Business Resilience: An Overview

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Business Resilience: A practical guide to sustained progress delivered at pace is a book by an impressive authoring team.

The tone is set immediately with the powerful introduction: this is not a book for the faint-hearted! To get the benefits of better business resilience, you need to commit at the most senior levels within the delivery and change organization, preferably at board level.

Business Resilience book
This is my copy, gifted to me by the authors. I’m wearing Turtle Dove wrist warmers as it is so cold in my office!

What is business resilience?

Business resilience is the ability for an organization to benefit from disruption and deliver at pace even in times of instability. It’s about future-proofing your business so you can adapt quickly, pivot when needed and keep morale high even when the situation is changing rapidly.

There are 5 domains in the business resilience framework laid out in the book.

There are a lot of parts to the resilience framework laid out in the book, and on my first skim through, I was confused by the different acronyms and how it all fits together. There are some useful diagrams, but be prepared to unpick the different layers of the model and map these into your own corporate jargon as required.

I would keep the diagrams in front of you as you read so you can quickly refer back to where you are in the framework. There are also useful tables to help you see how different sections relate to each other.

The principles of business resilience

The 7 principles of business resilience are:

  1. Business resilience is essential for organizational survival.
  2. Change is certain; business resilience and progress are not.
  3. Strong focus on customer value enhances business resilience.
  4. Ensuring diverse thinking builds business resilience.
  5. Ethical practice builds long-term business resilience.
  6. Business resilience and progress can be realized at a fast or slow pace.
  7. Adopting a robust model focused on progress strengthens business resilience.

These are all pretty obvious statements. I mean, you wouldn’t put them in front of an exec and expect them to disagree. However, I think having them laid out clearly adds some weight to what you are doing if you are moving towards improving resilience in your business environment and changing the company culture.

The benefits of business resilience

So if the principles are what you’d expect senior leaders to be focused on anyway, what are the benefits of adopting a specific approach to resilience. Why should we use a framework to hold our resilient organization together?

The benefits are laid out in the book and they are clear. Disruptive events can be critical moments for businesses. Basically, organizations that can’t adapt in difficult times die out. And you don’t want that for your business.

Resilient businesses are able to harness change and make the most of disruptive forces. They still make progress (in the right direction, at the right pace) regardless of what is happening around them in the socio-economic climate. If you want your firm to be in business in 100 years, you’d better bake resilience into how it operates at every level.

Some other less obvious but equally important benefits are:

  • Increasing productivity
  • Adopting a ‘one team’ approach across the organization
  • Delivering in a predictable fashion (every PMO leader wants this!)
  • Improving customer satisfaction and retention
  • Reducing costs and rework
  • Retaining key staff and talent at all levels
  • Increasing competitive advantage and taking more market share.

Setting the scene

The first sections of the book describe the whole framework and the benefits of business resilience. There is guidance on the roles required to make it a success.

My key takeaway from this section was that you need buy in at the most senior levels. In an organization that does not plan strategically, and is relatively short-sighted, this approach is not going to be a success.

Unsurprisingly, those are the organizations where resilience and future-proofing against economic shifts is probably not high on the agenda anyway — are those leadership teams really focused on long-term value?

Who is this book for?

This book would be great for PMO practitioners. It’s a different take on implementing strategy and would feed into a PMO mission statement.

If you are a project practitioner in a delivery role, it is still an interesting and useful read, but it doesn’t necessarily align to the way you do projects now. The book definitely aligns with modern project management practice and thinking, but it goes wider than that too.

You’d need a fair degree of influence to be able to shift the thinking in the PMO or department to build in resilient business processes, but some of it you could definitely do like:

  • Using focus groups
  • Considering sustainability in project solutions
  • Carrying out competitive analysis as part of pre-project business case work (if you get involved with that)
  • Focusing on customer value
  • Understanding what ‘progress’ looks like for the project and how that links back to the portfolio
  • Reviewing your practice at regular intervals.

None of these items individually would be any surprise to people working in projects today, but put together in a strategic way I can see how you can shift the focus on delivery to something that is geared up to be flexible and adaptive.

Putting it into practice

One of the best things about the book is that it does help you put the skills into practice. Being a resilient organization means more than simply having business continuity plans or being prepared for natural disasters. It’s a new way of thinking about business models and how you deliver change over time.

There are self-assessment scales so you can rank your performance currently and identify gaps. There are inputs and outputs diagrams so you can see exactly what to do to implement each of the activities.

The chapter on tools for business resilience is useful too, as it talks about the specific tools you can use, their purpose and how to use them.

Throughout the book you will also find case studies and boxes with stories in, as well as the voices from the front-line section towards the end for more real-life examples. I found the stories interesting, and I wasn’t surprised to see Blockbuster in there! Equally, there are lots of references to the Covid-19 pandemic and the impact of coronavirus on businesses.

Tailoring the framework

Towards the end of the book is a chapter on adapting the operational resilience framework to your own organization. This is very “on trend” with project management thinking at the moment: all the professional bodies and certification schemes seem to be hot on tailoring approaches, and this is no different. Still, it’s useful to see adaptation approaches called out so specifically.

You can adapt and tailor every part of the framework apart from the values, which underpin everything and really can’t be changed.

Key takeaways

My key takeaways from the book are these.

It’s a huge job to set this framework up. There are many moving parts, lots of sub-bullet point items and pieces that have to come together to do it all ‘properly’. You have to take a strategic approach across the entire organization.

The good news is that you don’t have to do it all. You can choose to work towards increasing resilience and pick the tools, principles, approaches you want to do.

A successful implementation requires top level executive support from business leaders as it could involve rethinking the whole strategy and delivery approaches across every aspect of the business. That’s a big job. But don’t be put off by the scale of it all. Think about the pieces you already have in place and what could be added easily, and then put together plans to work on the rest.

Long after you’ve retired, your customers and staff will be grateful that you put the effort in.

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