If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s the certainty of uncertainty. Extraordinary events, business disruptions, and complexity are becoming the norm. Businesses are increasingly facing a myriad of challenges as the global environment continues to evolve – often in unpredictable ways.
Consider the impact of pandemics, natural disasters, supply chain dislocations, rising inflation, rising geopolitical conflicts, disruptive technologies, ever-changing customer preferences, issues related to ESG topics, increasing pressure on employers to accommodate flexible working patterns, cybercrime, and new regulations on enterprise performance and success.
Given these widespread challenges plus other unforeseen changes, resilience is now one of the key ingredients necessary to survive and succeed. How we lead and manage our businesses today should be fittingly different from how we did in the past.
Very few organizations anticipated the COVID-19 pandemic or even the prospect of a major pandemic that would entirely shut down the world and decimate local economies.
Unfortunately for many organizations, their perfectly crafted single-commitment strategies, plans, and forecasts unexpectedly became meaningless. Their resilience – the ability to continuously anticipate and prepare for an inherently uncertain and unpredictable future, respond quickly and effectively to threats and opportunities, and adapt accordingly to survive and succeed – was tested and failed.
As would be expected, other organizations successfully managed to weather the crisis, identify new opportunities, and redefine their operating business models and value creation processes.
With the focus now turned on the new post-pandemic world also expected to be characterized by more turbulent storms and business disruptions, the question is, how can leaders and decision-makers best navigate their organizations through unchartered territories?
In other words, how can they ensure their organizations are resilient enough to withstand and thrive within disruption, unpredictable events, or unexpected change?
- Acknowledge that the future is a range of possible outcomes, not a distinct set of circumstances or events that will certainly happen. The business environment is continuously evolving. Thus, imagining the world as an orderly place where randomness does not cause chaos and things are perfectly predictable is the only strategy guaranteed to fail. Despite their best efforts to create certainty and order, it’s futile for decision-makers to resist the idea that things might not work out the way they want.
- Learn and develop capabilities to map out multiple future scenarios, develop an optimal strategy for each of those scenarios, then continually test the effectiveness of these strategies. The world is increasingly connected. In addition to taking an inside-out view of your organization, adopt an outside-in perspective. Is anything happening out there to undermine the existence of your business? Develop the curiosity that drives you to learn and understand, as opposed to thinking that you already possess all the ideas and solutions.
- Resilience is not simply about surviving. It is also about growth, questioning and resetting established norms, and increasing the speed of decision-making while advancing creative thinking and relentless innovation across the organization. Hence the importance of breaking down silos and eliminating boundaries that are inhibiting swift and effective decision-making. The organization as a whole (its systems, processes, and people) needs to be ready and able to promptly change its course despite many unforeseen circumstances.
- Continually reimagine your existing business model to make it more relevant and responsive. For example, ESG and employee mental health are increasingly topical issues. Thus, it is no longer enough for businesses to focus resources and value creation for the benefit of shareholders only. Decision-makers need to make these key emerging issues part of their strategic conversations and ensure sustainable value creation is geared towards a wider set of stakeholders other than financial profitability. In other words, value creation should deliver both financial and non-financial benefits. How anticipative and responsive is your operating business model to unexpected shocks, new customer preferences, employee requests, regulations, competition, and growth opportunities? Are you simply responding passively to all the changes in the environment or in fact initiating some of them yourself?
How else can we make our organizations more resilient to succeed?
I welcome your thoughts.