Organizational Resilience: Cultivating the Ability to Spring Back

November 30, 2020

Most of us are familiar with the definition of resilience as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.” Not as many are familiar with the definition of resilience as “the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.”

I have spent quite a bit of time thinking about organizational resilience, specifically: how to cultivate a resilient spirit as part of culture and how to create resilience among our staff, especially in the era of COVID. The idea that our resilience is reflected by our ability to spring back into shape rings true for me.

In a recent article, McKinsey & Company discussed the need for leaders to act rather than react. The article mirrored my thoughts. “Even as the COVID-19 crisis continues to create a world of uncertainty, the goal must be to rebuild for the longer term. Companies that are strong and resilient will be better placed to survive and prosper. Those are qualities that can’t be taken for granted; they need to be cultivated.”

So how does one cultivate an organizational culture of resilience—the ability to spring back from whatever we face? It is clear to me that the entire organization needs to be thoroughly grounded in purpose. Staff need to know exactly what the organization stands for. They need to see the ways the mission is being carried out every single day. They need to know the organization’s vision—and they need to understand the link between day-to-day activities and this vision.

Here are four of the top things that we have been doing to cultivate resilience at The Fedcap Group:

1. Establish BOLD Goals that Inspire: In December 2019, The Fedcap Group established five bold goals to fundamentally improve the long-term economic well-being of the following groups: Children ages 0-8, the previously incarcerated, the chronically unemployed, youth transitioning from foster care, and people with intellectual/developmental disabilities.

2. Focus on Measuring Impact: We are measuring the difference we are making in people’s lives through research. We are dedicated to knowing all we can about the short- and long-term difference we are making.

3. Structure for Efficiency and Accuracy: A nimble, elastic organization can rapidly pivot because the structure allows for it—in fact anticipates the need to rapidly pivot. We are continually refining our structure.

4. Ensure the Workforce is Future Oriented / Knowledgeable About Market Trends and is Prepared to Act: Train existing staff and hire and orient new staff to be students of our profession, to know our market and to understand trends that impact service delivery. We are intentionally investing significant resources in professional development and onboarding.

It is very difficult to bounce back from the unexpected and the unprecedented. Our instinct is to simply react. The time for reaction is over. It is time to act.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.