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People: the untouched lever of business resilience

‘Business resilience could be so much better if we can find a way to harness the power of our people, creating a culture and behaviours that enhance business resilience.’ Robin Gaddum explains why this is the case and looks at what can be done to ‘pull the people lever’.

In my previous article, I described how business resilience is most compelling when it links performance improvement with risk management.  Focus on the upside contribution to achieving future strategic objectives and the challenge becomes, 'why wouldn't you do business resilience?'

In this article I will start to explain how to make business resilience deliver on this promise, focusing first on how to unlock the power of purpose and values (see diagram below). 

What defines your organization?

I use ‘purpose and values’ as shorthand for what makes your organization unique and defines who you are.  It's why one airline (or grocer, or bank) is different from the next; and executives are beginning to appreciate how powerful a lever it can be. You will hear a lot more about purpose-led transformation in the future.

Business impact analysis isn't good enough

To date, business continuity has focused on protecting the organization from disruptive events. If we are honest with ourselves, the bulk of our efforts have centred on ‘capabilities and capacity’. 

We've used techniques such as business impact analysis (BIA) to map the organization’s products/services to its processes/activities, whilst capturing dependencies such as key locations, staff by function, suppliers, IT systems, and so on. The BIA helps identify how quickly processes/activities need to be reinstated so that impact is limited to an agreed and tolerable level.

In terms of understanding the organization’s resilience capabilities and capacity, the BIA leaves much to be desired. I will return to this in a future article; here I want to focus on purpose and values.

Business continuity managers are like Harry Potter

The Business Continuity Institute acknowledged the importance of building and embedding a business continuity management culture many years ago. However, most business continuity professionals (myself included) have been appallingly bad at doing any more than limited integration of business continuity into other management systems alongside a most basic education and training programme. The consequences of this omission are clear. The business continuity manager is like Harry Potter: the orphan boy that nobody wants, who is kept in a cupboard under the stairs and only allowed out when Voldemort threatens the end of the world. 

Pulling the people lever

Organizations are made up of people. Successful business transformations involve and engage people.  Business resilience could be so much better if we can find a way to harness the power of our people, creating a culture and behaviours that enhance business resilience.

To do this, you will need a clear understanding of your organization’s purpose and values.  Point (1) in my business resilience diagram is where purpose and values sits.  This is because a collaborative, self-critical, risk-aware and opportunity-seeking culture embedded in the organization’s values provides the foundation for resilience.  To get started, ask yourself a few hard questions:

  • What defines your business, underpins your brand and gives your organization 'permission' to deliver its products and services?
  • How do your organization's behaviours support its purpose and values?
  • Can you define the behaviours you want and need to support your organization’s success today and in the future?
  • Can you measure these behaviours, so that you have a baseline from which to score your progress?
  • Can you design a framework to encourage desired behaviours?
  • Can you sustain a lasting campaign to engage staff and facilitate that change?

Art or science?

This is not black magic or Defence against the Dark Arts (to keep the Harry Potter theme rolling), but it does take time and requires skills and experience that most business continuity managers lack. Some of those skills and experience may be found in the Personnel department and some may be in the Marketing and Internal Communications functions. Business resilience managers could learn a lot from how others have approached the ‘changing behaviours’ challenge. For example, I’ve been looking at how some organizations have made transformed behaviours in the field of health and safety.

Have you seen successful behaviour change across an organization and if so then where, and what were the key success factors?

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The author

Robin Gaddum is currently Associate Partner, Resilience at IBM. This article was first published by Robin on LinkedIn Pulse. Robin can be contacted at

The author reserves all copyright rights for this article.

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Business continuity can be defined as 'the processes, procedures, decisions and activities to ensure that an organization can continue to function through an operational interruption'. Read more about the basics of business continuity here.

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