What is Resilience and Why Does it Matter?

A resilient business can weather storms and economic uncertainties, allowing it to prosper now and in the future. Building resilience into a business is an area where project managers can add value to a firm and ensure smooth operations. 

The coronavirus pandemic is one of the most challenging times for businesses. Hardly any businesses had a plan in place for how to deal with a pandemic of such scale. That doesn’t mean that none were resilient though.

Resilience is the ability to adapt and respond to disruptions, making sure that business can proceed as normal while ensuring the safety of employees. Resilience comes from a place of knowledge and acceptance that, while not ideal, operations and processes could change to meet new demands. This was seen in the amount of work that could be done at home during lockdown. Office workers, taking crowded public transport into dense cities, could spread the virus easily to their colleagues, customers and families.

Staying at home presented difficulties to businesses, but people met these challenges with flexibility. Meetings went online, through services such as Zoom, while team catchups were handled by messaging services such as Slack. Projects continued. Project managers can learn a lot of lessons on building resilient teams and projects from this.

1. Know where you can be flexible

Adaptations will not necessarily be as efficient as regular processes. But they are a lot more efficient than getting no work done. When challenges are presented, know where you can be flexible. This could be over how work is monitored, delivered or even when deadlines are. 

2. Trust your employees

People like overcoming challenges. Tap the enthusiasm and knowledge of your workers. Outline the difficulties in completing a project and open the floor to suggestions. Creative solutions are great, but sometimes a problem could be solved simply by someone recalling an article they read a few weeks ago featuring a new technology or service. 

3. List potential threats and ways to overcome

While the coronavirus pandemic could not be predicted, the response to it shares features of other disasters. When you plan for these eventualities, you build up resilience. The exact scenario may not be the same, but the response could be. Hazardous weather could stop employees getting to the office. Planning for that will help you overcome a blackout, say, where the office is out of operation. Adapting responses to specific problems is a key part of being resilient. 

4. Plan for the worst

Build redundancies into your system. Backup work offsite and ensure that projects can be worked on even without access to company resources. If your building suddenly got shut down, and no equipment was allowed to be taken from it, no computers, no data, nothing, could you still operate? Is there an offsite data store? Can workers use personal computers to finish projects? Plan for the worst and whatever happens you will be prepared. 

Being resilient will pay off in the long run. Small upfront costs, in terms of money, time and concentration, will help you get through tough times outside of your control. Eventually a threat will come to pass. A resilient business can carry on, stealing a march on competitors who may be caught flatfooted. Be prepared and you are prepared to prosper.