6. Resilient

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Resilience is defined as an ability to respond and adapt quickly to threats posed. This applies to both organisations and individuals.

All organisations need to have

"...resilience, ie the ability to dynamically reinvent business models and strategies as circumstances change"Resilience refers to a capacity for continuous reconstruction. It requires innovation with respect to organisational values, processes and behaviours that systematically favour perpetuation over innovation......Strategic resilience is not about responding to a one time crisis. It's not about rebounding from a setback. It's about continuously anticipating and adjusting to deep, secular trends that can permanently impair the earning power of a core business. It's about having the capacity to change before the case for change becomes desperately obvious"Successful companies, particularly those that have enjoyed a relatively benign environment, find it extraordinarily difficult to reinvent their business models. When confronted by paradigm-busting turbulence, they often experience a deep and prolonged reversal of fortune......Imagine a ratio where the numerator measures the magnitude and frequency of strategic transformation and the denominator reflects the time, expense and emotional energy required to affect that transformation. Any company that hopes to stay relevant in a topsy-turvy world has no choice but to grow the numerator. The real trick is to steadily reduce the denominator at the same time. To thrive in turbulent times, companies must become as efficient at renewal as they are at producing today's products and services. Renewal must be the natural consequence of an organisation's innate resilience..."

Gary Hamel et al, 2003

In less turbulent times, established organisations could rely on the momentum of their success to sustain their success. In recent times, this has not been enough. Despite this, there is still enormous value in having loyal customers, a well-known brand, the industry know-how, preferential access to distribution channels, proprietary physical assets, robust portfolio, etc. On the other hand, this value has dissipated owing to technological discontinuities, regulatory upheavals, geopolitical shocks, industry deverticalisation and disintermediation, abrupt shifts in customer tastes, many non-traditional competitors, etc. Furthermore, executives previously had the luxury of thinking that their business models had achieved permanent status. Organisations had to improve themselves but seldom got different - not in their core or essence.

"...today, getting different is the imperative. It's a challenge facing Coca-Cola as it struggles to raise its "share of the throat" in non-carbonated beverages. It's the task that bedevils McDonald's as it tries to rekindle growth in a world of burger-weary customers. It's the hurdle for Sun Microsystems as it searches for ways to protect its high margin server business from the Linux onslaught. And it's an imperative for the big pharmaceutical companies as they confront declining R&D yields, escalating price pressure, and the growing threat from generic drugs..."

Gary Hamel et al, 2003

Part of resilience is zero trauma. This requires an organisation to be constantly making its future rather than defending its past so that revolutionary change happens in lightning quick, evolutionary steps with no calamitous surprises, no convulsive re-organisations, no colossal write-offs, and no indiscriminate across-the-board layoffs, etc.

Resilience for individuals means being able to stare reality in the face and to make concrete decisions to shape your future, ie imagining a future for yourself. Associated with this is the ability to empathise with others and their point of view. Furthermore, be an enthusiastic participant and have a positive attitude. Furthermore, it is the ability to quickly "bounce back" from adversity.

Resilience can be learned. Until the age of 16, children observe how others respond to stress and this provides the basis of their reactions. Furthermore, people need positive role models and successful examples in their own personal history as a basis to build on. If a previous challenge turned out to be a personal disaster, you are more likely to react badly the next time. A person's response to adversity is a good predictor of their future performance, eg their ability to innovate and engage in the workplace.

"...resilience on how you perform against four factors......CORE

Control: How much can you influence the situation and control your response?

Ownership: how much responsibility do you take for improving the situation, regardless of its course or your job description?

Reach: How much do you allow a particular kind of adversity to affect other parts of your life and work?

Endurance: how long do you perceive the situation will last?..."

Paul Stoltz as quoted by Fiona Smith, 2008i

Resilience Model for Individuals

organisational development change management

(source: Sven Hansen, 2006)

  • Well-being and resilience are linked

"...well-being is a state of mind where you think you are in charge of your life......if you have strong well-being, you are more likely to be resilient and absorb unexpected events......well-being is caused by having frequent positive experiences. It is developed through pleasure, using your strengths and having a sense of meaning (identifying with and contributing to something beyond - higher than - ourselves). These experiences contribute to a reservoir of well-being, that can be drawn on during hard times. This builds resilience......if people are resilient, they know whatever happens to them, they will find a way out of it, they will find a way forward..."

