Organisational resilience

Ensuring your Business Makes it in the Long Run

By Caryn Walsh – Psychotherapist

Executive Coach, International Leadership and Team Development Specialist, Lecturer, Author, Motivational Speaker

international Lead:  Pure Magic International Business Solutions Pty Ltd

From March 2020, as Covid-19 swept through the world, challenging nations, Organisations and people around the globe in its wake, we all realised that every day since then, we have awoken to a very different world.  Where many Organisations have had to drastically change the way they do business if success and sustainability are the names of their game.

Since then, the pursuit of superior digitalisation and the upskilling of human resources have become the two main thrusts of CEOs around the world, to ensure they have a competitive edge to drive their Organisations into a successful future.

Resilience. Does your Organisation have it? What does it even mean?

According to Tierney (2005)

 ‘Organisational resilience is the ability of an Organisation to plan for, and adapt to, change or disruption through anticipation, protection, responsive capacity and recoverability.’

In a recent study conducted by with more than 50 CEOs of companies around Australia, it was not surprising that most view Organisational resilience as much more than merely surviving. The consensus was that creating sustainable companies means ensuring they have a range of procedures, processes, policies, strategies, and approaches in place to deal with any disruption they may face – with a firm focus on adaptability. Being able to change, modify or be flexible has become a key business focus.

Additionally, in a study conducted by American-based Forbes magazine into Organisational resilience late last year, findings show that ‘one way business leaders can minimise loss, stabilise and potentially grow their share price is by setting and achieving essential environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals.’ And whilst ESG goals were formerly seen as ‘non-financial risks,’ Covid has changed that thinking. It is now clear that they are material financial risks and opportunities that can have significant impact on an Organisation’s  bottom line. (

Positive responses to the Pandemic

We are all acutely aware of how Covid-19 created a panicked world through unrelenting lockdowns, isolation, standing down of staff and global uncertainty, and its negative impacts on financial markets and lives, impacting businesses, careers, and communities globally.

However, it also enabled Organisations to think more creatively and design innovative products and services to rise up and meet the needs of the new world (such as colourful masks and accelerated fast-food delivery) and in so doing, create new market opportunities for existing and new players.

Taking advantage of a situation. Always looking for the silver-lining around the storm cloud.  What’s yours?

What are the three broad areas of considerations in Organisational Resilience?

According to a study by, there are three broad concepts regarding Organisational resilience, each of which we will briefly address:

  1. An effective ‘business as usual’ capability
  2. The ability to adapt and change as needed
  3. The ability to actively shape the environment of the Organisation when necessary

We know Organisational life is fraught with periods of adversity as changes in the market, politics, funding and emerging competitors occur.  By definition, Organisational resilience hinges on the capacity to bounce back, to  recover from any of these significant setbacks.

An effective ‘business as usual’ approach

If an Organisation undertakes its ‘business as usual’ (BAU) activities successfully under normal conditions, it is more likely to be able to cope with unplanned disruptions.

However, according to Kay and Goldspink (2020), a focus on BAU can be detrimental at times. ‘Whilst management techniques such as a constant focus on streamlining business processes may improve its outcomes, at some level it can also limit the Organisation’s ability to adapt and change to disruption, making it more vulnerable than it need be.

What Organisations need is the ability to predict adversity in the future and be able to deal with any disruptive impact it may have, together with a flexible and agile approach, whilst developing and encouraging its workforce to be innovative and change ready at every possibility.

The ability to change and adapt

Operating in ever changing environments, Organisations that adapt to changing circumstances and grow with them are most likely to survive, even thrive. Those that fail to see any change at all or ignore it, are at most risk.

Prior to Covid-19 some Organisations did not keep up with business demands and continued to capture data and information using manual systems, for example – writing information into journals, credit and debit ledgers and using outdated technology. No doubt these businesses will have zero chance of surviving moving forward, as the global demands of everyday business have changed significantly and increased pressures will force them to adapt – or close their doors.

A simple example is technology – the world has become an increasingly digitalised village and those Organisations that do not create a competitive online presence moving forward, face the wrath of being left technologically behind in an ever-changing world.

Shape the Environment

I give the example of our Organisation in this regard.

For over two decades we have operated as a face-to-face international leadership and team development and coaching Organisation working in Australia, Africa and Fiji, where maximum outcomes have been our way of doing business – ensuring we provide clients with academic rigour, enthusiasm, and interaction in our face-to-face delivery.

Then Covid-19 arrived, and it was game over. Adapt or die. We never liked developing people through a screen but realised we had to entertain this idea and adapt. Change. Be flexible. What if ……?

As the full impact of Covid-19 unfolded, we wrote a range of forty short, impactful 90-minute Programs for our customers, keeping their leaders and people upskilled in a range of topics such as managing stress, communicating with confidence, and empowering teams throughout the pandemic.

