Posted by: healingtheworkplace | July 21, 2011

Healthy Organizations ARE Resilient Organizations

Hi there!

 Years ago I worked for a CEO of a large healthcare organization. Carl Roy liked to tell us that he wanted ‘our’ organization to be ‘nimble’. At the time I thought that the word ‘nimble’ was an unusual adjective to describe the organization.

 I believe Carl Roy was talking about ‘resilience’. 

 What I’ve learned in the years since then is that both organizations and the people who work in them need to be resilient in order to weather the constant changes that are thrown at them.

 Here are six ways that organizations can become resilient:

 1. Resilient organizations actively attend to their environments. In the ‘old’ days this was called environmental scanning and it was part of strategic planning. The key to successful environmental scanning is that employers engage employees in helping with this work. AND  they remain open to hearing what employees are telling them even if it is not what they want to hear.

 2.  Resilient organizations prepare themselves and their employees for disruptions. It is not enough to merely scan the environment. Once the need for change is detected organizations must then develop a change management plan. There are many books and websites devoted to this subject. William Bridges has a good track record and his work is very accessible.

 The main focus here is on helping everyone in the organization to become more resilient. I’ll talk about this in future blog posts. A resilient organization is composed of resilient individuals!

 3. Resilient organizations build in flexibility. I think that the need for flexibility in the face of change was what CEO Carl Roy was alluding to. The ability to remain flexible is also an important skill for all of us in this day and age.

 4. Resilient organizations strengthen and extend their communications networks both internally and externally. This is the key if an organization wants to successfully “attend to its environment” and this has become a lot easier with the availability of social media.

 5. Resilient organizations encourage innovation and experimentation.

 6. Resilient organizations cultivate a culture which includes a shared purpose/mission and shared values. According to James Kouzes and  Barry Posner, the authors of The Leadership Challenge,  

  “The people with the greatest clarity about both person and organizational values have the highest degree of commitment to the organization.”

 Cheers, Lesley

PS If anyone knows of the origin of the six habits of highly resilient organizations please let me know and I will give them credit. I checked the web but found a number of different sources. Thanks!



  1. Hi, Thanks for bringing up the principles. The resilient organization is a topic dear to my heart and I discuss the steps to become so in my book The Resilient Organization, How Adaptive Cultures Thrive Even When Strategy Fails (McGraw-Hill, 2010). One of the challenging issues to me is the management of the consequences of past performance – not to succumb to arrogance and self-satisfaction nor be bound by mediocrity. Also, it is very important not to alienate the people in the company who have true passion for what the company is about. Thanks for a nice blog, Liisa Valikangas, Professor, Aalto University

    • Hi Liisa, thanks for your comment. I will certainly purchase your book. Here are some additional thoughts off the top of my head. In my post I don’t mention the word “trust” but trust is a necessary ingredient and goes a long way to prevent alienation. Also, I think that spirituality, for both individuals and organizations, is an important component of resilience and I haven’t seen a reference to this in the literature on resilient organizations. Do you cover this topic in your book? Lesley

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