Resilience in organizations

I read a fascinating article from the Harvard Business Review written by Diane L. Coutu “How resilience works”.  I am very curious to understand its mechanisms as well as its possible replication.

Resilience is “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness”(Oxford, 2014). A person or an organization can be resilient. Any person or organization desires to be resilient and to recover quickly from difficult times. Unfortunately, we are not equally equipped with it. Some theories imply that genetics is the base of resilience but empiric studies showed that resilience can be learned.
In her article Diane L. Coutu highlighted three characteristics of resilience.
  1. Facing Down Reality:  A resilient person realizes the situation he is in and accept some hard facts. 
  2. Search for Meaning: Resilient people have a belief that life is meaningful and they will look for meaningfulness in the hardship.
  3. Ritualized Ingenuity: A resilient person is like Mac Giver and finds innovative ways to face new issues while having rituals on which he can lean on when an unexpected event occurs.

In my opinion resilience is a fundamental basis for organizations growth, and sometimes survival. If we look at those three characteristics we can implements strategies inside an organization to make it more resilient and able to face difficult times.
  • Get accurate information on your organization state.

The organization needs to have a clear view of its situation. Using a SWOT & PESTEL approach is one way to have a generic idea of your current situation. In a perfect world, this analysis will take place as often as possible. The most important is to determine alerts or red lights that should catch your attention and tell you to look closer at your situation. An example of red light can be the evolution of the sales of your shops. The CEO and managers of an organization have most of the time a lists of red lights to determine their position.
  • Develop a vision or an ideal state

The existence of a vision is a key for a resilient organization. The creation of a vision is very important and can be difficult. The vision of an organization is what we could define as an ideal that an organization wants to achieve. For example, Deloitte vision is to be the standard of excellence. Their vision is to become the standard in consulting by excellence. What is your organization vision? What is the meaning of your organization? The question of organizational vision is not only discussed in the theory of resilience, which highlights its importance.
  • Create rituals (programs, procedures…) to support your employees and anticipate possible issues

In order to function correctly in bad times an organization should have rituals. The rituals can be a procedure that employees follow to do their job, a monthly email to celebrate accomplishment, an event that allows people to reconnect with the vision of the organization. Those rituals allow employees to have a common base and to find ways to reach the vision. Being innovative to achieve organizational vision should be encouraged as they will allow the organization to react when the situation is not favorable.

To conclude, in difficult time humans and organizations needs to make sure they know where they are (realistic), where they want to be (vision) and what actions they can take (rituals and creativity). I find interesting that many theories about organizations management comprehend at least one of this question or theme. The wording may be different but the ground idea is the same. There must be some fundamental knowledge to extract from those theories.

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