Roger Collins has quoted by Fiona Smith 2008n

Well-being has reciprocal benefits, ie for the organisation and its people. It is more sustainable than engagement alone. Engagement has more benefits for the employer than the employee, ie it is employer-centric


A clear global focus prevails as both challenges and opportunities are vigorously pursued, such as new perspectives on global markets, product offerings, organisational structures, business processes and greater mobility and flexibility of managers. Globalisation has increased interdependence and diversity and requires organisations to adapt to new competition from non-traditional sources, both locally and internationally, and operate with more regulatory reforms. On the other hand, there is a corresponding increase in localisation as expressed by regionalisation, tribalisation, fundamentalism and marginalisation as seen in the old Soviet Union and its former satellites, like the Balkans, and in Africa, the Middle East, Iraq and Afghanistan.

In extreme cases of marginalisation, the response can be terrorism. These types of activities will increase as local communities strive to maintain identities while coming under increasing pressure for uniformity from globalisation and westernisation or Americanisation, iedominantculture of privatisation and entrepreneurship. Another way to describe Americanisation is

"...America is the only country in the world that has a business culture..."

Janet Guyon, 2001

and Americans are not concerned

"...about whether they are doing the right thing about making money or about whether it's going to shorten their chances of getting into heaven..."

Janet Guyon, 2001

The challenge for developing countries is to use Western know-how to assist the development of their truly local cultures without importing Western culture, ie can Western know-how and Western culture be divorced?

The paradox of simultaneous globalisation and localisation is best expressed by

"...think globally but act locally..."

In fact, it has been stated

"...There is no such thing as a global company: companies aren't global - businesses are..."

Jack Welch as quoted by Jack Welch et al, 2001

Global risks

A resilient organisation needs to understand and to handle risks. For example, the top 25 global risks identified at the World Economic Forum on Global Risks (2006) were, ie

"... - economic, such as oil prices/energy supply; asset prices and indebtedness; US current account deficit and US dollar; coming fiscal crisis (failure and market crashes); China (integration, protectionism and dislocation); critical infrastructure (power outages, data blackouts and attacks)

- environment, such as tropical cyclones (East Asia and North Atlantic); earthquakes (Japan and California): climate change; environmental degradation and loss of ecosystem services

- societal, such as regulation (changes); corporate governance (failures); intellectual property rights (piracy, etc); organised crime (counterfeiting)

- pandemics, such as slow and chronic diseases in industrialized countries (obesity, cardiovascular, cancer, etc); developing world diseases (HIV/AIDS and TB); liability regimes (insurance capacity)

- technological, such as converging technologies (privacy issues); nanotechnology; electromagnetic fields; pervasive computing (RFID)

- geopolitical, such as international terrorism; European dislocation; current and future hotspots (general Middle East stability, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Korea)

Most likely short-term risks with highest severity: New HIV/TB infections of 5 million people..."

Most likely long-term risks with highest severity: incidence of HIV/TB flattens in sub-Saharan Africa, but rapidly expands elsewhere; incidence of HIV/TB infections flattens, death remains high

Risks just outside the top 25 are

"...- Space weather (solar radiation)

     - Loss of biodiversity..."

as quoted by Tim Mendham, 2006

Risk is a balance between emotion & deduction, ie

"...instinctual reactions are quick and automatic, usually in times when the facts are not known for there is not enough time to process what little is known. Analytical reasoning is much slower and much harder, if we relied on analysis alone, decisions about risk would paralyse us..In every day life, the mind juggles the two methods of risk assessment..Instinctual bias can alter how people gauge the odds in making a wide variety of presumably rational decisions, from investing money to preparing for disasters. For example, most people would appreciate that a chance of infection of one in 100 million is near zero. But if a friend says he knows an infected person, then our instinctive risk assessment system is more likely to focus on the numerator then on the denominator. Am I the one in 100 million?...... the system often flips from one extreme to another, from ignoring risk altogether and then over reacting..."

