What is Resiliency?

Continual Improvement“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” – Nelson Mandela

Resilience is the capacity to withstand stress and catastrophe.  The ability to bounce back quickly with minimal losses after experiencing a crisis is the golden ring that businesses want to grab, yet for many, understanding what makes some organizations more resilient than others remains a mystery.

To better understand how a business can grow more resilient, it is helpful to look at what makes an individual resilient. Victor Frankl, an Austrian psychologist and holocaust survivor, was one of the first and most famous to write about personal resilience.In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl wrote about his ordeal in the concentration camps and asked himself why some prisoners survived-given the chance to survive-and others did not. He determined that the survivors had developed reasons to live that helped them retain hope for the future.

Resilience, whether at the personal or business level, is deliberate.  For many who recognize its criticality and are lifted by the wellspring it generates, resilience is not optional.  Instead, it becomes a necessary trait to both survive and thrive.

Business Resilience

“Smart organizations practice crisis management equally in good and bad times. As a result, they experience substantially fewer crises and are substantially more profitable.”- I. I. Mitroff, “From my perspective:  Lessons from 9/11: Are companies better prepared today?”,Technological

Forecasting and Social Change, 2005. 

What makes a business resilient is a relatively new area of study that focuses on what characteristics make businesses survive and thrive despite disaster.  Business resilience is a multidimensional attribute that draws off of social, organizational, and technological factors.

Receiving a lot of attention in the literature about business resiliency is a company’s ability to adapt.  Resilience engineers have identified two types of adaptive capacity.  The first type is displayed when company’s respond or bounce back using existing planning and practices.  Examples of this are business continuity planning and risk management.  The second type is displayed when company’s develop new capabilities to respond to dynamic situations that are outside of their control.[1]  The auto industry provides an example of this second type as they respond to projected scarcer resources in the future.  Many automakers are investing in the car-sharing business in a disrupt-before-being-disrupted strategy.

Business resilience is important not only because it can provide a competitive advantage, but also because it is interdependent with community resilience.  Without critical services provided by organizations such as food producers, healthcare, power, water, sanitation, and transport, communities cannot respond or recover.

With increasing frequency, public discussions on business resiliency migrate to climate change and how businesses will survive and thrive in a hotter, more volatile environment.  Climate change resiliency includes emphasis on storm preparedness; decoupling business mission with the availability of raw materials; reducing reliance on hydrocarbon energy, agricultural products, metals and water; reducing emissions and waste; having plans to move operations to alternate facilities; incorporating climate change-conscious behaviors in all areas of the company including transportation and postconsumer product recycling and reuse; and requiring suppliers to act similarly.[2]

Businesses know, or should know, that what has worked in the past is not expected to work in the future.  The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions reports that companies who rely heavily on existing enterprise risk management approaches may underestimate climate change risks.  For those companies that have well-established business continuity and risk management programs, adjustments to these programs will be necessary.

Why Collaborate with Gradient Planning?

Gradient Planning is uniquely qualified to address these challenges.  Our seasoned risk engineers provide a proven approach to crisis management planning, incident management planning, emergency response procedures, business continuity planning, emergency exercises, and vulnerability assessments.  These services are known to increase an organization’s resiliency.  For more information, go to www.gradientplanning.com.

[1] Lee, Amy V.; Vargo, John; and Seville, Erica.  Developing a Tool to Measure and Compare Organizations’ Resilience.  Natural Hazards Review, American Society of Civil Engineers, February 2013, p. 29.

[2] Lowitt, Eric.  How to Survive Climate Change and Still Run a Thriving Business.  Harvard Business Review, April 2014, p. 88-91.