Beyond the Resilience Hype

Adaptation Strategies for Post-Pandemic Business Recovery

by Lex Drennan

Organisational Resilience in the Age of Pandemic

The term resilience has gone from being an abstract concept to a vital consideration for businesses seeking to survive and recover from the pandemic. There are very real questions for industry about how to meaningfully apply a fascinating concept to the messy reality of business interruption and recovery. In the rush to translate resilience theory to business practice, bias and blind spots have crept into how the concept is applied.

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Image: A Simple Depiction of Resilience

In short, resilience does not always equal growth.

A quick reference to the resilient system cycle shows the problem inherent with equating resilience to growth. Businesses most often occupy the exploitation or conservation phase. In the exploitation phase businesses are growing, acquiring resources and building new assets or markets and acquiring new ventures. In the conservation phase, businesses transition from rapid growth to stabilisation and maintenance.

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Image: The Resilient Systems Cycle

Resilience & Adaptation Strategies Following a Business Interruption

A much-loved research theme in ecological resilience studies is insect behaviour — ants in particular. One such study considers the behaviour of ant colonies within their networks of interconnecting nests. Each nest serves as a node, connected by trails, forming a network with different properties. Observation and categorisation of the properties of these networks in different species identified three broad resilience approaches (below); resistance to interruption, redirection when interrupted and reconstruction post interruption.

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Adapted from Middleton & Latty (2016)
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Resilience Adaptation Strategy Matrix

The strategies of ‘bounce forward’ and ‘bounce back’ represent continuations of the same strategy the business employed pre-interruption, with varying levels of adjustment in terms of sophistication and capital investment. Bouncing back is essentially a strategy which focuses on restoring the pre-interruption status quo, perhaps with the addition of adapting business practice to the learnings of the interruption. Bouncing forward takes this adaptation further by investing into upgrading assets and capability to more effectively implement the same strategy.

Recovery strategies are frequently limited by a knee-jerk, simplistic desire to ‘bounce back’.

The strategies of divestment or diversification following an interruption are particularly difficult to implement in practice. Whilst a crisis represents a significant opportunity to reimagine and redirect business activities, it is challenging to think strategically under major operational pressure. Nonetheless, although it may be hard, the failure to contemplate the full range of recovery strategies is, at best, a lost opportunity for a business. At worst, this reflexive bias to bouncing back may embed the very vulnerabilities and risk exposure that gave rise to the interruption in the first place.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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LEX DRENNAN

Lex is an industry leader in crisis management and business continuity. She has held senior roles in the public and private sector, leading the development and implementation of crisis and business continuity management frameworks. Her broad experience across crisis management fields spans mining oil and gas, natural hazards management, critical infrastructure protection and resilience and business continuity management in infrastructure and financial services. Lex is engaged as an Adjunct Industry Fellow within Griffith Climate Change Response Program at Griffith University, researching in the field of disaster resilience.

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Policy Innovation Hub

Written by

Independent expert analysis and insights from Australia’s best political scientists and policy researchers.

The Machinery of Government

Independent analysis from Australia's best political scientists and policy researchers focusing on policy, elections and governance.

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