This project talks about what is required of an organisation to keep itself flexible in times of a major mishap that occurs within or outside company premises. Mishaps could be anything that could be considered dangerous to the company's improvement or towards the goal of succeeding in its work. We are living in a turbulent age and in this fast moving world it is of major importance that
organisations are ready to fight against and become flexible, to avoid any sort of threat that could harm the organisation (Valikangas et al., 2003).
There are many forms of resilience. One could be the ecosystem resilience where it is the capacity of an ecosystem to experience shocks or disturbances while retaining the same basic identity. (Govt, V. 2008) Social resilience is the ability of human communities to withstand and recover from stresses, such as environmental change, economic or political disturbance. In psychological terms, resilience refers to the ability of an individual to both endure and bounce back from strain. A very similar description is used to describe resilient organisations. A resilient organisation is a system that has the ability to both endure and bounce back from strain. (Storeth et al., 2010) The more resilient an organisation is, the greater the shock it is able to suffer. The idea of resilience lies in understanding what the most important risks are, and how best to manage them without finding the need to invest in everything.
The ability of an organisation to not just be able to cope and rebound, but in turn, is better positioned than other competitors and gaining advantage from disruptions (Sheffi, 2005). Resilience admits the inability to identify all possible threats and instead it gives methods and tools to manage safety and productivity. It may seem that the ability to adapt has features that every organisation would want but doing so is very difficult and complex. (Wreathall)
The aim of the project is to develop guidelines for an organisation to become resilient. Similar studies were carried out on resilience based on varied topics of an organization. These studies included various departments in an organisation. Studies also included various events. Study on events related to earthquakes, studies on events related to terrorist attacks, similarly on internal disruptions within the organisations. In general, they were events considering any sought of event that could disrupt the organisation and make it collapse in front of its competitors. However each of these studies was an analysis of a single field. After comparison of each of these fields, a generalised guideline for an organisation is put forward.
The literature is mainly library books and online journals. Based on the literature available, the comparison will be made and will follow through to come up with a set of guidelines.
There are limitations though to the guidelines as they are much generalised and do not cover one specific topic or topic related to one specific event for e.g. a terrorist attack or an earthquake. Another limitation with the project is when saying guidelines, these guidelines are much generalised and does not consider any specific type of organization for e.g. a manufacturing or a consultant organisation. So this should be taken into account when going through the paper.
General Guidelines for an organisation to turn Resilient
The manager and his staff are the heart and soul of the organisation. In order for resilience to grow within an organisation, manager is given highest preference as he guides his staff towards resilience. Second to the manager come the staffs that without them the organisation wouldn't be complete. Hence manager and staff are given most importance. Now resilience cannot work alone unless agility is there in the organisation. It is the combination of agility and resilience that forms a resilient organisation. Rest of the objectives that are shown in the figure, need to be put into effect, if an organisation need to be resilient. This can only happen with active and agile participation of managers and his staff. Note that these objectives are not a step by step process but is a continuous process which needs to be carried out year in and year out.
Framework for an organisation
Figure : Framework for an Organisation
In order to adapt quicker agility is a necessity for every organisation. If agile, organisations perform better and move quicker to avoid collisions and identify opportunities sooner. To enhance agility, managements are now trying to destroy cultural barriers that obstruct the flow of work, people and resources. This means trying other faster methods like joint ventures and outsourcing.
A test by (McCann et al., 2009) showed that agility and resiliency have positive correlations. An organisation that faces a strong turbulence will find it difficult in competing and so will lose its profit. But if agile and resilient at the same time the impact is lower. This is because 'agility' has a strong relationship with competitiveness by effective sense making and quick and fast actions to take advantage of opportunities and 'resiliency' helps by minimizing the effect of turbulence that impact the organisation. So agility cannot just be followed without investing in resiliency. In many organisations agility and resilience are already present but they need to be found and improved wherever necessary to enhance their strategy.
Leading an organisation is not easy but good leadership is often shown as something that is exciting and one where you inspire others to follow you. The problem with being a leader is that, it can take you out of business as well. Leaders in top positions most often pay the price for a strategy that has gone bad or because of bad decisions. These are high risks that one faces whenever one tries to lead an organisation during difficult but necessary change. (Heifetz and Linsky, 2002)
A manager's effect on an employee is visible in the organisations output. Being physically present in the organisation makes employees believe management cares and is more trustworthy when they are seen in person (McDargh, 2008). A manager can be resilient by helping his employees see possibilities, by initiating some actions. Actions that make employees recognize something as valuable forward progress. A good manager needs to understand the reason behind what is being said, to ask the right kinds of questions and get the best understanding and hence developing a relationship with the staff member.
So an organisation if populated properly with the right people and dealt with properly by supporting them with good leadership, can face the changing environment with ease.
A resilient organisation capable of withstanding major change is composed of resilient people. These are people who bring to their workplace strong determination, work ethic and a will to learn. Generally a typical way of hiring staff is by favouring technical competence and work experience over soft skills. What needs to be understood here is that these technical skills are either learnable or if this skill is at a higher technical level they can be easily demonstrable. What an organisation needs to be doing is, search for those soft skills among individuals. The skills determine whether the person is willing to give his full hundred percent when pressure is on. It shows whether the individual is able to cooperate with his colleagues and meet the goal without thinking of his own personal gain. They are individuals that do what needs to be done regardless of whether it's within their job description and are ready to adapt to rapidly changing environment, taking on new and challenging responsibilities. So an organisation needs to select people with these characteristics and this can be done by interviewing the candidates in a way that reveals the real skills of the person.
