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The Seven Habits of Highly Resilient Organisations

In a VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) world, our leaders, teams and the whole organisation must develop the ongoing capacity to evolve and bounce back from change and challenge. For organisations to flourish in 2022 and beyond, leaders must lead and support the development of a resilient culture. Based on research evidence and working with organisations to evolve their cultures, it is clear that some critical aspects of organisational functioning separate resilient organisations from the pack. Let’s take a look at these seven habits essential for building organisational resilience:

1. A Culture with a Clear Vision and Strong Values

If an organisation is going to achieve resilience, the leaders must focus on setting the vision of the future and being clear about where the organisation is heading. This must be done from both a business perspective and a cultural perspective. What is required is a clear vision of the organisation’s future and a simple, straightforward strategy that supports the delivery of the vision and aligns with the culture.

2. Environmental Responsiveness

Resilient organisations keep a watchful eye on the external and internal environments to realign their strategy and maintain responsiveness. It is no longer acceptable to wait to be pushed by external factors to make a change. Organisations must be attuned to the external environment and respond to the requirements for evolution. Charles Handy (1995) suggests that the best time to make changes is not after you have reached the peak of success but before you reach it. If organisations are not systematically assessing their environment and aligning to these changing dynamics, they will eventually decline or become irrelevant to their clients, customers, consumers or the community.

3. Boundary Management

Over years of working with organisations across the globe, I found that the single most neglected aspect of organisational resilience is effective boundary management. This is the systemic and disciplined management of acceptable and unacceptable attitudes and behaviours. On the one hand, it requires a regular and consistent celebration of attitudes and behaviours that align with the values and culture of the organisation. On the other hand, it requires regular and consistent management of unacceptable attitudes and behaviours.

4. Organisational and Workforce Flexibility

Traditionally, organisations have focused on consistency and longevity in role. In today’s world, this has changed dramatically. We must focus on flexibility, enabling regular change, and building agility. Kinsinger and Walch’s (2012) description of a VUCA world gives us a clear indication of what we need to prepare for in our organisations. To remain resilient in today’s world, organisations must build flexibility in the organisation’s frameworks and ways of working.

5. A Strong and Transparent Internal and External Communication Network

One of the most criticised aspects of organisations is communication. For most organisations, communication is a constant challenge and is repeatedly raised by people. To ensure resilience is maintained, communication needs to be enhanced with well-developed strategies and systems. It is no longer enough to assume middle managers are passing on information. Leaders must constantly be assessing and improving the flow of information.

6. Demarcated Innovation and Experimentation Activities

Innovation is one of the buzzwords that few organisations fully understand, and most organisations make feeble attempts at delivering. For an organisation to become effective in this space, demarcated time must be allocated to the process of innovation and creative thinking. Tacking innovation on a meeting agenda is not enough. Innovation occurs when you make time to explore and experiment without restraints and timelines. This is most effective if it occurs outside the standard linear frameworks of the business and outside the environmental context of your organisation.

7. Individuals Developing Their Resilience and Organisational Values

Well-designed development strategies are crucial to unlocking potential. Strategies designed to enhance personal resilience levels and build organisational values are essential for building resilient organisations.

The VUCA world requires that all organisations build resilience and enable the capacity to bounce back. To achieve this, leaders need to focus on ensuring the seven habits of resilience are embedded in the fabric of the organisation.

Dr Lynda Folan, the author of ‘Leader Resilience, The New Frontier of Leadership’, is an Organisational Psychologist and a renowned specialist in Leadership and Organisational Development.


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