How can insights into the operation of culture enhance organizational resilience?

“The concept of organizational culture must be recognised as one of vital importance to the understanding of organization and all activities and processes operating within and in connection with organization.” (Brooks, 2003)

As Brooks states, the concept of culture and therefore insights into its operation within an organization are fundamental. However, to fully understand how culture can enhance organizational resilience, one must be clear by what is meant by both organizational resilience and organizational culture. This paper will define organizational resilience in the contemporary context and explore what is meant by culture. It will be demonstrated that culture is a complex field of study and that every organization has its own unique culture which is interwoven with concepts of individual and national culture. This paper will argue that insights into, and more importantly understanding of, an organization’s culture help to ascertain the risk appetite of an organization and these insights can be used to enhance organizational resilience. It will be shown that for an organization to truly enhance its resilience it needs to embed a culture of resilience at every level.

The use of the term ‘resilience’ has proved increasing popular and widespread in the last decade, becoming a “concept used liberally and enthusiastically by policy makers, practitioners and academics” (McAslan, 2010). Resilience in organizations, particularly after the financial crash of 2008-9, has become much sought after. The UK Financial Services Authority (now The Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority) rebranded its external risk management division as a resilience department. This is indicative of organizational resilience encompassing more than risk, security and business continuity. It is widely agreed that organizational resilience implies “a common property … is the ability to cope with unanticipated system and environmental conditions that might otherwise cause a loss of acceptable service.” (Meyer, 2009)

Academic study into organizational culture began “in the 1970s and early 1980s with the work of Peters and Waterman” (Brooks, 2003) although the concept of defining the culture of an organization can be traced to the works of Jaques and his study of the culture of a factory which he defines as “its customary and traditional way of thinking and doing things which is shared.” (Jaques, 1952). Despite the concept of organizational culture having been recognised for well over half a century and culture “being a bedrock of behaviour in organizations” (Mullins, 2010), there remains substantial academic debate about what constitutes organizational culture and its relevance to enhancing an organization’s resilience.

The full article, authored by Andrew MacLeod, is available at Continuity Central.