for you! You can also compare resilience between departments or business functions, parts of the organisation with different cultures (common in acquisitions and mergers) etc.
Once we have collected data on your organisation’s resilience we go away and analyse your data and present you with a full customised results report.
So how do you measure resilience then?
We asked ourselves the same thing back in 2007, and since then we have been working through the Resilient Organisations Research Programme at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand to find an answer! The Business Resilience Intelligence Tool is the result of over three years robust research, and we’re continuously working to tweak and improve it.
You can find a research report that summarises the development of the tool on our Publications page. For more information about resilience in general and to answer questions like What is resilience? click on this link.
How is this tool different?
There are a few tools around which measure business continuity or organisational preparedness to some degree, and many of them are very useful as audit tools for programme management. However the Resilience Measurement Tool provides actual data about how resilient your organisation is. Instead of focusing on whether senior managers and continuity professionals have the right intentions and documentation, it measures whether those cultural resilience values have actually been embedded across the organisation.
As many business continuity managers know, embedding plans and strategies into the organisations culture is a critical part of the business continuity lifecycle, but it is also the step which converts documents and plans into real resilience capabilities! The Resilience Measurement Tool enables you to measure, check and demonstrate that.
If you would like to discuss the tool in more detail, get to know us as a company, and find out how the tool might work at your organisation and what it could deliver, give us a ring on +44 1582 227872 or email firstname.lastname@example.org