Resilience Perspectives
View from the board

Ruth Boumphrey

Ruth Boumphrey headshot

Five reasons why every organisation needs a resilience champion at board level

Like any shock or major event, the Covid-19 pandemic has induced stress at many levels. It’s been a huge test of all resilience plans. It’s accelerated change already in progress, such as the move to home working and the end of cash. It’s also shone a light on the very real and urgent need for resilience preparations in all types of organisation.

The reasons for identifying a board-level resilience champion echo the reasons for building resilience into our own everyday lives to ensure our comfort and ability to function in the face of stress. Do we have the financial stability to ride out a crisis? Are we ready and prepared to adapt and change to life’s major events? Do we have a network of friends and family to step in and provide support when necessary?

Extrapolating from these points, I believe that there are five clear reasons why a high-level champion can provide the structure, budget and drive to implement an important resilience shift.

1. Facing the facts: Every company will face a crisis at some point, and by the very nature of crises, they’re often completely unexpected and do not feature on an organisation’s risk register. Who can honestly say that the stock market crash of February 2020 featured on their risk register? Or, for that matter, the Covid-19 pandemic? In some ways this calls into question the usefulness of a risk register if it is no more than a list of disasters and events that can be predicted. However, there is a mature conversation that can be had on how to handle unexpected events. It must be time to face up to some uncomfortable truths, nominate a Board-level resilience champion and develop a resilience register.

2. Beyond crisis planning: When we talk about resilience, the understanding is that this means how to keep the lights on, how to keep an organisation operational. But there is a wider discussion too about the actual purpose of the company or city authority or charity. The resilience champion can lead the discussion on gaining a clear understanding of purpose which then helps to focus the mind on how to keep going, whether it’s about feeding people, supplying clean water or running a transport network. With this clarified, then there must be further consideration about how the organisation relates with others in the supply chain and taking a whole system approach to this review. This helps with insights into areas of weakness and vulnerability and in how to work, and who to work with, collectively and collaboratively in a crisis.

3. Changing the culture: In the same way that organisations have embraced the need for greater sustainability, this should be followed by adopting resilience planning and strategies. Again, like sustainability, this is best driven from board level where the embedding of a culture change begins and strategic questions can be asked. It’s at this level, and led by the champion, where major changes can be proposed and adopted – for example in place of the standard audit and risk committee there could be an audit, risk and resilience committee. Putting plans into action can require creating a resilience officer or resilience manager role to act on decisions and implement the changes; many organisations, including many cities, have already seized the opportunity to do this.

4. Education and skills: With strategies adopted and plans drafted, the next step is for the resilience champion to ensure the culture change and adoption of resilience strategies are cascaded through the organisation. Every member of staff needs to be aware of the plans and know what good looks like. Standards must be set, and resilience skills recognized and rewarded. After all, a robust resilience strategy is inextricably linked to the organisation’s survival. Businesses with a recognised resilience strategy should see a positive impact on their share price, resilience should be a differentiator.

5. Measuring success: Critically important to the resilience champion’s role is the ability to measure effectiveness and success. How this is done will differ according to the organisation, and will include an understanding of the properties of resilience as they apply. For example, a resilience dashboard could include factors such as financial liquidity, the capacity to call on expertise in the event of a shock, supply chain options. This exercise is a very healthy thing, it’s less of a tick-box exercise than the risk register and helps to understand the nature and vulnerability of the organisation. As with all strategies and plans, the concluding point here is that this is not a one-off exercise, regular discussions and reviews should be scheduled in the calendar becoming part of business-as-usual, stress tests conducted and policies written into governance.

With the global pandemic now firmly embedded in the public consciousness, it might seem that the need to consider resilience will be forced on all organisations by default. However, to add resilience value to the organisation and intentionally embed resilience thinking and practice will need all of us to own that change, and lead from the top by appointing a Board-level resilience champion.

About

Ruth Boumphrey is Director of Research at the Lloyd’s Register Foundation, and Resilience Shift Board member

"It must be time to face up to some uncomfortable truths, nominate a Board-level resilience champion and develop a resilience register."