Keep your options open!
In complex and fast changing environments, an organization must not only be effective; it must also be resilient. When shocks occur or when the opportunities or competitive threats in markets change rapidly, the organization must remain well positioned to succeed regardless of what happens next.
Leadership must ensure resilience in the organization. This means that individuals and groups are always exploring the many ways that the organization must change in response to events. These leadership interactions occur across the organization, and they bring new information into the system. They encourage members of the organization to try new things, to experiment with different ways of doing things, and to learn more about what is being learned by exploring the nuances of conflicting perspectives. New connections and relationships are being built even as some of the old ones, having lost their relevance, fall away.
In sum, resilience building leadership interactions generate options by testing ideas, by experimenting, by listening, and by learning. And then the organization learns by repeating this process over and over again in many work groups across the organization in a continuously evolving positive feedback loop.
Leadership engenders resilience when it promotes experiments, creates new connections and relationships, encourages the diffusion and the fresh interpretation of new information, tries new things and learns from failure and from mistakes.
The call to lead…
As a leader, you must ensure resilience when and where it might be needed across your organization. To do this, you must appropriately perform two distinct leadership functions:
The first is the information gathering function. To do this, your actions should model and encourage interactions among the team that are intended to identify and collect data as it becomes available – whether the generative events are occurring inside and outside the organization – and then share it with those who can add value though context, analyze it using the best thinking and tools available, and who can thoughtfully interpret its potential impact on the organization, its mission or its initiatives.
The second is the generative or adaptive function. To do this, your actions should model and encourage interactions among members of the team where know-how, resources, and capabilities are continually combined and recombined, where there is a climate of innovation and excellence, and where there is an overarching expectation that one’s job is a a never-ending series of iterative experiments each one designed to determine what is working and what isn’t in any given situation.
These functions enable the organizing system to explore the ecosystem to quickly identify and interpret anomalies or unexpected events in the context of the organizations objectives, and at the same time be prepared to respond to emerging changes, risks and shocks with a thoughtfully constructed targeted action plan.
Leadership interactions that ensure resilience allow the organizing system to survive shocks by creating “optionality”, that is, by embedding and maintaining knowledge about as many viable options for moving forward as possible in light of marketplace uncertainty.
Optionality creates value by enabling upside gains while limiting downside risk.
As a leader, ensuring resilience is an important way that you can create lasting value for your organization.