Heard of organisational resilience? No? Neither had I before attending a conference last week, organised by Human Synergistics.
Gary Hamel first wrote about organisational resilience in 2003 saying:
You can’t predict what the world will look like in 10 years, so you try a variety of things. Some will work. The crunch comes because in many organisations it’s very hard to move resources from old things to new. All the resources are devoted to perpetuating legacy programs.
He argues that most organisations defend the past rather than build their future. That’s an interesting idea. So would “building the future” have prevented the recession? Unlikely because economies run to cycles of boom and bust.
So what exactly does building for the future imply? And how do you move resources from old things to new? The American automotive industry is a good example of defending the past and failing to build for the future. Europe and Japan, by contrast, recognised the long term imperatives and continue to adapt.
In the electronics sector, Apple certainly shows how it can be done – announcing their best ever Q2 results last month ($1.05 billion) achieved by selling innovative products at the right price. Incidentally they are also sitting on a cash pile of $29 billion. I guess that’s what resilience looks and feels like.
Achieving organisational resilience can be a huge challenge, but here are some themes from the conference:
· Resilient organisations need resilient leaders
· Focus on the longer term; it’s the short term which got us into this mess
· Don’t simply cut costs, productivity is the key to growth
· Build organisational capability
· Make sure that you have a clear sense of purpose which is based on your customers
All of that sounds logical and sensible but in practice it’s not going to happen without effective leadership at all levels, a supportive culture and a robust strategy.