I’m still waiting for the mark… but I’m reliably informed that it will be a very decent mark so I’m going to start offering you content, since you’ve all been so great at helping me complete the work.
So, let’s start by cutting to the chase – with the conclusions.
Below is my concluding chapter… I’ll start offering other parts over the next few days so you can see how I got here, if you like!
Thank you for all your help. I’ll make this available in sensible reading formats upon request since the formatting gets somewhat lost in the copy and paste!
“Whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
Sherlock Holmes (Conan Doyle, 2006)
5.1 Aims of Study
The aim of this study was to identify factors that contribute most towards organisational resilience; to determine whether an individual leader’s inclination to act in a way that increased the likelihood of total organisational resilience could be indicated (Propensity for Resilient Behaviour – PRB); and to discover circumstances in which individuals were likely to have a higher PRB so that PRB values might be somewhat predicted.
This resulted in 12 research objectives/questions. The first 6 were determined at the outset of the study, while questions 7-12 were raised as a result of the Issue and Literature Review. The Issue and Literature Review addressed the first 4 questions and those remaining were included in the primary research phase of this work:
5.11 Initial Objectives
- Clarification of the term “organisational resilience”
- Critical assessment of the current “how to” literature to determine how organisational resilience is achieved
- Determine whether organisational resilience can be measured
- Determine whether a leader’s individual propensity for resilient behaviours (PRB) can be measured
- Establish organisational leaders’ understanding of the term organisation resilience
- Identify circumstances in which a leader’s PRB might be predicted or improved
5.12 Additional Research Questions Arising from Issue and Literature Review
- Do organisations understand the concept of resilience to be a strategic capability or a functional business interruption management system?
- What are the scope and responsibilities of business units called “Resilience”?
- Are organisations with significant ‘moral purposes’ (e.g. charities and not-for-profit) led by people with higher PRBs?
- Do leaders who believe that accepting constraints to organisational values, strategy, financial and cultural risks is likely to increase resilience have higher PRBs?
- Does the presence of realistic optimism in the leaders of an organisation impact the propensity for behaviours that contribute to organisational resilience?
- Are “Resilience” units assisting with the more difficult aspects of enhancing the resilience capability?
The objectives have been met and the questions answered, at least to an indicative extent.
5.2 Summary of Findings
The summary is ordered in line with the objectives/questions:
- Clarification of the term “organisational resilience” was achieved by analysing academic texts to determine the following definition: “Organisational resilience is the strategic and operational, planned and adaptive, capacity of an organisation [in a socio-technical system to eradicate, avoid or minimise organisational crises] to thrive and achieve longevity.” However, it was acknowledged that though consensus is converging somewhat in academia, those working in industry do not have a uniform understanding of the term.
- A critical assessment of the current “how to” literature to determine how organisational resilience is achieved was undertaken in the Issues and Literature Review: the list of bullet pointed list of key features begins on page 79. Findings also show that current professional guidance on organisational resilience focuses only on business continuity, crisis management, risk management, information security and physical security. Considering the working definition of organisation resilience, the conclusion was reached that while professional standards and advice may assist in the realm of operational resilience and support the overall resilience capacity, it does not in itself enable organisational resilience.
- To determine whether organisational resilience can be measured a number of studies were considered. A reliable measurement tool was not established, but a benchmarking tool created by Stephenson (2011) in concert with ResOrgs provided a way to gauge an individual’s perceptions of how well an identified resilience factor was being deployed within an organisation.
- It was surmised that while a leader’s individual propensity for resilient behaviours (PRB) might not currently be measured, their perception of it could be gauged using an adaptation of Stephenson’s (2010) tool. This was later used in the primary research phase.
- Primary research was used to establish organisational leaders’ understanding of the term organisation resilience. Slightly more leaders’ chose a business continuity based definition of the term than a purer organisational resilience option, implying that slightly more consider resilience to be about managing and recovering from disruption or crisis rather than taking the more holistic approach required by the definition above. However, it was not possible to explore the leader’s views on the term ‘resilience’ further within the survey as non-biased results were required to the questions that determined PRB values.
- Comparing leaders’ PRB values with circumstantial evidence, both provided by a primary research survey, gave indications of where a leader’s PRB might be predicted or improved. The survey results suggest that PRB values may be higher when an individual works for a not–for-profit organisation; works in a company that has existed for more than 30 years; has a more pessimistic outlook for their organisation; believes accepting constraints to values, strategy, finance and cultural risks enhances resilience; or believes a new employer would value their ability to demonstrate experience leading incidents, contributing to resilience measures and being able to prove that resilience measures were cost efficient. The strongest statistical correlation between higher PRB and circumstantial factors, however, belonged to those individuals who work directly with individuals and outputs from a larger number of departments within the organisation. It was noted that because of limitations to the way this MSc level study was conducted, it must be considered exploratory. All data findings indicative results that may be of most use to academic and practitioner discussion and for providing a possible basis for further research. It would also be useful to increase the number of respondents in the sample and to include smaller businesses and start up companies to understand variations for those organisations that have not existed for at least five years and have less than 100 employees.
- The question of whether organisations understand the concept of resilience to be a strategic capability or a functional business interruption management system was partially answered. Slightly more leaders consider resilience in light of a business continuity based definition whilst slightly more respondents from “Resilience” business units consider it to be a more strategic capability. This, perhaps, goes some way to explain the business continuity based remit of “Resilience” units and maybe reflects some of the same challenges risk managers face (see page 28) in terms of getting their knowledge from the operational to the strategic, leadership level of the organisation.
