What is organisational resilience?

Since 2005, Janellis Australia has worked with the Federal Government and a number of organisations operating in high risk industries, to quantify and build resilience capability.

Janellis began our ‘What is organisational resilience?’ conversation during industry lunches that highlighted the many dimensions of organisational resilience. Executives responsible for risk management, business continuity, security, insurance, crisis management, emergency management, disaster recovery and human resources attended our events with great interest. Each executive viewed resilience through their own prism of responsibility, and yet there were some common themes throughout the discussions.

‘In 2006, we took the resilience conversation up to the CEO and Board level with retired General Peter Cosgrove, and we asked CEOs what organisational resilience meant to them.’

We discovered that organisational resilience means different things to different organisations, depending on their industry, the threats they face and the personal experience of the executives and their teams.

In 2006, we drafted our first organisational resilience framework, which integrated the key areas into an enterprise-wide structure.  Although the enterprise-wide and strategic view of resilience was only somewhat understood at that time, Janellis rolled out key components of the framework nationally and internationally in countries including the USA, Canada, NZ, and India.

Whilst rolling out the tools globally, Americans asked “What can the Aussies teach us?”.  We discovered we were at the forefront in some areas of resilience and they were very receptive. We should not have been surprised as we developed the tools in collaboration with some of the brightest minds and most experienced people in Australia. It’s interesting to note, the International Standard for Risk Management IS0 31000, was initially based on the Australian and New Zealand Standard AS/NZS4360. More than 30 countries contributed to the ISO 31000 standard and it’s now recognised as the global enterprise risk management standard, and has been adopted by 80% of countries around the world.

In the last ten years, the Australian Federal Government has made a significant commitment to defining and developing organisational resilience for critical infrastructure operators. Industry leaders and subject matter experts have developed and released a number of research papers and tools.

Our recommendation is the CEO defines resilience for their organisation, which the board needs to endorse and the executive implements. The definition should reflect the CEOs resilience vision for the organisation, as well as the current threats and maturity levels of the organisation. The first resilience vision statement may be more focused on being prepared for disruptive events and meeting the expectations of the community and other key stakeholders. An example of this could be:

‘In the event of an emergency or crisis that has the potential to impact our organisation or the community, we will take a leadership role in ensuring the safety and welfare of people, the protection of our reputation and; the ability to continue to operate critical services.’

As the field of organisational resilience matures, the definition could evolve to include ‘intelligently anticipating and managing change swiftly and; seeing opportunities to enhance capability’.

Qantas was the first organisation in Australia to engage Janellis and embark on a board-led, enterprise-wide, multi-year program to build organisational resilience.

Very soon after starting our work with Qantas, we realised our framework needed to include another dimension. The Board and other key stakeholders wanted quantifiable evidence of how the resilience program was tracking and they were searching for leading indicators of capability. In providing assurance, we developed specific tools and metrics that would allow the organisation to report enterprise-risks to the board, as well as their organisational resilience capability. Since then, we have embedded these resilience reporting tools within a number of organisations operating in high risk industries.

In 2012, we reviewed our framework to confirm which components had maintained their relevance and value, and which had not. Organisations who participated in this research included: Qantas Group, Westpac Banking Corporation, NSW State Emergency Service, Lendlease Group and Transfield Services. All these organisations had used all or parts of our organisational resilience framework.

Our review resulted in an Organisational Resilience Benchmarking Framework that can be used within an organisation nationally and internationally and across industries–to assess capability. Organisations use the framework as a roadmap when beginning their resilience journey as well as an assurance tool if they already have the capability.

In 2012, Janellis submitted the framework to Harvard Business Review (HBR) and a copy is available here:
International Benchmarking on Organisational Resilience: HBR submission

There is also a ‘technical version’ for practitioners to use as a guide to build capability:
Organisational Resilience Framework: Technical Version 

Whilst some organisations have invested considerable thinking, effort and work in the area of organisational resilience, many are just beginning to build this capability. Organisations embarking on their resilience journey can look to others who have been operating in high risk industries and adopt some of the strategies they have now robustly tested.

If you would like more information, a copy of the Qantas case study or have feedback regarding the framework please contact us at info@janellis.com.au 

Janellis is an enterprise consulting firm that works with leading organisations across many industry sectors and government agencies. We help organisations execute their strategy and specialise in transformation and change management; organisational resilience; risk and compliance; crisis and emergency management and portfolio and program management.