We are living in unprecedented times, and the business environment we work in is more volatile and uncertain than ever before. As 2021 draws to a close and we look ahead to 2022 we need to accept that our world has shifted on its axis and that we have a new normal.
For years researchers have made us aware that we were living in a VUCA world that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (Bennis & Nanus, 1985). However, many organisations have simply ignored this and continued to do what they had always done. When COVID hit in 2020, people finally accepted that our world was different, and organisations began to respond to this ever-changing environment.
To survive the VUCA world, it is imperative that; businesses shift, do things differently, and don’t go back to doing what they have always done. Unfortunately, those that don’t respond will not survive in this unrelenting VUCA world, which continues to challenge organisations across the globe.
If organisations want to flourish in 2022, their leaders, their teams and the whole organisation must develop the capacity to evolve and bounce back to stay ahead of the change curve. To achieve this, the focus needs to be on building resilient organisational cultures. A genuinely resilient organisation enables agility and builds flexibility to respond to the VUCA environment.
In the past, organisations have invested a lot of time and effort into managing change, and it has been the norm to build large change teams that deliver projects. We no longer have time for this, nor do most organisations have the resources for this way of doing business. In 2022 and beyond, organisations need to evolve their focus to building organisational resilience on an ongoing basis.
When a change is required, the organisation simply incorporates the change into business as usual and continues to move forward. It is no longer going to be enough for organisations to manage change or do transformational projects. Organisations will need to invest in building resilience in their everyday operations and enhancing capacity across the business.
Evolution and change are now the norm. For organisations to thrive in today’s dynamic, changing, and uncertain business context, it is essential that they invest in building resilience at all levels of the organisation so that agility is the norm. In 2022 and beyond, leaders must take responsibility for developing resilient individuals, teams and building a resilient organisational culture.
In simply terms, organisations need to stop managing change and put their efforts into building truly resilient organisations.
Building A Resilient Organisation Culture
Research shows some critical aspects of organisational functioning that differentiate resilient organisations from the rest of the pack. The seven habits essential for organisational resilience (Folan, 2021) are:
- A Resilient Culture with a clear Vision and Values that are lived
- Boundary Management
- Environmental Responsiveness
- A Strong and Transparent Internal and External Communication Network
- Organisational and Workforce Flexibility
- Demarcated Innovation and Experimentation Activities
Developing Resilience across the Organisation
While all these habits are essential, however three of them are demanding even greater attention from organisations as we move into 2022. If your organisation is not focusing on environmental responsiveness, boundary management, and building resilience, it will become more challenging to stay ahead of the curve.
Organisations must keep a watchful eye on the external and internal environments to realign their strategy and maintain responsiveness. It is no longer acceptable to wait till strategic planning sessions or to be pushed by external factors. 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 do not continuously assess their environment and align with these changing dynamics, they will eventually decline or become irrelevant to their clients, customers, or community.
Now, more than ever, organisations must stay attuned to the external environment and have the agility to meet the demands they are facing.
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, behaviours and actions.
To achieve this requires:
- Regular and consistent celebration of attitudes and behaviours that align with the values and culture of the organisation.
- Regular and consistent management of unacceptable attitudes and behaviours that don’t align.
- Accountability for the delivery of business outcomes and a commitment to adjust proprieties as the business requires.
For organisations to remain agile and adaptable to the requirements of the VUCA world, these have to be a daily focus for leaders and their teams.
Well-designed development strategies are crucial to unlocking potential. Strategies designed to enhance personal resilience levels are essential for building resilient organisations. It is even more critical that the leadership are developing their resilience, as, without resilience, they will not be able to deliver a transformational leadership style (Folan, 2021).
Show me a resilient organisation that responds well to the VUCA world, and I can guarantee that the leadership team is resilient and thriving. The VUCA world requires that organisations build resilience on an ongoing basis to enable the business to flourish.
Written by Dr. Lynda Folan.
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