By Patrick Gallen, Partner, People and Change Consulting, Grant Thornton Ireland

Patrick Gallen
Patrick Gallen

I participated in an excellent webinar on Organisational Resilience and Readiness, with the Roffey Park Institute, on Monday 7 December. We were joined by guest speakers around the world including Dr Robert Coles, the Chief Executive of Roffey Park.

What impacted me most about the discussion was the strong focus on how organisations need to bounce back very quickly as they recover from the pandemic and strive for survival and hopefully growth in 2021.

Resilience is the capability of organisations to prevent (not sure if that was possible with COVID?) and respond effectively to crises and the ability to anticipate, adapt to and take advantage of long-term trends, challenges and opportunities.

A key component is about leading and responding through challenge. In today’s world, where change and disruption are constant, simply bouncing back is no longer a sustainable strategy. It’s about moving from a survive to a strive mode.

I see resilience not only at an organisational level, but also at a team and an individual level.  How we speak about resilience at an organisational level will influence at the individual level how a person perceives what resilience is and is not.

So what can we learn about organisational resilience from our experience in 2020? The first key thing is that as well as responding quickly, organisations must be thinking about and take advantage of short to long-term trends.

This was certainly the case with perfume and drinks companies switching production to hand sanitisers and lots of organisations, including our very own Bloc Blinds and Crossen Engineering (to name but a few) switching to the manufacture of PPE.

True organisational resilience is about having it on a continual basis. Roffey Park’s research in this field talks about organisational resilience needing to be dynamic and contextual because it changes and can be eroded over time, if not nourished and attended to.

You only need to think of the Nokia phone and the Kodak camera to be reminded of how quickly things can change. So in fact organisational resilience has to not only cover operational aspects, it is very much about having that resilience at a strategic level as well.

There are a number of important traits that nourish and sustain resilience at an organisational level. The first might seem surprising, but it’s often down to what are the core purpose and values. An organisation’s resilience isn’t simply the sum of its employees’ resilience. It includes culture, leadership, beliefs, and practices.

Leadership needs to be shared across the organisation at all levels, with excellent communication and collaboration, avoiding silos and empowering employees to make quick and informed decisions.

As we come to the end of 2020 and reflect on the last 12 months, it is important to reflect on your organisation’s resilience beyond just financial stability. Learning from new and difficult experiences builds on your ability to navigate the next difficult experience.