3 Characteristics of Resilient Organisations – Reflections from Covid-19

Covid-19 is undoubtedly a situation none of us have ever imagined experiencing in our lifetime. Epidemics of such proportions were, to our conscious selves, confined to history or perhaps to some unknown remote country, but still very far from our known daily reality.  It was something that ‘happened to others and not to us‘.
However, in a very short period, Covid-19 has wreaked havoc to our daily lives and put many of us in panic mode. At the individual level, this was very much evidenced by the panic buying which characterised the early days of the crisis. At the social level the panic became evident on social media with every additional reported case and the enforcement of social distancing measures. Finally, at the organisational level, businesses were forced to adapt, where possible, by shifting operations online and employees away from their offices.
Our work with businesses during this Covid-19 period leads us to summarise that the more resilient organisations typically exhibit 3 different characteristics:

1. Proactive Leadership

Leaders in resilient organisations are proactive.  They plan ahead, they are in control and give their people and all stakeholders the assurance and feeling that they are in control.  These proactive leaders are clearly on the ball and no one doubts that the organisation is in safe hands.  Employees are clear on the reality of the situation and on the risks ahead and they are actually part of the measures being implemented.  Clients are also aware of the situation and they are clearly communicated to about the way forward.  In short, these leaders exude confidence and give no hint of panic.

2. Forward-looking Organisations

Resilient organisations just like their leaders, tend to look ahead and plan ahead.  A common theme in these organisations is a clear risk management process that is followed up with a business continuity plan and practices.  These measures are undertaken as part of the daily operations of the firm and as part of looking at its existence into the future.  They are not seen as something ‘extra’ or ‘useless’ but rather as core to the organisation’s existence and wellbeing.
Unfortunately, however, most SMEs were unprepared. This is perhaps intrinsic to the evolving nature of such businesses because their resources are limited.  Most businesses were not technologically prepared to operate remotely with some not even having enough laptops to give to their employees and rushing to set up remote working policies and practices.  Others, mainly retail outlets, did not have functioning e-commerce websites capable of handling sales, stock control, payments and the logistics of deliveries in place.  The list goes on however it is clear that Covid-19 caught many leaders and managers unprepared.
Many of these unprepared organisations have tried to bridge this gap by engaging consulting firms like CMG to assist them in creating plans in order to look ahead and try to re-shape the company’s operation, its present and its future.  While such intervention is prompted by the Covid-19–induced situation, it has frequently been the action that has saved the company and given it a future.

3. Human Element

A crucial characteristic of organisational resilience is the human touch. Resilience within organisations is the combined result of strong leadership and a positive culture that embraces innovation, flexibility and change. At the centre of these aspects stand the employees and, at the individual level, these also should be supported in building their own resilience. Organisational support programs such as those provided by the Richmond Foundation can be useful to assist employees build their resilience. These, in conjunction with a strong culture of clear communication, trust and looking-ahead, are key factors to help staff be resilient and deal with such tough situations.
Organisational resilience is a characteristic that is key to any organisation facing any situation in its lifetime. The fact that we have, luckily, not faced many Covid-19-like situations has placed us in a position of not fully appreciating such resilience in our day-to-day.  This present situation has, however, highlighted a reality, or rather a lack of it, that clearly needs to be addressed in many SMEs in order to help them survive Covid-19 and beyond. Please feel free to get in touch with CMG Consulta in order to discuss resilience in your organisation’s context.