“Organizational Resilience” Takes Top Billing at Davos

Organizational Resilience at World Economic Forum in Davos

“Organizational Resilience” Takes Top Billing at Davos

One of the most exciting things for me as an advisor to the c-suite in large multinationals and mid-size companies is comparing the patterns I see with my clients each year to the themes coming out of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Hearing about the issues that CEOs and world leaders are trying to solve often gives me a jump on serving my clients as I help them peek around the corners they are likely to have to maneuver around. This year was especially jaw-dropping because the theme of resilience took top billing. Having written Resilience: It’s Not About Bouncing Back in 2019, I can honestly say, “It’s About Damn Time!”. I am thrilled to have other voices joining me on this topic. When I started speaking about Resilience in 2015, I used to say, “Resilience is the number one skill leaders need, and no one is talking about it.” Well, they are now! It only took a pandemic and a global economic crisis to get us there. Better late than never, I suppose. This critical topic surely deserves top billing as the two things we know for sure are that we aren’t going back to the world we had pre-pandemic and disruption has become a constant. Smart CEOs know that and are preparing for it.

Resilience Pays Off

When I started researching resilience, there were exactly two articles to be found about it. But with the benefit of a few years to study resilient companies, we know that those that act in resilient ways outperform their peers by up to 50% on shareholder returns.  We also know that becoming a resilient organization comes with a cost. McKinsey Managing Partner Bob Sternfels, head of the World Economic Forum’s Resilience Consortium, advised leaders to think of building resilience as an investment, rather than an expense. Resilience is an enabler to driving sustainable inclusive growth. In short, he made the point that resilience matters. He went on to say that 20% of GDP growth this decade is at play…it’s going to go up or down, depending on how well we are able to build resilience. This is a massive number.

Resilience Prepares Teams For The Unknown

Also at Davos, the CEO of BNY Mellon, Robin Vince chimed in to point out that resilience is a commercial effort – it is an investment made to ensure you can weather these kinds of storms. The discussion gravitated to how the new work of CEOs is to prepare for all reasonable possibilities. While we cannot predict the future, we surely can prepare for likely outcomes. This can be a daunting effort, but it doesn’t have to be. While I still believe the same framework applies to building individual and organizational resilience that I present in the LeaderShift® Resilience Framework, there is another piece that must join the equation. We must anticipate, plan for and pressure-test our responses to likely scenarios in ways we never have before. Many of my strategic planning clients have done some short version of scenario planning in the past, but I believe it is time to beef that up and make it a mission-critical part of strategic planning. We will never be able to predict the future. It is close to a waste of time to try. But we can brainstorm possible scenarios, prioritize them by likelihood of occurrence and build contingencies that can be relied on if, and when the scenario occurs. One of my clients is a multinational consumer products company that is trying to price above inflation. That’s a tough moving target to nail. But they can anticipate a few scenarios that could happen, build some gate checks and adjust their strategies during the year as the numbers move. Even if they don’t beat it, they’ll come a lot closer than they would have if they didn’t consider the scenarios. Going forward, bulletproofing your strategy is about making it resilient by planning for likely scenarios.

If you would like help building a more resilient team, organization, or strategy, call us. It’s what we do. 


To learn more about how leaders and their organizations can build and increase resilience in the midst of disruption, check out our book Resilience: It’s Not About Bouncing Back.