Resilience is about how you deal with crisis, stress and change. It is critical to long term success -whether it is as an individual or as an organisation – because whether you like it or not, crisis, stress and change are inevitable. How do you plan to survive – and even thrive – under these conditions?
The quality of the outcome to such events depends on the strategies you employ, often based upon the type of business you think that have:
- A robust business is one that sees itself as ‘strong’ and able to push through any crisis or change, believing that it can weather the storm and come out strong on the other side.
- A resilient business is one that sees itself as being flexible and adapting to change. It has a clear belief that its resilience comes from moulding what it does to the circumstances and to serving its clearly defined purpose.
What type of business do you have?
Too many organisations I work with would say that they are resilient. However, when you scratch the surface, it’s clear they are anything but.
Inside these organisations you may hear executives make statements like:
- “It couldn’t happen to us”
- “We’ll be right. We are the market leader”
- “We could deal with that”
- “We shape the market”
- “The market will correct”
These reflect a fundamental belief that the organisation is robust (regardless of what it says in its press releases).
Consider some global examples of organisations exposed to stress, crisis or change: Enron, General Motors, and even Apple (pre the second coming of Steve Jobs). All three believed that they were robust, but it was this ‘belief’ which in reality made them brittle. Organisations that believe they are too big to fail will likely put that boast to the test at some point.
They believed that their size or what they did made them special. It put them in a position where they believed that they could just keep doing what they had always done, and ride out any storm.
When things began to go belly up under the pressure of internal or external crisis, or even just a subtle shift in the market, they kept doing what they had always done, expecting that they could just push through. In the end they learned the hard way that they were really just brittle. It took massive, disruptive transformation after they had been impacted to turn them around.
True resilience is a different thing. It is based on a purpose-driven philosophy, which is robust in serving its greater purpose, but flexible in what it does and how it does it. This means that as circumstances change, the organisation finds the best way to serve its customers or community, to adapt and change to find a valuable and profitable way to skilfully serve its market. It means preparing for change by understanding risks, planning for how they will be dealt with, and ensuring that a culture driven by adaptive behaviours is developed and rewarded.
On one hand, robustness assumes company before customer, structure before service. It is internally focussed and under stress, sends clear signals to its staff and customers that its internal power structures, processes and organisations are what matters most. It is maintaining the internal status quo which drives thinking, and creates rigidities in outward facing activities which make the organisation vulnerable.
Conversely, resilience is about serving the bigger purpose (such as the community it serves, or the particular customer experience) before serving yourself. It is based on a realisation that change and risks are real, and that coping and adaptation to things bigger than the company is the norm. It seeks to evolve to create value in changing circumstances, and have a culture and focus that makes this possible.
A resilient company has an adaptation advantage which is critical as change occurs.
Is your organisation truly resilient?
How did you create a culture of resilience in your business?