How big of a hit can your organization take? Can you prevent it? What resilience score would you give your organization? Ron Westrum gives some good criteria in Resilience Engineering: Concepts and Precepts.
Threats and Timeframe
An important issue revolves around the time horizon surrounding the threat and when the organization responds to it. There are 3 categories to consider:
- Foresight is the ability to prevent something bad from happening to the organization.
- Coping is the ability to prevent something bad that has happened from getting worse.
- Recovery is the ability to recover from something bad once it has happened.
Foresight has two components. The first is profiting from lessons learned and dealing with threatening situations in a constructive way through avoidance (elimination of the threat) or mitigation (dampening the probability or impact of a risk) strategies. This is what could be considered standard risk management.
The second is more interesting. It has to do with weak signal analysis. This comprises sensitivity to emerging trends within the environment and taking steps early to fend off the threat or to be prepared to deal with it successfully should it turn into a problem.
The problem with weak signal analysis is the findings may not integrate with cultural norms and be dismissed out of hand as being incorrect, over-reactive, or signs of being a crackpot. The use of radar at Pearl Harbor in 1941 is a good example. Accurate information was generated regarding the incoming Japanese attack. Use of it would have allowed for better preparation for the attack. The problem was advanced technologies such as radar weren’t part of the military culture and were considered “out there” so the information was ignored and the opportunity to prepare for the attack was missed.
Do you do any weak signal analysis to see what trends might be developing? How familiar is your organization with the competitive environment? If you do get that information what is done with it? Is it converted into something actionable?
Coping can comprise two approaches. The first is familiar to most of us. It is toughness in terms of being able to absorb, say, a no-cost change order. There is a second intriguing aspect to coping, which can promote long-term survivability. It is the ability to redesign/restructure the organization right in the middle of the trouble. There is an everyday word for this – flexibility.
The trend to switch from being a computer company that provides services to a service company that uses computers is a very good example of coping.
How is the recovery from a seriously damaging event handled? Is the focus on the principles that best serve the market niche the organization is in or is there a search for the guilty and punishment of the innocent? Apple is probably the best example of recovery. It has gone from about 2% market share in personal computers to being the second biggest company listed on Wall Street beaten out only be ExxonMobil.
So the questions are, “What would your organization’s score be when it comes to foresight, coping and recovery? What would you do to improve them?”