Resilience (organizational)

Resilience (organizational)

Resilience is defined as “the positive ability of a system or company to adapt itself to the consequences of a catastrophic failure caused by power outage, a fire, a bomb or similar” event.[1]

In recent years the term has been used to describe a burgeoning movement among entities such as businesses, communities and governments to improve their ability to respond to and quickly recover from catastrophic events such as natural disasters and terrorist attacks. The concept is gaining credence among public and private sector leaders who argue that resilience should be given equal weight to preventing terrorist attacks in U.S. homeland security policy.[2]

One of the earliest uses of the term in this context was by Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow Stephen Flynn in the book America the Vulnerable: How Our Government is Failing to Protect Us from Terrorism.[3] Dr. Flynn argued that America’s critical infrastructure – including bridges, tunnels, electrical grids, ports, chemical plants, and water systems – represents a key potential target to terrorists because a strike that impaired the infrastructure could severely disrupt important social and economic activity in the country. Making U.S. infrastructure more resilient was a key recommendation. With some 90% of U.S. critical infrastructure in private hands, such an emphasis will require strong public-private cooperation.


Business Continuity and Competitiveness

MIT Professor Yossi Sheffi extended the resilience concept to business continuity initiatives in his 2005 book The Resilient Enterprise.[4] Dr. Sheffi analyzed how disruptions can adversely affect the operations of corporations and how investments in resilience can give a business a competitive advantage over entities not prepared for various contingencies. Business organizations such as the Council on Competitiveness have embraced resilience and have tied economic competitiveness to security.[5] The Reform Institute has highlighted the need to enhance the resilience of the supply chain and electrical grid against disruptions that could cripple the U.S. economy.[6][7] Many corporations are adopting resilience and business continuity initiatives and sharing best practices.[8]

Many experts and leaders see resilience as a vital component to a comprehensive homeland security strategy.[9][10] Hurricane Katrina demonstrated that not all catastrophic events can be prevented and a focus on response and recovery is needed.

Growing Support in Washington, D.C.

Prominent members in the United States Congress are embracing resilience. The Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, Bennie Thompson (D-MS) declared May 2008 “Resilience Month” as the committee and its subcommittees held a series of hearings to examine the issue.[11][12] President Obama[13] and the Department of Homeland Security[14][15] have also made resilience an integral component of homeland security policy.

The Quadrennial Homeland Security Review, released by the Department of Homeland Security in February 2010, made resilience a prominent theme and one of the core missions of the U.S. homeland security enterprise.[16]

Making Resilience Reality

More scholarship is turning towards examining how to achieve resilience. Some have identified the four facets of resilience as preparedness, protection, response and recovery.[17] Other countries, such as the United Kingdom and Australia, are adopting the resilience concept.[18][19]

Measuring Resilience

As part of the Canterbury University Resilient Organisations programme, ResOrgs have developed a tool for benchmarking the Resilience of Organisations. [20]

Resilience as an Acquired Skill

In Organizational Studies, resilience is often referred to as the maintenance of positive adjustment under challenging conditions. Here, resilience emerges as the response to specific interruptions of the normal. Sutcliffe and Vogus [21]argue that resilience should rather be viewed from a developmental perspective, as an ability that develops over time from continually handling risks. Resilience, then, is "the continuing ability to use internal and external resources successfully to resolve new issues". Thus, "resilience is the capacity to rebound from adversity strengthened and more resourceful".

External links


  1. ^ Resilience. Wiktionary.
  2. ^ Testimony of Robert W. Kelly before the House Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism. Reform Institute. May 7, 2008.
  3. ^ Stephen Flynn. America the Vulnerable: How Our Government is Failing to Protect Us from Terrorism. A CFR book. HarperCollins. June 2004.
  4. ^ Yossi Sheffi. The Resilient Enterprise: Overcoming Vulnerability for Competitive Enterprise. MIT Press. October 2005.
  5. ^ Transform. The Resilient Economy. Integrating Competitiveness and Security. Council on Competitiveness. July 2007.
  6. ^ Chain of Perils: Hardening the Global Supply Chain and Strengthening America's Resilience. Reform Institute. March 2008.
  7. ^ The Smart Alternative: Securing and Strengthening Our Nation's Vulnerable Electric Grid. Reform Institute. June 2008.
  8. ^ Building A Resilient Nation: Enhancing Security, Ensuring a Strong Economy. Reform Institute. October 2008.
  9. ^ Katherine McIntire Peters. Government Urged to Focus on Resilience in Homeland Security. Government Executive. October 1, 2008
  10. ^ James Jay Carafano. Risk and Resiliency: Developing the Right Homeland Security Public Policies for the Post-Bush Era. Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection. Committee on Homeland Security. United States House of Representatives. June 24, 2008.
  11. ^ 'Resilience' Blooming Into Its Own. Homeland Security Watch. May 1, 2008.
  12. ^ Committee Leaders Pleased With Month of Hearings on Resiliency. CQ Homeland Security. May 23, 2008.
  13. ^ Homeland Security. Retrieved 2009-04-05.
  14. ^ One Team, One Mission, Securing Our Homeland. U.S. Department of Homeland Security Strategic Plan. Fiscal Years 2008-2013. U.S. Department of Homeland Security. September 2008.
  15. ^ Top Ten Challenges Facing the Next Secretary of Homeland Security. Homeland Security Advisory Council. September 2008.
  16. ^ Quadrennial Homeland Security Review Report: A Strategic Framework for a Secure Homeland. U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security. February 2010.
  17. ^ Building A Resilient Nation: Enhancing Security, Ensuring a Strong Economy report. Reform Institute. October 2008.
  18. ^ Resilient Nation. Demos. April 2009.
  19. ^ Improving Disaster Resilience. Australian Government. May 12, 2009.
  20. ^ Resilient Organisations. March 22 2011.
  21. ^ Organizing for Resilience Sutcliffe, K. M., & Vogus, T. J. (2003). In K. S. Cameron, J. E. Dutton & R. E. Quinn (Eds.), Positive Organizational Scholarship: Foundations of a New Discipline (pp. 94-110). San Francisco: Berett-Koehler Publishers

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