Principle 8: Teams make Resilience real

By Jenny Campbell|November 28, 2018|Enabling the Resilient Organisation|

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Principle 8: Teams make Resilience real

The original Resilience Engine research published in 2009 centred on personal resilience. Since 2014 the company has been researching collective resilience for teams and organisations.

We know that resilience is your ability to adapt or your capacity for change, no matter the entity. We know that the measure of Organisational Resilience is how much change the organisation can absorb successfully.

As you might imagine, researching collective resilience is a messy business. We can’t claim definitely we have the ta-ra! the-full-answer-to-organisational-resilience. Not yet. But we do have core insights that have been verified over this period that can be applied immediately. Two of those insights are:

  • Teams foster what we call ‘Organisational Resilience Assets’.
  • These assets are linked via a wide-reaching network, that when aligned, leverages all of the assets’ individual resilience level, providing a kind of multiplier effect. Thus the collective is stronger than the individual parts.

It’s very far away from organisational hierarchy or hero-leader worshipping. Leadership for resilience is working to ensure the core assets are in place, plus, working hard and continuously to align these assets. It’s a big ask.

The core place for this work is in teams. Resilient teams foster organisational resilience assets. Unresilient teams destroy them.

Source: Serious Science

The Organisational Assets

Resilience Assets do include key people. The Chief Executive and senior leaders – yes, their resilience is leveraged throughout the organisation. But also this includes that incredibly efficient manager of a particular key process, or that fantastic admin person who keeps the whole of their area smoothly running.

Assets include key teams such as the senior leadership team, but also key project teams and key process teams.

A critical component is the ‘why’ of the organisation. Beyond KPIs and targets, this is the real meaning behind what the organisation offers. The ‘why’ a la Simon Sinek.

Other assets are resilience-enhancing values such as loyalty. And critical processes are in too:  Health and Safety processes within the Oil and Gas sector for example, or customer support processes within Online Services. Then finally, pulling it altogether, it’s whether the organisation can collectively learn.

The assets vary from sector to sector and within different contexts. For example, we are currently investigating ownership models and how they affect the asset mix.

Teams Make Resilience Real

But across all of this complexity shines one steady truth: teams are the homing place for these Organisational Resilience Assets to be born, fostered, supported and leveraged. Resilient teams embrace and care for these assets; unresilient teams do not and in fact can destroy or undermine the assets.

That means you as an enabler in the organisation need to consider how to build resilient teams.

Team resilience is a kind of layering up approach. Starting from individual resilience, each team member needs to have a minimum resilience level of Coping1 as a norm. (In an already-resilient team, dipping levels of resilience for one or two members can be absorbed easily, but for the unresilient team, each person’s resilience needs to be at the Coping1 level or above.)

Then there are multipliers, or de-multipliers. These factors are rarely neutral. The following are some of the big factors for team resilience:

  • The team’s Adaptive Capacity2
  • (Initially at least), the boss’s resilience levels
  • Team purpose
  • Trust in the team
  • Individual authority inside and outside of the team
  • The team’s ability to learn well

Ok, now you are getting the idea! Resilience, your ability to adapt or your capacity for change, is an integrative capability, and multiple factors contribute in an aligned way towards it.

It might seem somewhat academic, what in fact can you do? These three things:

  1. Focus on ensuring that each team member is able to Cope1
  2. Focus on what will energise the team, a critical component of Adaptive Capacity2
  3. Thrash out, for real, what the team’s core purpose is and why each team member can stand with their voice contributing into it.

These three factors will go a long way to building a resilient team. And that in turn will contribute fully to the Organisation’s Resilience Assets base.

If you want to learn more about the Resilience Engine’s research and how to apply this within your organisation, we would be delighted to talk. Please get in touch.

Author: Jenny Campbell, CEO Resilience Engine


Coping is a resilience state clearly defined within the Resilience Dynamic®, the Resilience Engine’s model for what resilience is. Coping is a state of minimum health for resilience, but where there is no surplus capacity for learning, and therefore no capacity for change.

The Adaptive Capacity is the ‘oil’ of the engine of resilience that needs topping up regularly. It includes Energy, Pacing and Perspective.

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