Board and CEO take note. Resilience is a foundation for an organisation to survive and thrive. Organisational development in the last 25 years has focused on optimisation, speed and safety. The result is fragility. A fragile organisation suffers painful distress and malfunction in times of disruption.
Optimisation removes the redundancy necessary to bounce back from adversity. People are working at full pace when they are tired, distracted and overloaded. Speed removes reflection and innovation. People are racing through tasks and rarely stopping to reflect. Safety reduces risk and removes alertness and flexibility.
Our business environment has driven into disruptive change. Hundred year events strike every couple of years. Digitalisation is removing jobs and traditional skill-sets at breakneck speed. Competition is coming in from every angle. International conflict and migration are throwing communities into new orbits.
The mantras of optimisation, speed and safety are focused on control and stability. We must now adapt to radical disruption and turbulence. Resilience is the integrating solution. Resilience is far more than bounce back from adversity. It must include the ability to adapt with courage, to innovate and transform, and to retain and nurture strong connection and cooperation between people.
Preparing human capital and business process to meet the onslaught of disruptive turbulence requires a higher level of governance and executive action. This is the role of the Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) who must report directly to the CEO and the board. Leading institutes in the practice of Resilience are very clear about the primary call for a CRO. The Rockefeller 100 Resilient Cities has recently advocated this role for every city preparing to negotiate the future.
What the CRO must do:
- Understand how Resilience works in the complex system of organisational life
- Seek out and define the strategic scenarios or risk and opportunity
- Document and prepare for the likely disruptions and transformations required
- Design and coach organisational functions to be ready and resilient
- Relentlessly support and coach resilience building behaviours
- Guide the board and coach the CEO to ensure Resilience is a priority
Practically, we understand how a military commander or sports team coach is specifically tasked with the responsibility of developing capability, connection and readiness for the campaigns ahead. This is a good template for an organisation. The CRO is the organisational coach accountable to ensure the organisation is capable, connected and ready for the future.
What the CRO skill-set looks like:
- Deep thinker: resilience is multidisciplinary and complex and takes time to master
- Integrative leader: resilience has to work across silos and systems skilfully
- Coach and collaborator: execution requires hands-on engagement with teams
- Visionary: being resilient requires a long-term view presented with energy
- Powerful communicator: deep knowledge, clear thought and powerful messaging
- Effective coach and instructor in physical, emotional and cognitive resilience.
How to secure the Chief Resilience Officer:
The CRO role requires knowledge, maturity and experience. They must have good business knowledge and a capability to influence hard-nosed short-term cost and profit focus. They will also have to have a deep understanding of human, environmental, financial, and operational systems. Many of these skills will be within the organisation or can be provided by expert advisors but the CRO must be able to understand and connect these systems and perspectives.
Much of the skill-set exists in safety, human resources, technology and finance but these are too narrow and compliance based. The CRO must be a visionary, risk-taker and collaborator. This will be the hardest element to secure and manage. To find a clear thinker who is both entrepreneurial and deeply collaborative is a rare mix.
In time, disruptive turbulence will force the emergence of this role. Boards must begin the conversation immediately. CEO’s must begin to research and understand what resilience means to their organisation. Executive teams might begin with a handpicked team to bring together the required skills. Executive teams must seek out advice and industry-specific insights from multiple experts.
Smart universities will begin to bring this role into environmental, engineering, business and health education. In the meantime we might be able to borrow the skills of successful coaches and military commanders. This is a great opportunity for young aspiring business leaders to work towards. It is also a great opportunity for the older executives and consultants with a broad depth of experience.
We look forward to being a part of this conversation.