• 10 Jul 2024
  • Vanessa Thurlwell
  • 4Min

Building a Resilient Organisation

Building a Resilient Organisation

Sun TZU, in The Art of War writes that:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

This quotation highlights the importance of understanding our organisations and the environments in which we operate.

  • Do we know our vulnerabilities?
  • Do we know our capacity and capabilities to overcome threats?
  • Do we know our strengths and the opportunities we can harness?
  • Do we have an idea how to be resilient in the face of risk?

In an era of accelerating change, we need to be resilient as organisations, communities and individuals.  Disciplines such as Risk Management (RM) and Business Continuity Management (BCM) form a key part in many organisations’ governance frameworks, but often these are done only for compliance purposes as a “tick box” exercise and very seldom provide value nor would enable resilience.   Our organisations also need to have the right culture to embed these structures and to be confident in being responsive to risks and seizing opportunities, being responsive to market changes, regulatory changes, stakeholder expectations and achieving dependable results while dealing with the expected and unexpected.

We need to know the enemy and know ourselves.  We need to understand external and internal factors which could influence the risks and opportunities that we may face. There are a wide range of resources that we can use to understand these factors that could have an influence on our organisations. In addition to organisation or industry information, media and reports, other publications can assist us.   Annually, the World Economic Forum (WEF) publishes a Global Risk Report, as well as the Institute of Risk Management and Allianz Commercial.  In our risk discussions and assessments, we need to use available information to determine areas that may influence our risk profile.  Some of the key issues highlighted by these reports include:

  • Misinformation and disinformation
  • Rapidly accelerating technological change
  • Economic uncertainty or collapse
  • Geopolitical tensions and active hostility
  • Failure of infrastructure and services
  • Record-breaking extreme weather and climate change
  • Cost of living pressures, increasing inflation and interest rates
  • Criminality and corruption
  • Unemployment
  • Energy and water supply shortages
  • Multiplicity of different futures – A polycrisis

We need not fear the result of a hundred battlesResilience is an integrating concept that allows multiple risks, shocks and stresses and their impacts to be considered together in a particular context.  Resilience is about unity and cohesion and collaboration with a common vision and desire to achieve positive outcomes.

These are some of the characteristics of resilience that we need to establish:

  • Maturity plus Culture – Maturity in risk management and our risk culture go hand in hand. A good risk culture without risk maturity will see our teams being incredibly committed, but then do not have sufficient direction, structure and support.   But, maturity without the right risk culture will see us back at ticking the boxes for compliance purposes.
  • No brushing issues under the carpet – We need to be vigilant about our organisation, its performance and potential problems and be proactive. Constant monitoring and communication and timeously reporting early warning signals enables us to manage issues.
  • ‘n Boer maak ‘n plan – Our teams need to be encouraged and rewarded for using their knowledge in creative ways to solve new and existing problems, and for utilising innovative and creative approaches to developing solutions.
  • No jumping ship – A resilient organisation protects its people and has their well-being as a priority. Emotionally stable people and strong leadership will see our employees working together for the common good. Getting the job done must be balanced with the need to protect our own families.
  • Be elastic – A resilient organisation learns, develops, grows and stretches and is then able to bounce back. Investment in our people, processes, systems, the way we operate, will show us to me more adaptive, elastic and flexible. We need to learn from our own experiences as well as those in our networks.
  • No red tape – Our teams need to have the appropriate authority to respond to crisis events, without red tape or bureaucracy to create delays. Staff need to be involved and able to make decisions and add value based on their knowledge and skills.
  • Break down the silos: We cannot be hampered by divisive social, cultural and behavioural barriers, which are most often caused by poor communication. Disjointed, disconnected and detrimental ways of working do not enable resilience. We need to work together, sometimes even in partnership with other organisations and stakeholders.

There is a road to resilience that we need to follow.  We cannot just wave a magic wand and have a fully implemented and embedded Risk Management programme that mitigates all risks and seizes all opportunities. It also does not mean that we are not going to experience difficulty or distress.

Through effective RM and BCM and a mature risk culture, we can capacitate ourselves and our organisations to be able to collaborate and discover practical and creative solutions to respond to challenges and be better able to identify and pursue new opportunities. All enabling organisational resilience.

Vanessa Thurlwell – Vanessa stands at the forefront of risk management as a Senior Risk Consultant at Mondial Business and Risk Consultants and a director of Mondial Knowledge Solutions. She is also a faculty member on the SBS-ED Risk Management Online Programme.

written by

Vanessa Thurlwell

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