There is a process of getting a particular balance somewhere between danger and being overly protective. This middle part can be called off as risk management. A common phrase quite often used is, there is a risk of putting all eggs in a single basket, but there is also a limit on the number of baskets one can use. So here there is a cost-benefit calculation and a risk benefit calculation that needs to be made. Transformation needs to be forethought with careful attention to the risks and requirements. (Ross, 2008)
By knowing the reach and range of a risk, organisation will have an understanding of how much attention will be needed with regard to that risk. Accurate understanding is needed of how much the organisations business operations and value chain can be impacted by an event. Because without proper understanding of the reach and range of the risk, it could turn out to be the primary reason organisations fail to successfully reduce the risk. Also risks could be in terms of their partner that is the organisation is vulnerable to risk when its partners are vulnerable and exposed to risk.
Figure : IBM resilience maturity assessment framework
An organisation is very complex and so it needs to be broken down into multiple layers so that they can be viewed separately and therefore become easier to reduce risk. IBM (2007) has come out with a framework which it calls the IBM resilience maturity assessment framework where it breakdowns an organisation into six units which include strategy, organisation, processes, applications and data, technology and facilities. After an analysis of the risk within each layer of the framework it helps the organisation to understand the current state of its surroundings and enables it to move to the second step. The second step is determining what the future state would need to look like for the organisation in order to reduce its identified risks.
Alliances and partnerships
During times of change and uncertainty, strengthening and broadening communication networks is very important and helps the organisation when its worst hit. There will be two types of alliances going to be explained.
Alliances within the organisation and
Alliances with other organisations.
Employees who know vital information and expertise are normally down the hierarchy. So because of chain of command, decision making slows down the process of information gathering and pushes the decision point away from the people with the best information. So a strategy must be implemented broaden communication networks so that decision points can be further push down the line.
Maintaining a strong and rigid relationship with service vendors can help speed up the recovery process. These vendor contacts can work to make sure priority replacement of equipments, computers servers and networks that are critical in the event of a disaster are ready in the time of need. This alliance is mainly important for small and medium-sized organisations' which lack the resources unlike larger companies that can get resources faster during an emergency.
A very important aspect in a resilient organisation is there is constant role playing now and again. The manager and staff put in different scenarios and role play what could be the possible move to avoid the risk. It could be scenarios from the past or making up something of one's own thinking and even considering scenarios what other organisations have gone through. Creating scenes that would give out a range of responses to challenge the scenario. A good idea would be exploring options. Asking the company what would happen if everything blew up and had to start fresh. With this question everything is answered from the practical to the impractical. All these need to be done by continuous conversations and meetings and not over an email. (Mc Dargh, 2008)
The problem though with scenario planning is employees execute the plan, but not keeping in mind the safety and security of their families. This is because the organisation failed to take into consideration that the people they relied on could also be victims of the disaster and so a lack of personal preparedness by the staff would lessen the employee availability. (Lewis, 2008)
Learn from failed plans
During and after a major event occurs within the organisation, the first steps are normally taken to rectify the cause. These are generally the removal of the CEO. This resignation of top leaders of the organisation leads to a change of focus from what needs to be done, that is correcting the cause of the accident and trying to improve safety in the organisation where instead individuals are trying to position themselves for those top posts in the new hierarchy. By the end safety receives less attention and becomes less of a priority than it deserves. (Skriver, J)
In some cases organisations try to avoid the result of the accident investigations since it points fingers to the top leaders and avoid the failings of the system as a whole. They also try to avoid the information being available externally in the public. Hence no learning takes place due to confrontation of mass media criticism. So investigation of accident is important in order to learn from what happened and focus should be on accident prevention rather than presenting a detailed description of an accident sequence and its root causes.
Set of Guidelines
The following is a final set of guidelines:
A manager should be physically present in the organisation.
Manager should encourage and initiate innovation among employees.
He should understand the reason behind what is being said by his staff members.
The manager should acknowledge small wins and push the employees towards bigger goals.
Employees should be selected on the basis of soft skills.
The organization should practice career resiliency.
Every organisation should have a risk mitigation strategy which must be revisited and revised every time.
The organisation should have a representation or a method to understand risk or even a probability calculation.
The organisation should know the different areas where risks could impact the organisation.
The system should have a plan for ensuring communication for support, mobilization of staff, suppliers etc
It should have a proper infrastructure to deal with power failures, transportation problems and logistics disruption.
It should make sure its partners and suppliers are not vulnerable to risk.
It should have sufficient amount of resources in case of an event.
The organisation should broaden communication networks so that decision points can be further pushed down the line.
It should maintain relationships with vendor contacts to speed up the recovery process.
The organisation should come up with different scenarios and role-play each of them.
It can role play scenarios that other organisations' have gone through during an event.
It should maintain standardized facilities in its every branch.
After a major event occurs, focus should be on learning the event.
Being resilient is something that every organisation strives for in the 21st century. Top managers realise the importance of it and try to implement it within their organisation. This happens with only practice. The final set of guidelines put forth is a good start for any organisation in the bid to turn resilient in this fast changing environment.
Recommendation for Future Work
The final set of guidelines can be practiced in an organization.The outcomes of the guidelines in different organisations can be written down and the change in the behaviour of the organisation, its managers and its staff can be noted from different companies. Based on this a graph could be developed and the result could be compared with different organizations that haven't enforced resilience within their organization.