What if we combined that with our existing coaching offerings to ensure our clients continued to grow and thrive throughout the pandemic? Would that work?

We launched into action. We pulled out all stops to adapt to a completely new learning and development world experience. Falling back on our academic backgrounds and modern-day research, we wrote and continue to deliver these facilitated, interactive online training programs for existing and new clients, both within Australia and internationally.

Four months after Covid arrived, we were almost back to where we were before it swept through the world.

We knew we had to adapt or die.

Shape the environment or leave it. We shaped it. And ourselves.

Organisational Resilience Temperature – How does your rate?

Often business leaders find that some parts of their business are more resilient than others. Those parts that have more robust processes or systems or are easier to track than other areas of the business perhaps? This is not uncommon, but overall, the thrust needs to be focussing efforts across the Organisation to ensure resilience at all levels.

Answer either yes or no to these Organisational resilience questions

  • How modern are your processes and systems? Do you still capture information manually or in a digital way?
  • Do you have ongoing people development plans and strategies in place that are followed regularly?
  • As an Organisation, do you have ad hoc reactions to challenges – that is, a few uniformed strategic approaches to dealing with difficulties or are there robust longer-term strategies that drive you?
  • Do you have a systematic approach to storage or safekeeping of critical Organisational information?
  • Do you have efficient back up processes to record and keep information that is critical to the ongoing sustainability of the business?
  • Do your leaders have a clear vision and direction which they regularly share with their people, motivating and positively influencing them at all levels into the future?
  • Do your leaders have clear expectations and roadmaps about how everybody in the organisation deals with environmental or internal threats when they arise?
  • Do you have committed and motivated staff who constantly look at ways to improve their performance and the overall productivity of the organisation?
  • Would you describe your workplace culture as an abundant can-do mentality or a ‘just in time’ approach to business?
  • Do you constantly attempt to predict changes in the market and rise up to meet them, or respond to them only after they have happened?

Key Considerations in Organisational Resilience

  • Resilience does not occur in isolation. It is an outcome of processes, policies and systematic approaches to doing business in a robust, sustainable way where we deal with diversity in an agile and flexible way
  • It is a complex and multi-dimensional construct that needs to be understood if we as leaders are going to ensure our Organisations are sustainable and able to meet any future demands
  • Whilst an Organisation can be resilient in one area (such as manufacturing) and not in another (HR experiences high staff turnover), if all aspects of a business are continuously assessed against risk and adversity and good practise and procedures are constantly put in place and adhered to, this allows an Organisation to adapt to changing circumstances, increasing resilience
  • Resilience encourages a ‘can-do’ mindset where people at all levels are engaged in their work and play their part in helping their Organisation adapt and weave around adversity and create new ways of doing business

In short, resilience is based on good risk management in all areas of the business and the ability to weave around adversity to ensure ongoing successful sustainability

Common indicators of Organisational Resilience

Whilst many models of Organisational resilience are proposed, according to Rahl (2019) common resilience indicators include:

‘a shared vision and lived organisational values, systematic capture of data, a focus on ensuring policies are updated to meet changing demands, a ‘can do’ culture where everybody is motivated to succeed in their roles and have pride in working for the Organisation and are deeply connected to its sense of purpose.’

Five traits of Resilience Organisations  

(Harvard Business Review, March 2021)

      Prepared  Educate your people about risk management, data retention, ways in which to deal with environmental threats, how to motivate and engage each other and create an optimistic ‘can do’ organisational culture.    We need to act in advance, plan new business models, diversify our ways of doing business and invest in remote-work capabilities  
  Adaptable  Show flexibility and agility in everything the Organisation does – without compromising quality outcomes of the service or product delivery  
    Collaborative    Working together as individuals and teams has never been so critical as right now – as we attempt to make sense of the new business environments and world which constantly change every day
    Trustworthy  Have belief in our systems, processes, policies, people, each other, and external stakeholders When you stand by your people and clients in times like a pandemic, you build rock solid relationships on which all rely As we all navigate the new business world, we are all going to need a great deal of trust  
  Responsible    Business committed to diversity, equality, and inclusion (and ridding itself of those who hinder these ideals) will show more resilient outcomes moving forward  


When Organisations are prepared, adaptable, collaborative, show high trust and are responsible (with all five traits working together) they seize opportunities that boost their resilience at all levels.

Organisational resilience is the responsibility of all people in the company. Often people down the line can identify a potential incoming threat in their area of work and alert leaders to this, allowing them to respond swiftly to deal with it.

Celebrate wins, big and small. Begin fostering a culture of everyday celebration that always acknowledges everybody’s efforts.

According to Perry and Marshall (2021)

Gratitude and celebration may be the encouragement folks need to keep leaning in and showing up when circumstances get fraught.