Benedict Carey, 2014

An interesting example of challenges with risk is banking. Traditional banking business model makes failure easy, ie the models essential features are

- maturity mismatch

- opaque assets with far more downside than upside

- markets capable of unpredictable volatility

- leverage exposure

"...human beings cope with future perils by making mental models of the past and searching the present for clues..." that fit the known past

Harrison Young, 2015

Banks manage risk the same way. Risk means knowíng odds and and handling outcomes, ie uncertainty. Banks infer the odds then act as though they were certain, which usually works. Sometimes it doesn't, thus banks need capital and liquidity buffers to handle recessions, rate shocks and other remote but plausible contingencies. Rare events are difficult to model as there can be limited data, unexpected correlations and non-linear events. Need to have a flexible approach to make adjustments to your average positions. On the other hand, building the appropriate buffers based on market feedback has its downsides as you may react too late to make the changes based on feedback. To handle this, the concept of "new means risky" is used. For example, rapid growth can mean acquiring new customers, new markets, new products, new systems, etc. Each of these new activities has potential extra risks that need evaluating.

The Minsky phenomena - as time passes since the last crisis, risk aversion leaks out of the system!!!!! Immediately after a crisis, we have a tendency to overestimate risk and move slowly and carefully; but over time this changes, ie we become more confident and less risk-averse. In fact, good fortune can dull people's sensitivity to risk. What has been described by Keynes as "animal spirits" returns, ie people become less frightened, less cautious, less worried about risk, more adventurous, innovative, aggressive, more opportunistic, etc.

For bankers the cycle is

"...As you bask in the sunshine of past success, increase position limits, make larger loans to weaker credits at fatter spreads, grow faster, offer new services, enter unfamiliar markets, trim capital and liquidity buffers, undertake more information technology upgrades and get less sleep, and at some point, losing control becomes easier. By the time the bank reaches its perceived-risk boundary it will have gone way past the boundary that matters..."

Harrison Young, 2015

In other words, every state of equilibrium contains the seeds of its own destruction, eg a boom becomes a bust. In sectors like banking that have large impacts on the economy and broader community, there is a need to adopt the "minimax strategy" which demands a margin-of-safety approach, ie play it safe by seeking to minimise the maximum loss that could occur like carrying an umbrella on a sunny day - this is most important if you only have one set of clothes and are going to an important meeting!!

The margin of safety means that the caller halts activities before reaching the perceived risk boundary or limit. Thus successful bankers should not aim to be profit maximisers as survival periodically requires them to forego perceived marvellous opportunities

For example, study the below matrix

                                     Strategy A                            Strategy B

Prospect                    90% chance of 50                95% chance of 100

                                 10% chance of -200             5% chance of -1,000

Expected value                    25                                        45

Under the strategy B, the probability of a positive outcome is higher and bad outcome is lower; with the expected value of strategy much higher than under strategy A. On the other hand, the impact of externalities could result in outcomes under strategy B being horrendous. Using the minimax approach, strategy B is safer while strategy A could be described as the economically rational choice.

Need to understand the fundamental opacity of risk and the necessity of financial conservatism. It is very hard to measure the risk one is taking. Even though we can build models that tell us the probability distribution of outcomes, it is very hard, if not impossible, to forecast how risks will interact in a chain reaction among multi-businesses. Banks use an ad hoc mixture of qualitative analysis and common sense to try to understand the risk involved. Using stress tests, scenario planning can help explore hidden linkages and transmission mechanisms. At best, they are a vehicle for discussion to help pool experience and refine judgement, ie collective gut instinct. But this can be dangerous in unfamiliar, uncharted territory. Risk can involve actual and perceptual; the latter is an amalgam of raw data, model output and gut feeling, ie the pattern of the past and current clues. We can identify the level of perceived risk we do not want to exceed.

To help handle risk you need to diversify and have a range of opinions involved in the discussions so that people are bringing different perspectives to bear.

"...deciding when to be cautious and when to be bold calls for nitty-gritty understanding of cash flows and markets and relevant political dynamics, but also hinges on remembering the perils of the new and the distorted perceptions that flow from a run of good luck. Selling early is a test of character..."

