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Harold Pradal, Group Commercial Director at BSI, discusses the importance of organizational resilience, describes how its 16 inter-related elements combine into a holistic Framework, and considers how COVID-19 has brought organizational resilience into focus.

Organizational resilience is a concept which refers to an organization’s ability to anticipate, prepare for, and adapt to sudden disruption and incremental change to survive and thrive. BSI’s Organizational Resilience Framework is made up of 16 inter-related elements derived from key standards of best practice. Focus and attention to these elements will vary depending on both the context of internal and external factors – however, neglecting any one of these can leave an organization vulnerable. In its entirety, the concept of the Organizational Resilience Framework scopes what is fundamentally crucial to ensure an organization survives and thrives.

Instilling a culture of true organizational resilience requires a holistic approach and having too narrow a view and neglecting those elements which make up organizational resilience can range from detrimental to being an existential threat.

Whilst the Framework focuses on specific elements, at a more holistic level organizational resilience has three main areas of concern: operational resilience, supply chain resilience, and information resilience. The 16 specific elements are split amongst four categories: leadership, people, process and product and it is how these work together holistically that determines how successful - or resilient an organization is. Central to driving this is the role leadership plays and an awareness and understanding of the importance of the interplay between the elements becomes considerably easier to address strategic challenges.

Organizational resilience helps develop a longer-term view of the vision and purpose of the organization and prepares the way to manage the impact of challenges, establish business continuity processes, change management procedures, and enhance risk management and horizon scanning. Bringing coherence to these disciplines is essential and remains a growing issue for all organizations to consider within their essential business behaviours.

COVID-19 has presented enormous challenges for organizations across all sectors and regions. The ongoing pandemic has tested organizations’ abilities to anticipate, prepare for, respond, and adapt to an increasing number of disruptions across all aspects of their daily operations.

The impact of COVID -19 has brought organizational resilience into sharp focus because of the need to plan and react quickly.  Every organization will have its own narrative and will transition through this challenge at different speeds.  Increasing levels of uncertainty always make the task of leadership more difficult. To help make planning and decision making easier, in its latest Organizational Resilience Index, BSI looked at four key phases: survive, stabilize, rebuild and thrive.  Each phase is defined by factors that are largely outside the control of organizations but determine the operational conditions in which they are operating.

In order to survive, leaders had to take practical steps to ensure their organization could continue to operate. In some cases, they experienced large falls in revenue caused by reduced demand and had to see if support was available from government or alternative sources.

As external conditions change in light of the pandemic, organizations will adjust their plans and activities from the ‘Survive’ and ‘Stabilize’ phase to the ‘Rebuild’ and ‘Thrive’ phase. These adjustments may present opportunities that strengthen and build resilience going forward. The global crisis has exposed the shortfall and weaknesses in many organization’s resilience plans. The deep impact felt often went beyond testing whether business continuity play books were sufficient. Many lessons have been learned as leadership engaged with their colleagues, were challenged through changed processes and through adaptations of their products and services to protect their organization or contribute to the collective effort made to counter the pandemic.

The human cost has been immense both in physical and mental terms as lockdowns caused livelihoods to be disrupted or lost.  However, changes in working patterns have had the knock-on effect of people questioning and considering their work-life balance and perhaps seeking to continue with a healthier approach to how they spend their time at work, rest and play.

From an organizational perspective, the ‘next normal’ will be different from the pre-COVID-19 period as some temporary adjustments gain a more permanent footing and organizations grasp the opportunity to build back better.  Some changes have actually accelerated in response to this challenge. Online purchases have seen a significant rise as footfall on the high street has reduced.  Remote working and the use of digital technology has increased the efficiency of some organizations and translated into improvements in margin.

In homes, people have become accustomed to living in ‘bubbles’, perhaps balancing home schooling, with webinars and online meetings and many are looking forward to easing out of lockdown permanently.  Despite the heavy costs, there is room for optimism. If organizations adapt, remain flexible and stay in tune to the issues and challenges happening around them then they can be confident of recovery. Leaders need only look at ways to move forward, recognize the damage caused and look for opportunities in order to ‘build forward better’ and survive this changing landscape.

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