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This week, Charlie talks about operational resilience in today’s world and why it is important to become resilient in order to survive.

I believe right now there has never been a more important time for organisations to be resilient. The certainties of the last 10 years are shifting like sand under us. Interest rates are going up which is going to affect everyone with mortgages. In certain areas, inflation has been minimal, but it is now expected to peak at 22%. Many of us who have not experienced inflation at this level or can’t remember it from our youth, don’t quite know how to cope with or read the situation. We have war in Europe, a huge uplift in gas and energy prices, and trade with China is becoming strained and difficult, which is exacerbated by their Covid lockdowns. Many pundits are predicting that there is a serious recession on its way. Although the job market is very buoyant at the moment, the market is slowing down and in some tech companies staff are being made redundant. Throw climate change into this mix which has led to huge floods in Pakistan, and the hottest temperatures and drought in England. We are presently living in a world where resilience has never been more important and where only resilient organisations will survive.

Since 2008, the business climate has been fairly stable and so organisations haven’t needed to be that resilient. This is down to the fact there haven’t been the shocks which only resilient organisations can deal with. Operational resilience thinking, planning and preparation have been about planning for disasters or crises, where a specific event effects a particular organisation. Risk assessment has looked at unlikely events which have high impacts. Business planning has been about planning for growth in a predictable world.

I thought that as part of researching this bulletin I would look at resilience as described in ISO 22316 Security and Resilience — Organisational Resilience — Principles and Attributes. In Section 5 ‘Attributes for Organisational Resilience’, they describe nine ‘common attributes’ which make up organisational resilience. The nine attributes are:

1. Shared vision and clarity of purpose – “Organisational resilience is enhanced by a clearly articulated and understood purpose, vision and values to provide clarity to decision making at all levels of the organisation”.

2. Understanding and influencing context – “A comprehensive understanding of the organisation’s internal and external environments will help the organisation make more effective strategic decisions about the priorities for resilience”.

3. Effective and empowered leadership – “Organisational resilience is enhanced by leadership that develops and encourages others to lead under a range of conditions and circumstances, including during periods of uncertainty and disruptions”.

4. A culture supportive of organisational resilience – “A culture that is supportive of organisational resilience demonstrates a commitment to, and the existence of, shared beliefs and values, positive attitudes and behaviour”.

5. Shared information and knowledge – “Organisational resilience is enhanced when knowledge is widely shared where appropriate and applied. Learning from experience and learning from each other is encouraged”.

6. Availability of resources – “The organisation should develop and allocate resources, such as people, premises, technology, finance and information, to address vulnerabilities, providing the ability to adapt to changing circumstances”.

7. Development and coordination of management disciplines – “The design, development and coordination of management disciplines and their alignment with the organisation’s strategic objectives are fundamental to enhancing organisational resilience”.

8. Supporting continual improvement – “Organisational resilience is improved when organisations continually monitor their performance against pre-determined criteria to learn and improve from experience and take advantage of opportunities. Organisations create and encourage a culture of continual improvement across all employees”.

9. Ability to anticipate and manage change – “Organisational resilience is enhanced when an organisation has the ability to anticipate, plan, and respond to change”.

What I find interesting about this list is that all these activities are business management activities and are likely to be initiated by top management. These activities do not need a resilience professional to implement them or to tell senior managers how to implement them. In this very volatile world, the importance of the resilience professional is much diminished as the organisation is in constant flux, and so it requires a management effort to respond rather than a resilience professional with their plans and procedures.

So, my conclusion for operational resilience is that as the environment in which organisations operate in becomes more volatile, the importance of the resilience professional diminishes. This is because becoming and remaining a resilient organisation is conducted by those who manage the organisation, in line with the resilience attributes above, and not by the planning and guidance of a resilience professional.

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