Today I am going to explore this aspect further, and start a series that will explore some other dimensions on which we could map resilience.
My thinking here is informed by a range of material on this subject, but I explicitly cite two specific sources.
- the benchmarking research that Amy Stephenson (nee Lee) et al did with the ResOrgs group in New Zealand, and
- the thinking of Aaron Wildavsky.
- Hopefully Amy will be pleased to be bracketed as a primary reference with Wildavsky.
Stephenson et al built from earlier work in the ResOrg school, that specified 3 dimensions for resilience with 5 indicators that could be measured within each dimension. After their initial testing Amy reduced this to 2 dimensions and 13 indicators. (Planning contained 5 indicators and Adaptive Capacity with 8).
In Diagram 1 I have represented the dimensions as opposing ends of a spectrum – as the focus on one increases the other decreases. I think this is the way many people see the issue, but it is wrong.
I have also changed the labels to Anticipation and Adaptation – this is for two purposes.
- First to use different labels and break the conceptual bias that will come with the ten ‘Planning’ and
- secondly, to reflect the influence of Wildavsky.
Wildavsky would have been one of the first to explore this issue. He saw two potential approaches to managing risk. Anticipation – which is based on our ability to identify what can happen and then prevent something from occurring, and I have broadened that meaning to include the response plans as what we have anticipated. The alternative, according to Wildavsky, was Resilience – “the capacity to cope with unexpected dangers after they have become manifest”.
For me, Anticipation includes all our risk and BC approaches where we anticipate, or predict, what may occur and how we will respond. I define resilience as a broader issue than Wildavsky – hence labelling the other dimension as Adaptive Capacity, the ability to cope with what we didn’t Anticipate.
Wildavsky saw the solution as seeking a balance between the two strategies. And you will see that type of balance reflect in the benchmark results in Stephenson et al. Different sectors (and organisations) have tendencies towards one mode or the other, but it is not a zero sum game.
These dimensions are not opposing ends of a spectrum, they are distinct dimensions, better represented as an X,Y space like Diagram 2.
Where we lie, or want to be placed, on each dimension can vary independently of the other dimension. But it seems that if we fall into the “Red Arc” area – that reflects low levels of both Anticipation and Adaptive Capacity – then we preparing ourselves to fail in any significant event.
Similarly a high level of both Anticipation and Adaptability may represent another unhealthy arc. This time where we are potentially wasting resources.
We are certainly limited on how far up the Anticipation axis we can move, this limitation is the result of Uncertainty. We simply cannot know, or predict, everything that could happen.
In fact the optimum mapping may not be a series of arcs as in Diagram 2, but a different shape such as the shown in Diagram 3. This is an example only, I am not suggesting that this is the optimum space. I am proposing that you need to be outside the ‘Low/Low Red Zone’, that the level of Anticipation is capped by Uncertainty, and the level of Adaptation capped by resourceing.
Within these constraints it would be expected that the context of any organisation would be relatively unique, and we would expect to see plots like the red dots in the diagram, reflecting different levels of development and reliance on Anticipation and Adaptation.
Apply this to your Practice
If you have funds, then you can commission Amy to do a Resilience Measurement for you. I have seen a small scale example of the application of her tool that she did for me and it is very good.
If that is not an option for you, there are other free tools available – I reviewed an Australian tool in this post.
Alternatively, you can seek to apply this theory in your own way – create your own benchmark.
- Choose how you will label the dimensions and describe what you mean by these labels.
- Anticpation – Adaptation
- Planning – Adapting
- Whatever, but explain what is included in each.
- e.g. Amy includes participation in exercises as Planning, I would prefer to see it as Adaptation – but it will depend on the type of exercises you do.
- Take a look at any of the literature on Capability Maturity Modelling – especially if you are more comfortable with process stuff
- Look at the elements defined in the ResOrg model
- Think/Discuss what improved resilience would look like in your organisation and set your own measures.
- This is not rocket science and does not create life or death situations, so do not go looking for a perfect solution to measure and compare progress over time.
You need to practice to improve your tools, and you resilience.
I would appreciate any thoughts on this model, or feedback from those who try their hand at establishing their own benchmarks. Like everybody, I am seeking to improve the practice of my craft also.
More dimensions to expand the model in a later post.