People + Strategy Journal

Summer 2022

Rewriting the Resiliency Playbook

As we enter a next phase, building organizational resilience is a necessary part of a philosophical and psychological shift. But more than that, it demands an operational shift.

By David Reimer
For just over two years, turbulence of one type or another has created constant disruption for organizations’ people, processes, planning assumptions and business models. Getting through each wave—whether tactical challenges like supply chain or fulfilment issues, or macro threats such as COVID-19 and shifts in the geopolitical tectonic plates—required individuals to sustain a level of focus, flexibility and doggedness. Thousands of articles have been written on sustaining individual resilience. But here in 2022, a different question has arisen: What have we learned from traversing this relentless stretch of obstacles that will help our organizations become more resilient and adaptive long-term?

We dedicate this issue to that discussion. At its most basic level, resilience is a system’s ability to undergo stress, survive the experience and come back stronger. 

It is hard, challenging work, in part because building resilience requires overcoming our inherent desire for stability and predictability. As the president of a major insurer told me recently, “We’ve been changing so much, so fast, so non-stop for the last two years, that our people are craving stability. On the one hand, they know that the status quo won’t get us where we need to go. But on the other hand, the status quo offers stability, which they haven’t had in a long time.” The danger here, of course, is that the status quo in a changing ecosystem does not lead to security, but to stagnation and, ultimately, extinction.

So, what have human capital leaders, operators and board members learned about institutional adaptations? How are they operating differently today? What new tools and approaches are they using?

This issue explores how organizations such as BlackRock leaned into, and in some cases redefined, their values to navigate this less certain future. You will learn how Comcast built new decision-making and communications muscles to speed operations and address uncertainties—and how the organization re-adjusted after the crisis had peaked. And we will take you inside Broadway, where theater companies have shifted, through an overdue embrace of professional HR practices, from their traditional “the play must go on” culture to now wrestling with a more nuanced question of, “When should the play go on?”

As we enter a next phase—with new COVID-19 variants scrambling plans for return-to-office policies, and grim headlines about war, inflation, real-time energy and equipment shortages, and possible looming food shortages—this question of building organizational resilience is a necessary part of a philosophical and psychological shift. But more than that, it demands an operational shift, a strategic re-alignment and a rethinking and reframing of risk and of leadership. I want to thank each of our contributors, and to thank you, our readers. Let us know what resonates, what lessons you’ve learned and what new conversations your peers’ insights trigger for you. 

David Reimer is the executive editor of People + Strategy.