Sustaining with Resilience

The coronavirus crisis has shaken us to the core in recent months. People and organizations respond to this with different levels of resilience. Here you will learn why it is a good idea to strengthen your own resilience, particularly in this time of crisis.

July 23, 2020

by Maren Borggräfe

The lockdown, and the phase we are now in, have been and remain a genuine challenge to people and organizations alike. In many areas, the coronavirus crisis has been like a magnifying glass, revealing the aspects that are urgently in need of improvement or making up for lost time. If we interpret this finding positively, for all its adversities, the crisis offers us an opportunity to develop our resilience further, so we can deal even more effectively with unforeseen upheavals in the future. This is true of both individual and organizational resilience.


Organizational resilience

The COVID-19 crisis, with its constraints on contact, is a surprising and trailblazing driver of digitalization. It is also simple, as it has suddenly become necessary to make greater use of virtual encounters and business models. And lo and behold: It actually works, because everyone has joined forces in a search for solutions and in a shared willingness to throw dead-end processes overboard without much hesitation, or to tailor these for virtual work.

This creates a much deeper awareness that virtual collaboration, in an uncertain environment with constantly changing conditions, also calls for a different form of interaction and communication. Suddenly, the focus is also on the availability of knowledge and structural resources. All these points offer opportunities for developing organizational resilience, which forms the basis for weathering a crisis like the current one reasonably intact.

Research identifies a variety of factors for organizational resilience. Individual topics are also laid out in the ISO standard* on organizational resilience that was published in 2017. From our point of view, these are the ten most important pillars of resilient organizations:

Factors of Organizational Resilience_en

The structural transformation will accelerate massively as a result of the crisis – and this makes the present precisely the right time to invest in strengthening your own resilience. In doing so, the focus should deliberately rest on evaluating developmental levels within the various topics. Focusing on three or, at the most, five factors will prevent overload of a system already strained by the crisis.

Resilience only available in a twin pack

Organizations are only as strong as their members. Conversely, even resilient people can only reach their full impact in an environment that fosters resilience.

Individual resilience

On the one hand, strengthening managers’ and employees’ resilience is part of personal self-responsibility and self-care. In an organizational setting, though, this strengthening is also clearly a management task. People can only develop resilience if the surroundings and the support they receive are suitable. This does not mean that managers should coddle their employees. Quite the opposite. After all, the only way to develop resilience in the different manifestations of its factors is through experience. And we can only gain experience if we also encounter opportunities in which to test our resilience. Rarely before in our time have leaders and employees in Europe collectively enjoyed such great opportunities to unpack their inner strengths.

Even in the case of individual resilience, a variety of factors can contribute to its formation:

Which of the factors are pronounced and which less so is very individual and depends on one’s personal disposition, previous experience and circumstances. This is what makes each resilience-development process quite distinct. The task for managers, trainers and coaches is to create the safest possible framework in which employees can reflect and put themselves to the test. At the same time, they are called upon to acknowledge their own uncertainty in an authentic and transparent manner. This can be a real balancing act at times. This makes it all the more important for managers themselves to deal with their inner strengths as well.

The best way to strengthen resilience in a crisis is to create a social network that offers support within or beyond the organization. This creates an opportunity for participants to strengthen and support one another. In spite of turbulent times, managers need to deliberately incorporate periods of reflection into everyday life, for themselves and their team, in order to process productively the events experienced, articulate findings and derive specific rules and steps based on this. Transparency within an organization also provides an extremely important reminder of the topic, solidly embedding it in one’s own corporate culture to create a viable basis for resilience. This is how the crisis can give rise to new strength.

* ISO 22316:2017 Security and resilience – Organizational resilience – Principles and attributes. Berlin: Beuth 2017.

back to blog homepage