Do you remember how at the end of 2009 those who predicted the crisis would be over by the end 2010 were attacked as “pessimists” and “negative thinkers”? And now, here we are in the beginning 2013 and everybody now knows that “crisis” is probably a misnomer because whatever it is, it’s here to stay. The world is transforming itself and things we thought were immutable are morphing under our very eyes. In fact, companies are no longer having to “manage change”, as managers have been told for decades. They have to resist these new pressures and sustain performance in our complex, chaotic and unpredictable world. In other words, they have to be Resilient!
The concept of Resilience goes back to the 70’s in the US, mainly in clinical psychology. Resilience expresses the ability of an individual or a group to get through turbulent or crisis situations: to resolve them, learn from them and find a new sense of equilibrium.
For the past three years ICM has been observing companies through the lens of Resilience. Some organizations are better at it than others. They develop a kind of “plasticity”—just like the human brain—that allows them to hold up in the face of the storm and also draw the full advantage of those moments when things calm down. These organizations are thus in a state of “ever-readiness” and this will allow them to ensure their sustainability.
Our observations allowed us to respond to a number of questions about the characteristics of these organizations. What made them like they were? What did their leaders, managers, teams and individuals do that others did not? What energies did they harness that allowed them to go beyond engagement and achieve the resilience required by these turbulent times? We found it had to do with different “Energies” that allowed teams to deliver the “little bit more” that captures the minds, hearts and muscles that teams need to survive and perform today. There are four Energies and they are observable and measurable. Our job is to help our clients to mobilize these energies.
1. The Power of Drive The Power of Drive is the ability of an individual or group to engage and fight for their convictions and pull others along with them. The History of Humanity, with capital and as well as lower case letters, is full of people who have held their own against terrifying odds. Churchill, Mother Theresa, Gandhi are obvious examples. But there are also companies where teams fight like demons for their survival? And people like those in the slums of Bombay who fight for their kids to go to college just because they believe in education. A company, a leader, a manager, an individual—each can have, communicate and share convictions that will give meaning to a business venture, to decisions on what to do and when, and to the commitment that is required from the troops.
2. The Beauty of Clarity In ancient Greek, the word Krisis, from which we derive “crisis”, means clarity, justice, decisions. Applied to organizations or individuals, The Beauty of Clarity is the clarity of goals, principles and values as well of organizations, processes and roles. The Beauty of Clarity describes those perfectly adapted competencies and practices, whether at the individual or team level, that enable an organization to react fast and just right. There’s something so perfectly aesthetic about these. We don’t talk about “an elegant solution” for nothing! We have never needed clarity more because we have never been in such a continuously mobile, confused, chaotic and oftentimes threatening global, interrelated environment as we are today. During these times of repetitive crises, the Beauty of Clarity is more important than long checklists about crisis management—which are rapidly outdated since by definition, the crisis is unpredictable in its form.
3. The Bonds of Solidarity In her work, Emma Werner, an American psychologist, illustrates how much solitude weakens an individual’s resilience. The same idea was picked up by Boris Cyrulnik in France, who used to say “You need an entire village to raise a child”. The most serious burnouts occur when you create a mix of be engaged! – under pressure! – in isolation! In matrix organizations, which are complex, often conflict-ridden and seem to bring out “each one for him/herself” behaviors, people need mutual support within their teams and more broadly with all stakeholders. A collaboration culture, that is the only thing that allows a matrix organization to work, has to surpass procedures, processes and systems. The Bonds of Solidarity provide the emotional energy that ensures all individuals feel acknowledged and supported when they need it.
4. The Magic of Inspiration Have you ever had to just improvise things to get something to work? This is what the book Jugaad (and the word itself) describes: how impoverished populations in India have been inventing new basic, effective and durable solutions to problems of life by improvising or using the same objects in totally different ways because they just don’t have the material resources to do anything else. It’s like a host of new 2-cv Citroen that first came out in the late ‘40’ billed as “four wheels and an umbrella”—and it wasn’t much more than that. But post-war France didn’t have many material resources either. Frugal innovation isn’t just a passing fashion. It is a major way of responding to turbulence and new hardships. Have we forgotten how to do this in our fat, rich developed societies? We have to get back to that Magic of Inspiration: how can we find new ways with less—new lamps for old, to quote Aladdin. Resilient teams are always asking themselves that question. And so they find answers. Where ordinary teams falter, these teams join together, seek and find.
In our ever-changing world where old reference points have disappeared and turbulence seems to be here to stay, engagement is unquestionably important. But it isn’t enough. A company, a manager and a team needs Resilience as well. Their Resilience Factor can be observed and measured. This will allow them to strengthen the four energies and develop agility and a sustainable performance culture that will see them through.