The 9 factors of organizational resilience

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Die 9 Faktoren organisationaler Resilienz - Was Unternehmen widerstandsfähig macht


What makes companies resilient


“We can’t stop the wind, but we can build windmills.” We can’t prevent things from not going as we imagined. We can’t prevent some companies from facing completely new challenges as a result of the pandemic, or people from losing their jobs due to digitalization. And after the pandemic, there will be new crises. Changes will happen faster and faster. We cannot prevent the wind from blowing. But what we can do is decide how we as an organization want to deal with this wind. We can let it knock us down, complain about it, wait until better weather comes – or we can use this wind for our own benefit. How? By building windmills. But how can we succeed in using the wind? And how can we release the resources we need to build windmills?

The key here is organizational resilience.


What is the concept of organizational resilience?

In recent years, the topic of inner resistance has moved more and more into the public focus: on the one hand, in children’s and youth education, and on the other hand, the topic is also taking up more and more space in adult education. Over time, resilience is becoming more and more popular.

Originally, the term ‘resilience’ or ‘resilire’ comes from Latin and means “to spring back, bounce off, rebound,” but also “to contract, shrink.” A related word, ‘resistere’, can be translated as “to resist”. The word ‘Resilient’ describes material properties such as ‘elastic’ or ‘indestructible’ and is used to describe the ability of a material to return to its former shape after being deformed by pressure or tension. The term thus illustrates a system’s tolerance to internal or external disturbances. A resilient system can compensate for or endure irritation while maintaining its own integrity.


But how can organizational resilience be developed?

A difficult question, which was also addressed by a group of experts from the International Organization for Standardization ISO. It has examined, summarized, evaluated and condensed everything on the subject of organizational resilience. The result is the ISO standard “ISO 22317:2017 Security and resilience – Principles and attributes”.

Published in March 2017, this ISO standard provides a framework to help organizations future-proof their business by describing the key principles, attributes and activities, as well as the evaluation of resilience factors. The standard looks at the aspects that can strengthen resilience and adaptability in an organization.

These core principles are about helping organizations develop frameworks and a culture that support resilience. It is also about building on existing forms of risk management to have shared values and awareness of changing contexts, while supported by strong and empowering leadership.

Each organization should find its specific response to complex challenges individually. Nonetheless, ISO is a good guideline for the different approaches to make organizations more resilient. It provides concrete recommendations for promoting organizational resilience in nine fields of action or factors.

The 9 Factors of Organizational Resilience – How to Equip Your Organization for the Future

We would like to introduce you to the 9 factors of organizational resilience below.

Where do you see your organization?

Living vision and goals: “Start with why” – by now everyone has probably heard that organizations need a vision, a “why” for their existence. And that is exactly the first factor of organizational resilience. Living vision and goals means that a shared vision and common goals shape the thoughts and actions of a resilient organization. Vision and goals are communicated unambiguously and across all levels of the hierarchy. They are regularly reflected upon and adapted as needed. Everyone knows where things are headed, and this is not just theory, but practice.

Strengthen market relationships: A resilient organization looks beyond its own nose. It actively shapes its context and works with partners who share the same vision and values. Strengthening market relationships means that a resilient organization keeps a permanent eye not only on itself, but also on the context in which it operates: Customer relationships are cultivated, competitors’ actions are analyzed, market developments are recorded, and strategic measures are aligned accordingly. This increases the scope for action and opportunities to exert influence are exploited.

Empowering leadership: Encouraging, supportive and fault-tolerant leaders, as well as a leadership culture that takes hold even in uncertain times, strengthen the resilience of the organization. Leading empowering means that leadership in a resilient organization is based on integrity, effectiveness, and trust. Leaders are empowered to remain capable of action and provide guidance even in uncertain times. Employees are encouraged to take responsibility and actively participate in the decision-making process. This creates the basis for leadership that can be seen not only as empowering but also as enabling, especially in times of change.

Creating culture: Supporting each other, a culture of change, commitment to shared values and beliefs, and positive attitudes make an organization more resilient. Such a culture promotes open communication about identified opportunities and threats, creativity and innovation. Creating culture stands for ensuring that fundamental beliefs and values in the organization are known and shared by all, and that they are firmly embedded in each individual.

Sharing knowledge: Sharing is caring – Sharing knowledge means that knowledge and information are shared effectively and systematically so that everyone in the organization benefits. This creates the principle of shared-best-practice, which prevents knowledge, skills and experience from being lost or restricted to individual areas of the organization. In this sense, knowledge and information are recognized as a significant resource that is created, preserved and used through targeted strategic measures. The resilience of the company is increased when knowledge is distributed and applied wherever appropriate. Learning from each other and learning from experience is encouraged.

Ensure resources: We have what we need – Ensuring resources means that a resilient organization routinely reviews its resources, continually expands them, and uses them profitably. Employees are supported in their development and deployed where they are needed most. Technology and financial resources are used to improve work processes, address weaknesses, and ensure the organization’s ability to act when unforeseen events occur.

Interdisciplinary cooperation: Together it gets better – In resilient organizations, different management disciplines are capable of acting and are constantly being developed. They coordinate and cooperate with each other and are able to work in a well-coordinated manner in response to current events in the organization. Together, they align themselves with the strategic goals of the organization. This creates a cross-organizational network that views and supports organizational resilience from multiple perspectives.

Continuous Improvement: A little better every day – Continuous improvement means that a resilient organization evaluates its actions and outcomes to learn from experience, identify opportunities, and overcome obstacles. In this context, continuous improvement is a principle that is implemented at all levels. Processes, strategies and goals are regularly reflected, analyzed and optimized. Transparent feedback is part of the company’s daily routine. Everyone grapples with the question, “How can we do this even better?”

Change proactively: Ready for change – a resilient organization has the ability to manage and even anticipate change. The organization’s resilience is enhanced when it prepares for change or sudden and unexpected events. Thus, a resilient organization is able to respond quickly, flexibly and agilely to change or even anticipate it. In a world where change is the only constant, this capability is of great importance.


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