Harrison Young, 2015

One of the Rothschilds was once asked how they had become so wealthy. The answer was "selling too soon"

Four challenges

Linked with resilience are 4 challenges

i) cognitive challenge (an organisation must move away from denial, nostalgia and arrogance. It must understand and be aware of the changing trends and the impact these trends will have on the organisation)

ii) strategic challenge (the ability to create a range of new viable options as alternatives to the current strategies)

iii) political challenge (be able to divert resources from current to future programs/projects/ services/products, etc. Need to invest in "what should be" rather than "what is". Most organisations

"...devote too much marketing energy to existing customer segments while ignoring new ones; they pour too much development dollars into incremental product enhancements while under-funding breakthrough projects; they lavish resources on existing distribution channels while starving go-to-market strategies......the root cause is always the same: current strategies have powerful constituencies; embryonic strategies do not......A persistent failure to distinguish between new ideas and risky ideas reinforces a company's tendency to over-invest in the past...... a detailed study of diversified companies by business professors Hyun-Han Shin and Rene Stulz found...... a business unit's investment budget was largely a function of its own cash flow and, secondarily, the cash flow of the firm as a whole...... if the forces of preservation really trounce the forces of experimentation, it will soon find itself over-investing in moribund strategies and outdated programs. Allocation rigidities are the enemy of resilience..."

Gary Hamel et al, 2003

iv) ideological challenge (optimisation of current business model is not enough; need a creed that extends beyond operational excellence and flawless execution). Irrespective of the techniques or tools used, optimisation has the goal of

"...Do more, better, faster and cheaper..."

Gary Hamel et al, 2003

Optimisation is sufficient as long as there is no fundamental change in what the customer wants. Organisations need to care more about resilience than optimisation. This is more than operational resilience (ability to respond to the ups and downs of the business cycle or to quickly rebalance product/service mix). It is more about strategic resilience.

Impact of denial

Denial works against resilience. For many organisations

"...the future was less unknowable than it was unthinkable, less inscrutable than unpalatable......denial puts the work of renewal on hold, and with each passing month, the costs go up..."

Gary Hamel et al, 2003

To handle denial, one needs to understand 3 things

i) need to visit places where changes happen first, ie see changes close-up and experience it for yourself. Based on these experiences, you need to think through the consequences

ii) check the filters in the organisation, ie ensure staff are aware of future challenges and that awareness is not being censored by the custodians of the conventions and/or traditions

"...you should be wary of anyone who has vested interest in your continued ignorance, who fears that a full understanding of what is changing would expose his own failure to anticipate it or the inadequacy of his response..."

Gary Hamel et al, 2003

iii) face inevitability of strategy decay. There are 4 reasons for this

- replication (as strategies get replicated, they lose their distinctiveness and their power to produce above-average returns)

- supplantation (good strategies often get supplanted. With an increasingly connected economy, there is an increasing trend for new strategies to become old sooner)

- exhaustion (as markets become saturated, customers get bored, or optimisation programs reach the point of diminishing returns, strategies can become exhausted)

- evisceration, ie being deprived of vital or essential parts (with the Internet, customers are reaping the benefits in productivity, ie better value for their money, such as lower prices and/or improved products and services, such as in the travel industry with airlines, hotels, etc)

Mental toughness

More than technical skills are needed to overcome obstacles, maintain motivation and consistently deliver high performance. Mental toughness is required and involves self belief, clear thinking and resilience (especially emotional). These elements allow an individual to maintain focus and reject distractions and doubts

There is a 4 step technique to develop and maintain mental toughness

"...- discovery (think about situations when you thrive - not just cope - under stress. What is already working that you need to do more of?

- dream (imagine if you could always feel that way. What habits would have changed?)

- design (how will you act differently to make the above work?)

- destiny (execute the plan)..."

Tony Adcock as quoted by Rose-anne Manns, 2007b

Mental toughness is a gross mindset, ie

"...facing each new challenge as an opportunity to develop skills, appreciating that it will take time, and not getting frustrated. This contrasts with the alternative attitude: I've failed therefore I am a failure; or, I won't even try because I don't have the skills in the first place..."

Rose-anne Manna, 2007b

Linked with organisational resilience is emotional resilience of senior executives, ie

"...the notion of bouncing when things get tough - I think that is one of the issues with CEOs, that they don't suffer too much the highs and lows of the emotion of the job. So when things are really good they don't become complacent and when things are really bad they don't become despondent..."

