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Resilience in hindsight: Lessons from 2027?

In this op ed thought experiment, David Lindstedt looks back from the year 2027 and highlights some pitfalls that the resilience road could lead to.

We should have been more careful, more disciplined.

But the idea of ‘resilience’ was so alluring.

Not like all the other stuff. IT DR was boring in the details, and it was all about the details. BCP could never get the proper sponsorship from executives. Life safety was tolerated, but never engaging in the corporate space.

But resilience? Now that showed promise.

Resilience could be moulded and packaged to garner enthusiasm from any stakeholder. For the CRO, we happily discussed risk mitigation, insurance policies, and keeping an eye on world events that might impact the supply chain. For the president, we talked about business value and monitoring market forces inside and around the industry. For the CFO, it was about financial stewardship and our participation in the global economy. For the PMO it was about a properly balanced portfolio that maximized resources and bolstered strategic planning. HR could easily buy into improving the commitment, endurance, and general ‘grit’ of all employees.

Why, you could even focus on sustainability as a key aspect of resilience and find a receptive audience with the eco-friendly.

Articles and presentations could now have a positive tone. Naturally, we could not leave out some gloom and doom, and fear was never far behind. But how freeing it was to talk about empowering employees, taking advantage of opportunities to create business value, global supply chains, PR, market forces, threat escalation, and media management.

And practitioners got closer to the c-suite than ever before.

But the profession couldn’t contain itself.

There can be no doubt: Many individuals did quite well. Those who could talk the language of senior management now had a springboard and an excuse to partner and strategize with them. Article after article and every conference keynote told us all how we could succeed in our careers if we would just learn to care about the same things our executives cared about. For a time, a few individuals were even able to raise awareness in the general public and bring much-needed media attention to our professional organizations. We bookmarked and shared those wonderful articles from those few organizations that created a new position and named it as the Chief Resilience Officer.

Yet few anticipated the slippery slope: If resilience could encompass so much of what it meant to manage an organization, where did it end? Market share, accounting, contracts, and strategic planning. Branding, banking, investments, leadership, and acquisitions. Executives got suspicious and confused – where did their jobs end and the resilience officer’s begin? What were the proper qualifications of resilience professionals? What expertise should they bring to the table? What differentiated them from management consultants? What differentiated them at all?

We never could measure resilience. How can you measure what you can’t define? Not that we didn’t try. So much electronic ink was spilled trying to argue for one definition over another. Everyone had an agenda. Everyone had an opinion. In the meantime, the average practitioner was caught between a plethora of expert advice and a constantly shifting range of stakeholder expectations. We never could agree on a proper scope or body of knowledge for resilience.

Perhaps the death knell sounded when Ivy League MBA programs added a single course on organizational resilience and subsumed the whole profession in a single gulp.

And so ‘resilience’ became watered-down and bland. It became passé and disregarded.

All the while, nature did not take a break. The wildfires of 2018. The water wars of 2023. H1N5. Hurricanes Ophelia and Jacqueline. With eight billion people on the planet, the impact of disasters grew steadily worse.

IT did not become any less important. Quantum encryption. Smart ‘AI’ for network self-monitoring and self-healing programs. The Cluxter computer virus. The European EMP Detonation. And, hey, did you want to be the one to tell the CIO that her VC multi-cast was down?

Therefore it was not until just last year that the first International Conference on Preparedness Planning Research (ICPPR) took place at an academic institution. Protecting our people, organizations, resources, and communities required more thought and discipline than anyone had been willing to dedicate before.

Realizing the plain value of better preparing for and recovering from disasters, several government agencies have begun to take up the quiet, yet definitive, call from the United Nations to invest resources and, more importantly, money into think-tanks, global micro-prevention, entrepreneurship, academia, and supporting technologies. All this is response to a growing awareness of the need for research and data upon which to build a solid foundation for preparedness planning. There are now even rumours that the International Monetary Fund may be taking an interest. It’s not much yet, but it’s a good start.

2027 and how many opportunities have we lost? How much data could have been collected? With the computing power now available, imagine the analysis we could have brought to bear in conjunction with holo-GIS, the mobile GPS big data DB (BDDB), the International Imaging Project, and Habitat’s housing census reports.

2027 and, with 20/20 hindsight, all these years we should have been carefully cordoning off areas of subject matter expertise to found proper disciplines. Now we have an uphill battle to fight against Internet templates, touch-available information, and our own legacy.

2027 and we still cannot answer the question: If an organization undertakes professional preparedness planning, how much more likely are they to recover from a significant physical or staffing loss? Imagine how beneficial that one piece of data could have been to the discipline and our communities.

2027 and RIP, ‘resilience.’

The author
David Lindstedt, PhD, CBCP is the founder of Readiness Analytics, provider of The Readiness Test.

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•Date: 11th December 2013 • World •Type: Article • Topic: BC general

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