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Operational resilience: What is a resilient organisation?

There has been an increased focus on operational resilience in organisations in recent years. In financial services in particular, operational resilience has been a key focus for regulators, which have introduced requirements for institutions to have processes in place to effectively manage disruption to the delivery of key business services.

In this context, resilience is considered a process. However, resilience should also be considered as a desirable characteristic of any organisation. Let’s take a look at:

  • What it means to be resilient
  • Differences between organisational and operational resilience
  • Attributes of a resilient organisation
  • How you can assess your organisation’s resilience

What does it mean to be resilient?

Let’s start with some dictionary definitions of resilience before delving into organisational resilience.


  • The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
  • The ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.


  • An ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.

Taking a more business-oriented view, we can look to the

ISO standard on Organisational Resilience:

  • Ability of an organisation to absorb and adapt in a changing environment

Australian Government Good Business Guide:

  • Organisational resilience refers to a business’ ability to adapt and evolve as the global market is evolving, to respond to short term shocks—be they natural disasters or significant changes in market dynamics—and to shape itself to respond to long term challenges, including the ability to ultimately prosper from adversity.

A less formal description is not only the ability to bounce back from disruption or adversity, but to bounce forward. Bouncing back to where you were leaves you vulnerable to the event or conditions that caused you hardship in the first place. If that event is becoming more frequent or those conditions prevail, you are in fact more vulnerable.

Bouncing forward leaves you in a better position than where you started, which may include taking advantage of opportunities presented by those changing conditions.

Is there a difference between organisational resilience and operational resilience?

We can take some guidance from financial services regulators that operational resilience relates to the ability to continue to provide critical operations or business services in the face of operational stress and disruption.

Organisational resilience encompasses more than those critical operations and includes the ability of the organisation to adapt to changes and difficulties beyond those that are strictly operational. This might include changes to the external environment which requires swift strategic changes, as well as those required to sustain the organisation in the longer term.

What are the attributes of a resilient organisation?

The ISO standard on Organisational Resilience identifies the following key resilience attributes:

  • Shared vision and clarity of purpose
  • Understanding and influencing context
  • Effective and empowered leadership
  • A culture supportive of organisational resilience
  • Shared information and knowledge
  • Availability of resources
  • Development and coordination of management disciplines
  • Supporting continual improvement
  • Ability to anticipate and managing change

While the final point is specific on the ability to manage change, it’s easy to see how the other factors help enable this. The standard also highlights a range of management disciplines that contribute towards organisational resilience, but acknowledges that they are not sufficient in isolation, nor is resilience the responsibility of a single discipline.

We also believe the following are key attributes of resilience that should be added to the list:

  • Ability to monitor and make sense of changing information, including identification of evolving threats
  • Ability to make fast decisions (pivot being the buzzword over the past few years)
  • Ongoing management of the wellbeing of your people, which both enables them to withstand shock and also enable change when required
  • A culture and process for embedding lessons learned, including those learned by the hardships of other organisations

How can you assess your organisation’s resilience?

Changing your posture on organisational resilience might not be easy. A starting point is getting a gauge of where your current resilience is. Here are a few basic questions you can use to get you started:

  • How fast can your organisation make decisions (and commit to them with reallocation of resources) when faced with adversity?
  • How strong are the relationships you have built with your key stakeholders? Will they help you during challenging times? (Consider this the business equivalent of making deposits into the emotional bank account)
  • How engaged are your people? Will they rally in times of difficulty?
  • How aligned are executives and senior management on the vision and purpose?
  • What processes do you have in place to document lessons learned, and are those lessons clearly communicated?

If you want to conduct a more thorough assessment, we recommend the health check in the Australian Government's Good Business Guide on Organisational Resilience as a solid framework.

Next steps for your organisation

Protecht recently launched the Protecht.ERM Operational Resilience module, which helps you identify and manage potential disruption so you can provide the critical services your customers and community rely on.

Find out more about operational resilience and how Protecht.ERM can help:

About the author

Michael is passionate about the field of risk management and related disciplines, with a focus on helping organisations succeed using a ‘decisions eyes wide open’ approach. His experience includes managing risk functions, assurance programs, policy management, corporate insurance, and compliance. He is a Certified Practicing Risk Manager whose curiosity drives his approach to challenge the status quo and look for innovative solutions.