The new British Standard, Guidance on Organisational Resilience (BS 65000: 2014) was launched on 27th November at the Guildhall in the City of London. The venue was an apt choice for the launch of a resilience Standard; built in the 15th century, the Guildhall is one of the older secular buildings in London not only surviving both the Great Fire and the blitz but also remaining relevant today as the high-tech home of the City of London Corporation and the setting for many banquets, receptions and corporate events. This history of the Guildhall struck me as having parallels with the essence of organisational resilience described by Chairman of the BS 65000 committee, Dr Robert MacFarlane from the UK Cabinet Office. He emphasised that resilience is a dynamic concept requiring organisations not only to be able to continue with their business operations during a sudden change or disruption but also to adapt over time to keep pace with changes in their wider context in order to survive and prosper. It seems the Guildhall has managed this.
BS 65000 is a timely and useful addition to the various Standards in the BSI’s “Risk” stable. It is a short Standard compared with many and has been established as a Guidance document rather than as a Specification to which organisations can gain certification.
Nevertheless, the document does describe the principles of organisational resilience, articulates its benefits, and explains the foundations for how to build it. It also offers some useful basic models for assessing and measuring the resilience of an organisation.
As a member of the BSI’s writing committee for BS 65000, I know it is a challenging subject on which to reach consensus, to articulate succinctly and in a way that can be applied practically within an organisation. The subject of resilience from a business perspective is still relatively new and the term means different things to different people, depending on context. However, the Standard does put its finger on a definition, which is:
“ability of an organisation to anticipate, prepare for, and respond and adapt to incremental change and sudden disruptions in order to survive and prosper” (BS 65000)
I am sure there will be many hours of discussion as to whether this is right or wrong, but for me it does establish resilience as more than continuity and encompassing a much wider set of business domains, behaviours and interactions to be successful. It enters much deeper into the structure and ethos of a company and how it operates and thinks. Everyone will take resilience for what they want it to be in their world but I am very happy that it sets out to be a part of the “big picture” and wider strategic approach of an organisation.
Certainly I have found that the language of resilience resonates much more at Board level and generates a deeper interest because it is seen as being of value not only in the short-term response to disruptions but also to the future health of the business. The new Standard certainly provides an excellent foundation for discussion of what developmental steps organisations might want to take now to set themselves up for the future. Will they, like the Guildhall, still be around in years to come?