Industries hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic included airlines, leisure, restaurants, oil and gas, auto parts and equipment. In retrospect, many would have benefited from a focus on organizational resilience, from their supply chains to corporate boardrooms.
More often than not, the reason that companies fail at implementing organizational resilience strategies is a lack of planning and preparation, and a reliance on reactivity. How can supply chain and business leaders successfully introduce resilience into their organizations moving forward? Why is the concept so often overlooked? And what types of decision-making and change are needed when building new strategies?
A focus on top-line revenue growth (and, of course, bottom-line profit) is always important. These days, the C-suite cares even more about triple bottom-line impacts, focused on environmental and social governance, corporate social responsibility and diversity. But a corresponding emphasis on explosive growth could put strains on the organization, bring growth to a halt, hurting profit and eliminating the prioritization of ESG goals.
As expectations of resilience by key stakeholders continue to grow, organizations must prove they’re working with the entire business to ensure stable delivery of core internal capabilities and competencies. Directives from the C-suite can help cultivate a culture and mindset of resilience, and demonstrate that leaders understand the demands of customer and market behavior. Without the active engagement and support of top executives, organizations cannot achieve their resilience goals.
If CEOs think of organizational resilience as a low-tier priority, they won’t be prepared for the future. The concept must be viewed as a tool that helps to protect the top and bottom line, while allowing for flexibility and nimbleness in an ever-changing marketplace.
Businesses are recognizing that while short-term wins are important, the only way to survive and grow after experiencing unexpected strains is to prioritize long-term organizational strategy and planning. Companies should prepare now and continuously remain focused on providing resources to their people, process, technology, systems and structures that will allow them to thrive when things are good, but also when they’re uncertain.
Building resilience within a company’s workforce is key to adapting to the challenges ahead. There’s always opportunity in crisis, and in such times a focus on organizational resilience can bringing out the best in companies, teams and individuals as they strive to achieve collective goals.
As an example of “out-of-the-box” thinking, organizations that have taken diversity seriously over the years have placed themselves at an advantage to their competitors. They are ones that took the time to actively create diverse candidate pipelines from schools, neighborhoods and parts of the world that they hadn’t engaged with before, built a deeper understanding of those candidate pools, and executed appropriate strategies within those pools during candidate shortages.
The same can be said for supply base diversity. Companies that devoted resources to building pipeline and growth programs among diverse supplier bases were rewarded when supply shortages across the market left many scrambling to source essential goods.
The need for out-of-the-box thinking in supply chains and other elements of a business is vital. Those who regularly examine and reassess their organizational culture and structures, with an innovative eye, will build resilience and remain hyper-vigilant in keeping business functions healthy.
To sustain for the long term and flex to meet the market, businesses must understand their strengths and weaknesses. This enables them to adapt to constant change. Preparation, planning and strategy in a proactive and constantly evolving manner allows them to react smartly to the changing landscape around them.
Flexibility plays a huge role in one of the key aspects of sustained improvement: empowering team members to generate ideas and implement change. Leaders must carefully guide their teams with a strong focus on flexibility, adaptability, trust and communication, to ensure that the changes stick and are effective.
Automation can help, especially with tactical and transactional tasks. Risk management, change management, and communications are subject to automation to varying degrees. New technologies can help to keep companies on track and ensure the proper implementation of organizational resilience strategies.
Business leaders who overlook organizational resilience, by contrast, will fall short of goals and leave maximized potential on the table.
As organizations begin to understand where they are in their organizational resilience journeys, and bring a sense of adaptability to each component of program implementation and change, leaders can work toward stabilizing current operations, achieving future improvements and growth, and sustaining long-term success.
Jaideep Sen is principal consultant with Proxima.
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