So far the 21st century has given us plenty of challenges. We have faced unthinkable disaster events; been hit by extreme weather events; swept away by floods; and impacted by interruptions of critical resources. If these wake-up calls have done anything, they have sobered us. In lockstep with the tumultuous events that shape our young century, scientists and economists studying climate change tell us that these events are preparing us for what is yet to come. Scientific reports tell us that these events will become more common, more surprising, and more intense.
Climate change, with its predictions of sea level rise, changing weather patterns, more frequent severe weather events, and lasting changes to our environment, has started to sweep its way across our century with unstoppable force. According to Dr. Steven Goldman from the Disaster Recovery Journal, the number of climate-related disasters from 2000 to 2009 was three times higher than the number from 1980 to 1989. These events are tremendously expensive too. In its Global Risks report for 2014, the World Economic Forum (WEF) ranked extreme weather events – such as floods, storms and fires – at 6 in its top 10. In 2012 alone, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center reports 11 climate and weather disaster events declared in the United States, each with losses exceeding $1 billion in damage.
For those organizations that have already been touched by one or more of these events, the experience has charged them to take a critical look at their risk management and preparedness and adopt a more serious approach. In those organizations that have enjoyed a relatively benign experience of climate change so far, there is a sense of complacency. For them to build their resilience in the 21st century, they must first tackle through layers of denial and learn from their peers who have not been so fortunate.
For those organizations that hear the call to become more resilient, here is a brief roadmap to help point you in the direction you are headed.
Commit to Grow More Resilient
Make a commitment that your organization must be able to withstand the forces of climate change and bounce back quickly when disaster strikes. Pledge to build resiliency more and more every year. Climate change affects everyone, not just those who have been affected by it already. Adopt a can-do, must-do, will-do attitude to begin gathering support to integrate resilience into your business model in all departments and at all levels in your organization as appropriate.
Invite Your Vulnerabilities to the Table
Every organization has vulnerabilities. Some tend to be more hidden, like aging critical equipment or poor financial health of the business. While some are more widely discussed, like a migration to a new software system that is critical to business operations. Whatever vulnerabilities they are, welcome them to the table for dialogue with your colleagues. In his book, Great By Choice, New York Times best-selling author, Jim Collins, calls this process “productive paranoia.”
Make no mistake, this step requires true grit. After all, your organization’s vulnerabilities are real and can bring up unpleasant feelings, particularly the least-discussed and most-critical ones. But if they are not examined, they will continue to have real power in determining your organization’s future. It is through this examination, that your organization begins to address its vulnerabilities and ideas shift into action.
Plan to Thrive
First, organizations must identify and accept their risks that affect life safety, property protection, business continuity, and reputation. A business leader in denial about what can happen is the biggest barrier to their organization’s resilience. Once your organization has cleared the hurdle of denial, the following list of objectives should be part of your strategy:
- Identify what risks your organization has the control to change, and what risks are out of your control entirely. Consider long- and short-term goals;
- Even with limited resources, make investments in smart, effective protections for your organization to mitigate the risk where it can be mitigated;
- Create and maintain a plan to prepare for, respond to, and recover from those risks than cannot be mitigated;
- Modify and expand strategies as your organization learns more about the risks you face; and
- Test pilot projects that can be scaled up over time as part of your long-range risk mitigation plan.
If you would like to find out more about how your organization can build its resilience in the “new normal” of the 21st century, please go to www.gradientplanning.com.