20 Mar

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Kids love making a house of cards when they play, it is one their favorite games, especially on weekends and holidays when it is raining. It lifts their spirit and puts them in a good mood. However, the day-to-day professional life of grown-ups demonstrates that building a house of cards is one of their favorite games too. Some companies set up their organizations on shaky grounds and build structures that can meet sunny days head-on. Consequently, when a storm is approaching in form of a crisis, some companies collapse like a house of cards. This is as good a reason as any to put up a solid building. It is important to enhance on the resilience and innovative abilities of your own organization. The “construction plan” behind this is called Organizational Resilience.

Airports from London to Frankfurt in May 2017: British Airways is struggling against delays and flight cancellations because of an IT problem. A power failure is the cause of the malfunctions. The thousands of passengers stranded at the airports around the globe most probably can care less what has caused the chaos. But the cause does matter to those in charge of the British airline. There will be law-suits, claims for damages and a substantial blow to the airline’s image. Even if, or above all when, the failure was caused by a service provider, there was obviously no functioning Business Continuity Management (BCM) in place let alone tests that were conducted in advance on the resilience of the organization. “Organizational Resilience” is no longer such a new catchphrase. Webster defines Resilience as the general “ability to withstand difficult life situations without persistent damages” – the quality of quickly returning to a previous good condition after problems. If we convey that over to organizations, it would mean changes that occur suddenly – meaning crises and opportunities – can be intercepted and handled in advance. The malfunctions comprise a wide-ranging spectrum from an average outage in a company to a far-reaching crisis such as the power failure mentioned above. The fact that a power failure can lead to such a fiasco is quite irritating. Because clear rules, regulations and standards are not only meant to apply to air traffic and aviation industry. Other businesses, whether they are part of the aviation industry or a different sector, should also pay attention to their own resilience and work toward its improvement. Moreover, they should not do this only to avoid financial consequences and damages to their reputation. Since the lives of employees and customers, and their security might be at stake in many ways.

Various risks that see the organization as a whole

We live in a digital and tightly interlinked economic world, a setting that makes businesses vulnerable. This vulnerability can be caused by cyberattacks and sabotage, natural disasters, downtimes at the suppliers’ as well as geopolitical hazards. The weaknesses, gateways and risks are diverse and apply to many sectors. Therefore, organizations have no other choice but to gear up for potential malfunctions. However, the path that takes an organization away from handling isolated factors of interference and over to genuine resilience is not an easy path to tread. Because resilience is not the same as “surviving” a malfunction or a critical situation. It has a lot more to do with having an organization resort to means, tools and methods that would help it steer the business in turbulent times through countless changes, still allowing the business to grow. To accomplish that, a business should not only take factors like culture and raising awareness into account, but also really “technical” elements, like Business Impact Analyses and Risk Analyses are important factors to be considered, so those in charge can see the business as a whole and cultivate the skill to connect the dots.
In this context it is useful to spot the weaknesses of an organization by way of early-warning systems, and to include them in the overall planning. Most negative and positive interferences in a business are preceded by so-called precursors.

We can see this in the current technological conversion to digitalized processes and workflows, which means a structural transformation and change in values for many businesses. That is why we accompany these businesses with advice and derive the necessary forecasts for them. Such approach gives businesses and their top management a clear idea on the cause and effect correlations for their own organization. That way, a business can continue to enhance the resilience of their organization by way of selective and long-term improvements. And that is very important in today’s fast-paced digital age.
Decision makers up front, staff involved close behind

The management of a business has to bear the responsibility for every measure taken to achieve more resilience in their own organization. This simply means: Organizational Resilience begins in the minds of the decision makers. Not least because the monitoring duties and due diligence of the company’s management are among explicit tasks of the senior management. This extremely important interface between the top management and staff is about demonstrating that senior management sets a good example. Decision makers have to be the ones that initiate the process towards “Organizational Resilience”, who set the tone and actively accompany the subject. They should also be the ones who at least know the proper “toolbox”. Among the skills that the management has to exhibit are above all the ability to make clear decisions, set priorities and establish the company’s appetite for risks but also its risk bearing capacity.

The staff, in turn, has to be incorporated in this process closely and at the earliest stage possible. One of the decisive factors in this process is transparency. When it comes to “Organizational Resilience”, the world of standards simply says, “Be informed”. It is therefore indispensable for managers and everybody else involved to acquire the necessary information and to evaluate it together whenever necessary.
This also boosts the cultural aspects such as the “sense of unity”. And this is where the senior management comes in, who has to initiate and accompany this entire process transparently. For them it is basically about watching carefully and frequently scrutinizing their own actions, and asking the right questions: Is this the right strategy, and is the company’s course of actions the correct one for the digital challenges of our time? Is there any potential for improvement, and if yes, where? Does our organization learn from mistakes, and if yes, how? At what points should we get the staff fully on board? And will the staff understand the company’s line of approach and our strategic orientation? All the employees will get the necessary toolbox in between regular information events and training measures, which will enable them to contribute to progress in a solid and crisis-proof business. This is the way an organization can withstand a run of bad weather and will not crumble like a house of cards.

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Original contribution by Uwe Rühl for 3GRC.

Origin of photo material: Fotolia – Robert Kneschke

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