- It was also noted that the responses to the “Resilience” business unit survey were primarily from public sector organisations. The scope and responsibilities of these units were primarily business continuity and crisis management, with a third of them also including Risk Management and Security in their remit. Though some units contributed to the other numerous factors identified for organisational resilience, none of them were identified as particular responsibilities of the units.
- The data intended to determine whether organisations with significant ‘moral purposes’ (e.g. charities and not-for-profit) are generally led by people with higher PRBs was limited by the number of responses received. While the data set showed that respondents working for not-for-profit organisations had higher PRB scores, there were a limited number of respondents working in this category. It would be useful to re-pose this question to a larger sample set.
- Leaders who believe that accepting constraints to organisational values, strategy, financial and cultural risks is likely to increase resilience do appear to have slightly higher PRBs. On average PRB scores are 6 points higher for those who believe constraints may improve resilience.
- The presence of realistic optimism from leaders regarding their organisations, flagged as a common trait in resilient humans, does appear to impact the propensity for behaviours that contribute to organisational resilience, but negatively so. PRB scores are markedly higher for those leaders who are pessimistic about their organisation’s future than in those who are optimistic.
- As already indicated by the scope of Resilience” units, while they may assist with the more difficult aspects of enhancing the resilience capability, they do not appear to take particular responsibility for any of the areas identified as being difficult, such as strategizing risk information, managing knowledge, and understanding networks in an environment of uncertainty, human nature, complexities, and concerns regarding costs.
This study met its overall aims of identifying factors that contribute to organisational resilience and comparing leaders’ propensities for resilient behaviour (PBR) in a variety of circumstances to identify those which might correlate with a higher PRB. It also contributed new, indicative information that might be used a basis for further research. While the results of the primary research are labelled ‘indicative’ due to limitations of the study, it is suggested they make a useful basis for further research in the field of organisational management for leaders.
This work acknowledged that there was little consensus regarding the definition of ‘organisational resilience’ and defined it as “the strategic and operational, planned and adaptive, capacity of an organisation [in a socio-technical system to eradicate, avoid or minimise organisational crises] to thrive and achieve longevity.” While it was not possible to produce an exhaustive list of resilience indicators, considering the body of emerging academic work led this work to assert that some key factors of organisational resilience are:
- strong corporate values
- comprehensive governance
- thorough strategic and operational vulnerability identification processes
- disciplined innovation
- excellent knowledge management
- solid crisis and continuity planning arrangements
- a good understanding of networks, interdependencies and supply chains
- appropriate social capital
- rehearsed resiliency measures
- business continuity and crisis management plans
- a culture that supports and values its people and its resilience capabilities
This holistic view of organisational resilience encompasses both the strategic and the operational elements. However, it contrasts with current professional advice from standards such as the ANSOR (ASIS, 2009), which approach organisational resilience only from an operational level. Though advice to ensure the business continuity, crisis management, risk management and security business functions work together closely is sound, and will contribute to resilience measures, they can only offer support and a contribution to the rest of the strategic and operational effort to build organisational resilience. This does not belittle or devalue the contribution of these business functions; it simply acknowledges that these areas alone cannot achieve organisational resilience. It is encouraging to note that a subgroup of the UK’s Business Continuity Institute (BCI) on Organisational Resilience has accepted academic input on this issue; information from this study has been used in those subgroup discussions.
The primary research conducted for this work suggests that “Resilience” business units” are primarily concerned with business continuity and crisis management, though a third also assume the risk management and security functions. These departments are often involved in or contribute to elements of the other strategic and operational organisational resilience tasks, but do not claim them as particular responsibilities of the business unit. It is somewhat puzzling as to why most of these units are currently called “Resilience” in their current formats, but it is recognised that organisational resilience is an emerging discipline and function, so it is possible that some of these business units may be at the forefront of a general change in approach.
Leaders who desire organisational resilience may find the factors of resilience useful and enlightening. However, they may also find the conclusion that organisational resilience cannot be truly ‘measured’ somewhat frustrating. Tools to benchmark individual and group perceptions on how good organisations are at the identified resilience factors are available, as demonstrated by Stephenson (2011), and they can be adapted to offer a tool to benchmark an individual’s perception of their own propensity for resilient behaviours (PRB), as was done modestly for this work. Of most interest to those leaders who wish to raise (or predict) their own PRB, perhaps, are the indications that certain factors correlate with higher PRBs. While the indication that working for a non-profit, or an organisation that has existed for more than 30 years, may correlate with a higher PRB may not be useful to most, it may be useful to note the factors over which an individual has a degree of personal control. These include adopting a more constructively pessimistic stance, accepting constraints to values, strategy and culture, and considering their next job. The most dramatic correlation with higher PRB, however, is also one of the easiest for a determined leader to adopt: working closely or with input from a greater number of functions across the whole organisation raises PRB values and, according to Wooten & James (2008), also equips individuals with vital crisis management capability.
These first findings would benefit from further research with a larger samples and using more sophisticated research methods to target leaders. It would be useful to move forward by including start-ups and smaller businesses in the research to achieve a broader understanding of PRB values in these circumstances.
30 December 2011
 This researcher was part of a working subgroup of the Business Continuity Institute for Organisational Resilience in late 2011/early 2012. Contributions informed by this study have informed and helped to shape that work.