According to Darwin’s theory of evolution, natural selection is based on the survival of the fittest. One could describe it as nature sieving through this huge bowl of sand, and only the particles that are larger than the mesh survive. Or, you could say that only the particles smart enough to clump together and form bigger particles survive.


Survival of the fittest is not solely based on the strength, speed, size, or look of an organism. Instead, it is hinged on that organism’s ability to adapt and meet the changing survival demands of its environment.  This principle is applicable in business as well. An organisation’s survival is not just a function of its staff size, financial position, or geographic location. It is a function of various factors and the company’s ability to adapt to meet the present and future business needs.


Adaptability is the ability of a business to re-invent itself or realign its strategy to meet the ever-changing market needs. It involves the organisation’s ability to learn from past experiences as well as learn on the go. The amalgamation of adaptability and strategy leads to resilience.


According to TechTarget, a data-driven market research firm, business resilience is the ability an organisation has to quickly adapt to disruptions while maintaining continuous business operations and safeguarding its people, assets and overall brand equity. This means that resilience goes beyond the business recovery plan; it includes all processes involved in the development and execution of post-disaster strategies.


Resilience is not just about the continuity plans that will help you survive the current economic uncertainty. It also involves the post-crisis strategies you develop to ensure stability in the new normal.


Why Resilience and Adaptability?

With the spread of technology, increased rates of travel, and globalisation, the world is evolving at its fastest pace yet. This evolution has seen several economic crises, and significant shifts in demand and supply such that planning for years in advance is one of the most uncertain tasks. Instead of 5 or 10-year plans, organisations are creating shorter 3-year plans with agile models to allow them to adapt quickly to change.


Now more than ever, resilience and adaptability are essential for business continuity as we cannot accurately predict what the world would look like in the next six months, or what our clients’ demands would be in that same timeframe. To ensure sustainability, organisations must begin to create resilient strategies that not only make room for adaptation in crisis but also serve as blueprints for recouping afterwards.


Characteristics of a Resilient Organisation

1. Effective leadership: leadership is the steering wheel of any business. As such, the leader should be able to provide direction for the organisation in times of crisis. He or she should be able to strategise and evaluate the business terrain and chart the right course for the organisation. The leader must also form a strong team to enable the organisation to survive.


2. Culture: Culture has been defined as the totality of our ways of living. A culture of engagement and ownership helps staff understand the role they play in building resilience in the organisation. With different types of organisational cultures, an organisation can choose to adopt either a clannish culture, a market culture, an adhocratic culture or a hierarchical culture. Understanding organisational goals and adopting the most suitable culture go a long way in pushing team effort to achieve a goal.


3. Agility: a resilient organisation must be vigilant to identify changes in the economy and business environment. Once these are identified, the organisation must be receptive enough to develop flexible strategies to weather the storm.


4. Decentralisation: This improves efficiency in operations and decision making. To build resilience and flexibility, decision-making processes must be decentralised, thus giving staff the power to make some critical decisions relating to their work. Organisations should therefore invest in developing their people to function effectively in small teams capable of delivering on critical tasks and projects. A flat or decentralised organisational structure also promotes creativity and collaboration.


5. Creativity: with an ever-changing business environment, innovation, and creativity are essential skills of a resilient organisation. Promoting creativity in staff and appreciating such efforts can help build up this skill in advance for a rainy day.


6. Collaboration: breaking typical silos created either by team segregation, culture or hierarchy, will help the resilient organisation leverage knowledge from all members of staff across all business units.


7. Live ready: a resilient organisation is proactive and not reactive. It is essential to create flexible plans based on different scenarios. These plans should be tested in small clusters to see how they play out and how they might need to be improved before the day of crisis.


Resilience and adaptability can be built.

Great leaders are made through dedication to learning and improvement and in some cases,  experience. In the same vein, no organisation is born with the blueprint for adaptation and resilience, but the organisations capacity for both can be built.


By adopting best practices and looking inward to see how to mitigate risks, organisations will be able to weather the storm of crises. Building a culture of inclusion and an organisation where every employee takes active responsibility for their function creates a positive team spirit, which is essential in keeping your organisation afloat.


As a leader, assess your business and determine what changes you need to make today.


Written by:

Temisanren David