Is your organisation resilient?

Resilence Main PageResilience isn't just a personal trait.   Organisations have different levels of resilience too.  Some fail, some survive, while others thrive on change.  What makes a business resilient to begin with and can an organisation increase its resilience?

What is resilience?

Research around organisational resilience has focused on four key factors:

  • The level of autonomy given to individuals
  • Organisational structure and culture
  • Business leadership - particularly that of middle management
  • The relationship with external social support

Added together, these factors paint a picture of an organisation's culture. But let’s dig a little deeper. 

The power of one

Each and every organisation is made  from the sum of its parts - in other words, its people. How individuals react to challenge and change is therefore a good indicator of a businesses' tolerance towards unexpected events.  

We know that as individuals we become more resilient when given a greater degree of autonomy within our job role.  That autonomy brings with it a degree of responsibility to cope with change as well as the freedom to innovate and react.  In having overly prescriptive job descriptions and straitjacketing our employees, are we affecting our organisation's ability to deal with change?

Role models

The flip side of autonomy is the behaviour of the leadership function. Individuals naturally mirror the behaviour of their leaders.  Periods of stress and change can reveal latent leadership qualities, especially in middle and line management.  True leaders emerge from those who engage and support, heavily influencing the ability of others to cope and to be resilient to adverse events.  Their actions will inspire or demoralise others depending on how they manage their own energy and reactions; how they invest in and renew the energy of those whom they lead.

Creating the right conditions for resilience

Combined, these elements create an organisational culture, which simply put, adds up to 'the way things are done around here'. Organisations make decisions, whether they are positive or those made by omission, on the culture they envision for their business.  They have the ability to make decisions on the strategy, management systems and governance that support an attitude to risk and change. 

Essentially, businesses can choose to create the conditions which make them more resilient. They can choose to invest in the capability of the leadership function. They can choose to support and trust their employees, giving them sufficient levels of autonomy. Whichever path they take, it's bound to have far-reaching consequences.