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Organisational resilience: a matter of organisational life and death

Sandra Bell (Resilience Consulting, Sungard Availability Services, Berkshire, UK)

Continuity & Resilience Review

ISSN: 2516-7502

Article publication date: 28 May 2019

Issue publication date: 6 September 2019




Being resilient in the face of risks that have the ability to negatively impact the strategic objectives, reputation or existence of the organisation is now not just an interesting concept but a matter of organisational life and death in many industries. However, very few businesses go beyond simply implementing measures to defend their competitive advantage in the face of market changes and business continuity capabilities to be able to survive operational disruptions. The paper aims to discuss these issues.


This paper uses real-life examples to explore some of the main issues associated with organisational resilience that are observed in the business and management literature. The aim is being able to demonstrate some of the practical reasons why organisational resilience is so hard to implement and what can be done to make it easier.


Organisational resilience is a business outcome and, as such, requires a holistic and adaptive management approach. This is theoretically straightforward as organisations are used to working together towards business outcomes. However, in practice three main issues generally thwart resilience-building activities: different professional groups within organisations anchor their understanding of resilience based on related interpretations such as psychology, ecology, economics, engineering, etc., which leads to internal conflict; there is often a widespread belief (or hope) that static goals and objectives will work in a dynamic environment; and flawed risk perceptions hamper organisation-wide situational awareness.

Practical implications

Faced with these issues, it is easy to understand why resilience activities are frequently limited to the tactical things that can be put in place to protect the organisation and its assets against acute shocks. However, as the risk landscape becomes ever more complex and uncertain such a defensive approach will only increase the vulnerability of organisations.


However, there are some straightforward and practical steps that organisations can take to break down internal barriers and promote a more collegiate approach to organisational resilience. An approach that is not only more efficient in terms of the management of risk but is also more cost effective and has a positive impact on culture, brand and reputation.



Bell, S. (2019), "Organisational resilience: a matter of organisational life and death", Continuity & Resilience Review, Vol. 1 No. 1, pp. 5-16.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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