Thursday, 7 September 2017

Building Resilience Is No Isolated Solution

I have become increasingly fascinated at the growth of the “Resilience Industry”.

Many organisations have conducted “resilience” training for management and staff while others have the topic on their agenda. I am aware of less sophisticated scenarios where a staff member or middle manager has been told they need to be “more resilient”, "toughen up".

Put simplistically, resilience is currently a fashionable Corporate Buzzword.

I wonder if the fascination, or so-called fascination with the concept of resilience is actually counterproductive.

Are we treating the illness at the exclusion of the addressing the cause?

We are being trained to be more resilient but against what?

Resilience is defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as being:

1.       The capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused by compressive stress and

2.       An ability to recover from or adjust to misfortune or change.

The Oxford says much the same but includes the words “recover quickly from difficulties; toughness, the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape”

Let me rephrase this in to Corporate Speak:

1.       The ability of our people to better manage highly stressful workloads and business environments and

2.       To better cope with organisational change.

I totally support the creation of workplaces where all employees feel better able to cope with busy work pressures and constant change. Further, resilience training is important, but not in isolation.

I am aware of situations where an employer has been exceptional in providing flexibility and support to staff who have suffered illness and breakdown, particularly where work factors have been accepted as a significant contributing factor.

However, less common are proactive measures to prevent such situations.

Resilience training programs are not the solution. They are part of the solution but only a small part.

We need resilience programs but only after we perfect the areas we are seeking to be resilient against.

Organisational change is necessary but it can also be stressful.

Departmental structures change as do responsibilities. Reporting lines are disrupted and comfort zones are disrupted. Some roles may be deemed redundant and from that, people may be re-trenched.

All this is valid.

I have been in leadership positions through very many periods of Corporate Structural change including several instances of ownership change.

Without exception, there have been very sound reasons for such changes. Almost without exception, communication of reasons and preparing of staff for change has been shameful.

I have also been party to numerous changes in workflow caused by improved technology or the implementation of new outsourcing arrangements. Again, the explanation of the reasons for the changes and the preparedness and training provided to adapt has been inadequate at best and disrespectful bordering on the dishonest at worst.

It is narrow minded and dare I say, a version of cowardice to be providing resilience support as a means of coping with such poor and lazy leadership practices.

Teaching resilience understanding and techniques is excellent but only when it is one only component of a strategy, and not the only component.

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