How many times have we seen professional athletes come back from serious injury only to perform even better than they did prior to the injury? Think about Minnesota Vikings running back, Adrian Peterson, who suffered a season ending ACL/MCL knee injury on December 26, 2011. Peterson fought back to start in Week 1 of the 2012 NFL season and ultimately finished just nine yards short of breaking Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record!
There is something about adversity that, for champions, increases desire to succeed rather than desire to give up.
The same is true for highly effective organizations, i.e. they are resilient. They bounce back from significant (even catastrophic) events to resume the same or even better performance than they had prior to the adversity. They use the adversity as a catalyst to innovate and improve.
Break Through or Break Down
Why do some organizations demonstrate resilience while others collapse in the face of adversity? The simple answer to this question is that the resilient have already created a culture based on the characteristics that we have been discussing throughout this 2013 newsletter series. Resilience is not a characteristic that can stand alone, but rather is the result of creating an environment of effectiveness that can not only withstand adversity, but can improve because of it.
Let’s review the other 10 characteristics of an "Effective Organization" in light of what they mean for resiliency.
1. Clearly define and communicate mission, goals, values, and expectations.
- In the face of adversity, resilient organizations stay true to their purpose, but not necessarily to their strategy.
- That is, they find another way to achieve their reason for existence rather than stubbornly adhering to the way they have done it in the past.
- In other words, they innovate.
2. Align all aspects of the organization including people, systems and processes.
- In the face of adversity, resilient organizations re-align the organizational components with the new strategy.
3. Model and develop Facilitative-Relational Leadership throughout the organization.
- Leadership style doesn’t change because of difficulty, rather it becomes even more manifest.
- In the face of adversity, facilitative-relational leaders actively solicit ideas from team members in an attempt to identify the most effective tactics and to increase commitment from those required to implement those tactics.
4. Hold everyone accountable with both positive and negative consequences for results.
- Resilient organizational leaders understand that accountability, not blame is the key to improvement and success.
5. Build a collaborative and empowered environment based upon teamwork.
- Just as in the “good” times, “hard” times require that people work together and make judicious and timely decisions for success.
- Organizations that already have this type of environment are more likely to weather difficult situations.
6. Tolerate appropriate risk taking and learn from both success and failure in an attempt to be innovative.
- Effective organizational leaders understand that while implementing a new or modified strategy there will be risks and that there will be both successes and failures.
- They also understand the need to learn from failure and to celebrate success.
7. Focus on meeting customer expectations and needs.
- Customer focus is essential to success all the time, but especially in the face of adversity.
- Understanding the customer's perception of the organization's response to that adversity is critical to both the development and implementation of the new strategy.
8. Create a culture based on honesty, integrity and mutual respect.
- It goes without saying that trust is the basis for success and organizations that have it are much more likely to succeed in the face of adversity than those who don’t.
9. Identify meaningful measurements and timely feedback.
- Strategy change often requires different measurements to determine how the strategy is working and likewise requires feedback to determine whether change is required moving forward.
10. Insist on open communication throughout the organization.
- It is very easy to become focused when times are tough and to forget to communicate, but resilient organizations are diligent in increasing communication when faced with adversity.
- Leaders understand that failure to communicate will create an environment of “guessing” and much of the time that guessing is wrong and counter productive.
What's the point?
Organizations that are effective in the good times are much more likely to have created a culture that will respond effectively to adversity. There is a good chance that they will become even better because of the adversity. Those organizations that are not effective in the good times will be much more likely to fail when the times get tough.