Can Your Organisation Become Resilient in the Face of Adversity?
Understanding the resilience of a business and developing a plan for business continuity have long been ideas relegated to the ‘not immediately urgent’ pile for many organisations. The pandemic, however, has had other ideas, and this totally unpredicted spanner in the works has put the subject of resilience front and centre for businesses across the world.
In fact, innovation and resilience in the face of crisis has been the defining survival factor for businesses over the last year or so. With more than 50% of UK SMEs having had to implement new software due to the pandemic, organisations have had to look to technology and process changes ‘on they fly’, while this can result in success stories, more often than not these decisions require review. This leaves businesses facing a substantial amount of repeated effort, not to mention the additional costs that are racked up.
It can be tempting to put off working on something until it seems relevant or learning something new without a compelling motivation. However, the speed at which the coronavirus changed our working lives and the business landscape should be a compelling argument to bring the idea of business continuity and disaster recovery to the fore for us all. From a budgetary perspective as well, making investments in technology, systems, and strategies for resilience ahead of time can save huge amounts of money, as well as limiting the scale of any crisis. Indeed, 93% of digital leaders said that digital investments made prior to the pandemic allowed them to be more agile in their response.
“The pandemic has dramatically increased the speed at which digital is fundamentally changing business” McKinsey
The pandemic looms large as a ‘storm’ that needs riding out, but building a resilient organisation is not just about preparing for a global crisis. It could be a more localised outage, a software attack, regulatory changes, or even staff turnover of key knowledge holders that has a significant impact and halts business-as-usual. A sizeable number of new systems and databases that today are central to an organisation, have only been in place for the past few months to a year. In such a short time, these have become critical to business continuity. Organisations have come to rely on digital systems and services, but many have not considered the consequences of things going wrong, should their systems become unavailable due to malicious attacks or by accidental actions from staff. This means resilience is more important than ever before: only 11% of respondents in a recent study expected the current business model to remain economically viable without digital or business model changes.
So, if you haven’t already got a plan in place, how can you bounce back and develop resilience when disaster strikes?
The first thing to remember when facing a crisis or developing a resilience strategy is to be absolutely ruthless. Leaders should not allow their judgements to be clouded by the urgency of a situation, rather the focus should be on the priorities for an organisation. Just because something is the most urgent, does not mean it is the most important focus area for business leaders. For example, during the sudden switch to remote working teams urgently required remote systems access, however the most important thing for businesses at that moment was likely to ensure the security of systems and data, even if that meant a delay in getting remote workers fully set up immediately. With a clear picture of the priorities for an organisation, leaders can then decide on what takes precedence, and act swiftly.
In the midst of a crisis it can be a challenge to identify the true priorities. To help focus efforts, leaders should consider a three stage approach to build resilience in any circumstance:
Reacting to the immediate threat is the first stage, and a chance to identify the main challenges, be it systems and data, team processes, etc. The focus is to ensure business continuity wherever possible and put safety measures in place. This is the moment to stop any security breaches in their tracks, and ensure maximum damage limitation.
Back to Business
Supporting business performance through recovery is vital, and many companies struggle to react and recover quickly. The ‘crisis stations’ phase can never last long. Once the initial threat has been understood, if not fully mitigated, businesses can begin to look to recovery, and identify key areas and markets for growth. This is the time to learn and start looking forwards. Look deeper into why and how the crisis occurred, and whether there was anything within business capabilities that could have helped minimise damage.
Once back up and running, organisations have the chance to invest in transformation and innovation, and to build a business model that is stronger. Business resilience and continuity should be the core of future strategies, and these should be based on learning, and set up to withstand disruption.
It is always preferable to have a plan in place to tackle the worst-case scenario, but this is not always possible, when faced with a constant stream of other priorities and business decisions. This should not mean that all is lost when a crisis does occur, and there are ways to develop resilience in the face of adversity that can help businesses survive. In order to build on this, organisations must make resilience a focal point for any strategic innovation and be prepared for whatever may be thrown at them. As always, the aim should be for businesses not just to survive, but thrive.