In times of extreme change – as we have seen in 2020 – resilience becomes a key property of individuals, teams, and organisations that want to not only survive, but to thrive.
Resilience is often used to describe an ‘ability to cope’ – like a spring that bends under pressure that then ‘snaps back’ when the pressure is released.
As we have learned from the accelerated and amplified change of 2020 and the COVID pandemic, not everything that changes ‘snaps back’ – which means that the change pressure doesn’t go away, it remains in place and may even get greater.
Consider your business circumstance through the pandemic, and in particular what has changed for your customers:
- What changes have occurred that will now remain as the new ‘normal’?
- What changes occurred that will ‘snap back’ to the way they were when the change pressure is removed?
- What changes have been started that will go even further now they have begun?
By answering these three questions it becomes clear that simply resisting change and waiting for everything to snap back is not a path to success. Resilience has to mean so much more than this.
Resilience therefore is not just tolerating change pressure. Instead, we could define resilience as the capacity to generate valuable responses to all types of change pressure as they are encountered.
Whilst 2020 can be seen as an amplification and an acceleration of change pressures on your business, your teams, your leaders and your staff, change is a constant in any complex ecosystem. What you learn about your inherent capacity to positively adapt in this time can serve as a powerful success tool as the rate of change reverts to (perhaps) more ‘normal’ levels.
The capacity to positively respond
If the change pressure is transient and things will snap back, then simply coping and tolerating the change pressure is indeed a valuable skill. However, if the change pressure involves things remaining changed or changing even further, then this style of ‘resilience’ will not be enough. Like a spring, it will reach a point where it cannot absorb any more force and will break.
The capacity to respond to change pressure and therefore being resilient relies on a capacity and a capability to adapt. To be able to expand the capability to manage disruptive forces by increasing resilience allows the opportunity for new shocks to be readily responded to.
Figure 1: Resilience is a dynamic capacity that has to change over time.
Being resilient is build upon the potential to:
- have the opportunity to respond
- Have the skills to respond
- Have the resources to respond
Each of these can be seen at an individual, team or whole-of-organisation level.
Opportunity to respond: When people are focused on tasks to the point that they are at full capacity with tactical delivery, they become so focused on delivering what they have to that they have no opportunity in which to do anything else. They have a list of KPIs that they must meet to be judged as a performer. Having people fully utilised seems like the perfect use of resource (and, from a LEAN perspective, it probably is) -however at times of increased change pressure there is no opportunity to address the issues generated by the change or to innovate better ways of coping. Their KPIs and the cultural frame of being ‘busy’ stops people attempting to solve problems rather than simply to continue to deliver against what they were previously assigned.
Skills to respond: Responding to change in an organisation requires a whole set of skills that are not usually required in day to day operations. managing in uncertainty, creating options, prioritising, being OK with failure, experimentation, networking, communication, understanding trends and their implications are all skills that aid a positive response to change pressure. These are often devalued and not encouraged in businesses that have established processes and routines. Staff are not encouraged to develop skills of thinking, challenging and inventing, only following direction and completing. Unless you actively build these skills and encourage their use in your leaders, you teams and your whole staff, then the likelihood is that the status quo will act as a major dampener on any positive response to change.
Resources to change: People need the resources with which to experiment with. Not every first response will be perfect, and at times of change people should be actively encouraged to use resources in ‘experiments and explorations’ that allow the possibility of an innovation to emerge. Innovation is imprecise and messy. Unless people have the resources they need to support the application of adaptive skills, then a positive response to change is less likely.
Being resilient is more than just a personal trait. It is a considered capacity built on the combination of opportunity, skills and resources supported by an adaptive culture that will allow your business to not only survive times of change, but to respond in ways that set you up for sustained success.
Questions for reflection:
- How are you building ‘resilience’ into your you business and its culture?
- How will you choose to respond to the change pressures that will not just ‘snap back’?
Find out how maximise your capacity to be resilient and to empower adaptive change by contacting me now.