Cathy Walters as quoted by Catherine Fox et al, 2007

Senior management needs to take a long-term view and not be unduly concerned about the peaks and troughs

Other issues linked with resilience

Importance of variety

"...Variety matters. Genetic variety, within and across species, is nature's insurance policy against the unexpected. A high degree of biological diversity ensures that no matter what particular future unfolds, there will be at least some organisms that are well suited to the new circumstances......put simply, if the range of strategic alternatives your company is exploring is significantly narrower than the breadth of change in the environment, your business is going to be a victim of turbulence. Resilience depends on variety..."

Gary Hamel et al, 2003

Furthermore, organisations

"...should steer clear of grand, imperial strategies and devote themselves instead to launching a swarm of low risk experiments..."sometimes called"...stratlets..."

Gary Hamel et al, 2003

On the other hand,

"...the aversion to unplanned variability has metastasised into a general antipathy towards nonconforming and the deviant. This infatuation with conformance severely hinders the quest for resilience..."

Gary Hamel et al, 2003

For resilience to work,organisations need to invest in new projects that have the potential to substantially change customers' expectations and/or industry economics. Furthermore, there needs to be a broad portfolio of experiments, rather than betting on one big idea.

Traditionally the prerequisite for instigating an evaluation process for new ideas is that they have to have a boss who is on side; the idea has to be "big enough" to warrant senior management attention; executives who are willing to divert funds from existing projects; an mentor to bring the whole thing together. Owing to the cumbersome nature of this process, most new ideas do not make it!!

Organisational size is only a barrier to resilience if it allows the organisation to delude itself that success is self-perpetuating. Any organisation that

"...can make sense of its environment, generate strategic options, and realign its resources faster than its rivals will enjoy a decisive advantage. This is the essence of resilience...."

Gary Hamel et al, 2003

According to John Pearce et al (2006) part of resilience involves 2 rules for survival, ie making the organisation recession proof and fighting, ie

a) organisation recession proof by

i) position the organisation among the less vulnerable customers by diversifying into multiple markets and regions

ii) plan to confront declining sales by quick diagnosis and cost cutting

b) fighting

iii) promote products aggressively by maintaining advertising expenditure

iv) invest in the future by introducing new products and attracting new customers

(sources: Bill Synnot, 1999a; CEDA, 1997; Peter Senge et al, 1999; Jacques Nasser, 2000; Ken Phillips, 2000; D Grant Freeland et al, 2000; BossAFR, 2000 & 2001; Peter Drucker, 1993; Robert Heller, 2000; Kathleen Seiders, et al, 2000; Fortune, 2000; Harvard Business Review; Robert Winston et al, 2000; Kriegel et al, 1996; Peter Coy, 2001; Catherine Fox, 2001; Morten Hansen et al, 1999; Marco Iansiti et al, 1997; Steven Prokesch, 1997; Kevin Rivette et al, 2000; Gary Hamel, 2000a; Adrian Slywotzky et al, 2001; Michael Cave, 2001; Helen Trinca, 2001; Fiona Buffini, 2001; Scientific American, 2000; Stuart Henshall, 2001; Janet Guyon, 2001; Susan Owens, 2001; Barbara Kellerman, 2002; Regis McKenna, 1997; Jarek Czechowicz, 2002; Michael Shermer, 2002; Malcolm Gladwell, 2002; Marianne Broadbent, 2002; Peter Drucker, 2001; Fiona Cameron, 2002; HRmonthly, 2002; Larry Seldon et al, 2002; John Kotter, 2003; David Stauffer, 2003; Jeremy Hope et al, 2003; Diane Coyle, 1999; Jack Welch et al, 2001; Timothy Mullaney, 2003; Gary Hamel et al, 2003; Johathan Gosling et al, 2003; Sue Williams, 2003 & 2004; Gardiner Morse, 2004; Nicholas Varchaver, 2004; James Hall, 2004; Peter Drucker, 2004; Chris Franklin, 2004; Susannah Moran, 2004; James Carlopio, 2004; Aaron Patrick, 2004; Tim Wallace, 2004; Neil Shoebridge, 2004a; Lauren Keller Johnson, 2004a&b; Paul Day, 2004; Charles Handy, 2001; Danah Zohar et al, 2004; Deirde Macken, 2004a; Catherine Fox, 2004b&d; Harold Evans, 2004; Kathleen M. 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