4 Postures toward resilience
The goal of resilience is clear: a rapid and successful cycle through three phases: Respond, Recover, and Thrive — for any disruption. Yet, the path to accomplishing this goal can vary considerably depending on the nature of the disruption. How a business marshals resources to help address a tsunami that just flooded a plant is decidedly different from how it might redesign its innovation strategies to flourish in a world of greater climate - and privacy-related regulations. For resilience, context matters, and a “one-size-fits-all” approach will likely fall short.
Global executives recognise that different disruptions require different resilience postures. The challenge is to quickly assess the context of the disruption and effectively apply the resilience posture which is most appropriate to that context.
To help executives more dynamically integrate resilience into their business, this article uncovers four primary postures businesses take depending on the context of disruptions. While each of these postures has a place in the resilience system, the article explores the opportunities and challenges of activating each one—along with the potential risks of limiting resilience to solely being a short-term, crisis response tool.
Businesses interpret and activate resilience in a variety of ways. While there are nuances across each business, two overarching dimensions regularly underly each resilience posture:
Dimension 1: The scope of resilience
The scope of resilience often ranges from an operational exercise that helps address a small portion of the business to a coordinated organisational strategy that infuses resilience across the enterprise.
In a 2022 Deloitte survey, where executives were asked what upcoming threats and disruptions they’re worried about, those more operationally focused cited fewer vulnerabilities on the horizon—perhaps signalling a more myopic lens to resilience. This is especially true in terms of supply chain and environmental disruptions, as only 44 per cent with more of an operational scope called them out as being concerns; in contrast to their organisationally focused peers, where 73 per cent cited the same issues. In general, those citing operational scopes regularly identify fewer threats at a time when resilience encompasses multiple facets of the business.
Dimension 2: The position of resilience activities
When leaders discuss how they activate resilience, positions vary from short-term defensive objectives, like maintaining the status quo, to longer-term, offensive approaches that look for the opportunity behind the disruption.
Again, leaders in more defensive positions regularly call out more barriers to effectively activate their resilience strategies (possibly signalling a barrier to playing more offence). Thematically, it’s clear people are at the heart of the biggest needs of those predominantly playing defence, rather than technical and operational infrastructure.
The four postures of resilience
Taken together, we see an interplay between scope (i.e. whether the business deploys resilience more operationally or across the entire organisation) and position (i.e. whether the business plays offence or defence). In that spirit, we interact with these two dimensions to identify four resilience postures.
Operational defence focuses on more immediate and isolated disruptions. The goal is to help the at-risk portion of the business to quickly address the concern to “survive another day”.
Operational offence takes a more proactive approach to resilience but limits the focus to a subset of the business—usually the area most at risk of disruption. These businesses go beyond simply trying to survive a disruption, but instead view the disruption as an opportunity for entering new markets, growing the business, and/or increasing performance.
Organisational defence makes resilience an enterprise-wide, coordinated strategy to help ensure the business can quickly recover from a variety of disruptions.
Organisational offence turns resilience into the enterprise-wide strategic priority that proactively transforms the business in anticipation of disruption. These businesses, over a longer-term horizon, turn disruptions into opportunities.
To aid leaders in designing their own strategies, we explore insights from executives across each of the four postures, providing specific actions and needs to successfully assume each posture.
Operational defence: Setting the table stakes
For Operational Defense, executives discuss the importance of implementing strong scenario planning capabilities and metrics that focus on recovery.
For Organisational defence, executives repeatedly highlight the need to start with a strong resilience framework. Consider these two ways businesses are expanding the scope of resilience:
• A flexible enterprise-wide framework
While executives describe various risk plans (e.g., business continuity plans and disaster recovery plans), some highlight the need to infuse flexibility within those plans to account for functional and regional nuances.
• Placing a premium on talent redundancy
Beyond supply chain and technology, executives are now emphasising the need to expand the purview of their redundancy efforts— and talent is a focus area.
Operational offence: Investing in insights
Leaders frequently mention the difficulty of spending significant resources on a potential disruption that may never come to fruition. However, some executives are calling out the need to bolster their planning function with better insights. Businesses can up their game by expanding insights function and integrating the long-term into short-term planning.
Organisational offence: Elevating innovation and communication
Building resilience takes effort and those capable of assuming an organisational offense posture may need the corresponding resilience culture and infrastructure to proactively transform the business and grow through disruption.
Global executives identify the below areas as foundational to this posture:
1. Resilience as an innovation catalyst
2. Embedding bottom-up communication
As each business faces its own unique set of disruptions in the pursuit of its long-term goals, it is worth considering these two points:
Know the risks of staying put
Resilience comes at a high cost. It takes leadership commitment, discipline and talent to execute. However, while the initial costs may be high, taking a narrow view of resilience may put the business at risk of not appropriately meeting the next disruption on the horizon.
Resilience doesn’t need to transform every business
While there are benefits to building the infrastructure for Organisational Offense, every crisis doesn’t need to be met with a transformational lens. Sometimes, it’s okay to respond with a quick recovery. However, it should be done with a clear sense of what barriers are holding the business back from achieving transformational resilience.
As businesses undergo their own resilience movement, keep an eye on the horizon to help ensure the strategies built today help empower the enterprise to flourish tomorrow.
The writers are Partner, Risk Advisory, and Manager, Risk Advisory, Deloitte Fgaba