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Robin Gaddum believes that the real opportunity for resilience is to bridge the gap between risk management and performance improvement. In this article Robin explains why this is the case…

Over the last decade the term resilience has permeated the world of business and management. Of course, different professions have talked about resilience for much longer, for example personal resilience in the field of psychology and resilience in computer systems or networks.  Over the last decade business resilience has emerged, promoted by business continuity professionals like me as the next evolutionary step forwards for the business continuity profession.  

Like many new ideas, different groups have got hold of resilience, not least the business development functions of management consultancy firms. As a result resilience has been hyped just like other new ideas, like cloud and big data. The problem is, nobody has really nailed what resilience means in the world of business and management.  No one person has the answer and, like scientific research, as a collective our understanding creeps forwards as those pioneering in the field try to figure it out and communicate it to the rest of us.  

Defining resilience

This is where guidance standards may be helpful. I've been privileged to serve on the BSI standards committee for continuity and resilience for a number of years now.  I'm generally not a fan of committees but this is a good one, populated by experienced industry professionals and with broad stakeholder community representation.  I was involved in the development of BS 65000:2014 - Guidance on Organizational Resilience, which has helped move our understanding of Resilience forwards.  The definition of Organizational Resilience in BS 65000:2014 is the ‘ability of an organization to anticipate, prepare for, and respond and adapt to incremental change and sudden disruptions in order to survive and prosper.’

Of course, the field of Organizational Resilience is still evolving and in writing BS 65000:2014 those of us involved were the first to admit that it contributes to the evolving field, perhaps like a foundation on which we can build.  Currently, an international standard on organizational resilience is in draft, although still some way off publication.  Standards seek to codify good practice and hence typically lag behind the leading practice curve.  

The missing link

So, what's missing?  In my opinion, we have not yet made the resilience link between downside risk mitigation and upside opportunity exploitation. In the definition above, the word adapt is too easily missed.

The real opportunity for resilience is to bridge the gap between risk management and performance improvement.  Establishing a clear link showing how resilience demonstrably aids in the achievement of an organization's strategic objectives will secure senior executive sponsorship.  I've sought to illustrate this pictorially in the image below, which is hopefully self-explanatory:

There are three numbered points on the image that I will explain:

1. A collaborative, self-critical, risk-aware and opportunity - seeking culture embedded in the organization’s values provides the foundation for resilience.

2. Capabilities and capacity establish the organization’s resilience to disruptive events.

3. Change towards the desired future state relies on projects and programmes that leverage the organization’s values and its knowledge of its capabilities and capacity.

Of course, this diagram is my attempt to add to the debate, based on something I've used that has worked for me.  It may not be perfect and it'd be great to gather suggestions for improvement. Then we can move our collective understanding of Resilience another step forwards.

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The author

Robin Gaddum is currently Associate Partner, Resilience at IBM. This article was first published by Robin on LinkedIn Pulse. Robin can be contacted at

The author reserves all copyright rights for this article.

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