Companies can structure their organizations and decision processes for resilience by embracing six principles of long-lasting systems:
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- Redundancy buffers systems against unexpected shocks, albeit at the expense of short-term efficiency. It can be created by duplicating elements (such as by having multiple factories that produce the same product) or by having different elements that achieve the same end (functional redundancy).
- Diversity of responses to a new stress helps ensure that systems do not fail catastrophically, albeit at the expense of the efficiencies obtainable through standardization. In business, this requires not only employing people from different backgrounds and with different cognitive profiles but also creating an environment that fosters multiple ways of thinking and doing things.
- Modularity allows individual elements to fail without the whole system collapsing, albeit while forgoing the efficiency of a tightly integrated organizational design. Because a modular organization can be divided into smaller chunks with well-defined interfaces, it is also more understandable and can be rewired more rapidly during a crisis.
- Adaptability is the ability to evolve through trial and error. It requires a certain level of variance or diversity, obtained through natural or planned experimentation, in combination with an iterative selection mechanism to scale up the ideas that work best. Processes and structures in adaptive organizations are designed for flexibility and learning rather than stability and minimal variance.
- Prudence involves operating on the precautionary principle that if something could plausibly happen, it eventually will. This calls for developing contingency plans and stress tests for plausible risks with significant consequences — which can be envisioned and prepared for through scenario planning, war games, monitoring early warning signals, analyzing system vulnerabilities, and other techniques.
- Embeddedness is the alignment of a company’s goals and activities with those of broader systems. It is critical to long-term success because companies are embedded in supply chains, business ecosystems, economies, societies, and natural ecosystems. Articulating a purpose — the way in which a corporation aims to serve important societal needs — is a good way to ensure that the company does not find itself in opposition to society and inviting resistance, restriction, and sanction. read on »
Source: Harvard Business Review / Written By: Martin Reeves & Kevin Whitaker