Ways to Build Operational Resilience Into Your Business

2023.05.22 10:05 AM By Joshua Taddeo, Principal Consultant
building business resilience

In an increasingly intricate and dynamic business environment, operational resilience has become an essential determinant of success. Beyond efficiency and profitability, businesses today must demonstrate resilience - the capacity to withstand disruptions, adapt to change, and persistently deliver critical services, irrespective of the challenges encountered. 

Operational resilience is the bedrock of business continuity and adaptability, akin to a well-laid emergency planning process. It's about constructing a sturdy foundation that enables your organization to weather storms and seize opportunities that lie ahead. In this exploration, we will integrate operational resilience into your business, equipping your organization to thrive amidst today's shifting business landscape.

What is Operational Resilience?  

Operational resilience, a cross-disciplinary approach, is crucial in ensuring an organization can maintain, adapt, and recover its operations amid adverse scenarios. These scenarios could include a broad spectrum of events, from natural disasters to cyber-attacks and market shifts to regulatory changes. The ultimate objective is to continue delivering critical business services and preserving organizational viability, safeguarding the bottom line and reputation.

Understanding the operational landscape, including processes, systems, people, and external dependencies, is fundamental to operational resilience. This comprehension allows for the identification of critical business services - services whose disruption would profoundly impact the organization or its stakeholders. 

Operational resilience goes beyond traditional risk management in two crucial ways. Firstly, it acknowledges that not all disruptions can be anticipated or prevented, thus focusing on minimizing the likelihood of disruptions and enhancing the organization's response and recovery capabilities. Secondly, it doesn't view risks in isolation; instead, it considers them within the context of the entire operational landscape, accounting for their potential cascading effects.

building business resilience

A culture of continuous learning and adaptation underpins operational resilience. It involves learning from past disruptions, staying alert for emerging risks and opportunities, and persistently testing and updating the organization's resilience strategies. This culture makes operational resilience a pivotal driver of competitive advantage, empowering the organization to thrive in a rapidly changing business environment.

Why Operational Resilience is So Important 

Operational resilience has emerged as a critical focus for businesses due to several key factors that underscore its importance in a contemporary business environment.


Firstly, we operate in a business landscape with increasing complexity and interconnectivity. Global supply chains, digital operations, and outsourced services have amplified the potential impact of disruptions, turning isolated incidents into systemic threats. Operational resilience is essential in managing these complex networks and mitigating the cascading effects of disturbances.


Secondly, the pace of change is accelerating. Rapid technological advancements, shifting regulatory landscapes, and evolving customer expectations all require businesses to be more adaptive than ever. Operational resilience enables organizations to respond to these changes effectively, maintaining service continuity while capitalizing on new opportunities.

explaining importance of operational resilience

Moreover, operational resilience is not just about risk management; it's also about value creation. By improving the organization's response and recovery capabilities, operational stability can turn potential disruptions into sources of competitive advantage. For instance, an organization that responds more rapidly to market demands demonstrates its robustness and reliability to its customers and stakeholders, enhancing its reputation and market standing.

Operational resilience is not just about surviving but thriving in adversity. It's the ability to turn disruptions into opportunities, to innovate and adapt in ways that can give a competitive edge. It can mean the difference between a business that folds under pressure and one that finds a way to succeed in the most challenging circumstances. Just like a well-prepared emergency response team can make the difference between catastrophe and controlled management during a crisis, a business with a robust operational resilience framework can navigate disruptions without devastating impacts.

How to Build Operational Resilience 

Building operational resilience starts with identifying your organization's critical services, those that, if disrupted, would significantly impact your business or stakeholders. This step requires a profound understanding of your operational landscape, including your processes, systems, people, and external dependencies.


After pinpointing your essential business services, the next phase is risk assessment. This involves analyzing potential disruptions that could impact these services, from natural disasters to cyberattacks, considering both likely and unlikely scenarios. Importantly, these risks should not be viewed in isolation but in the context of their potential cascading effects across the operational landscape.

Having identified and analyzed the risks, the next step is to devise strategies to manage them. These strategies should prevent disruptions, improve your organization's response, and enhance recovery capabilities. This could involve implementing redundant systems, developing contingency plans, or investing in crisis management training.


Operational resilience is more than just risk management. It also entails fostering a culture of continuous learning and adaptation. This culture encourages learning from past disruptions and staying alert to emerging risks and opportunities. It promotes regular testing and updating of resilience strategies to ensure their effectiveness in a dynamic business environment. Everyone in the organization needs to understand and uphold this mindset of resilience.

business continuity plan and strategy

Operational resilience should also be integrated into your business strategy and governance structures. It's a strategic issue that affects the entire business and demands ongoing maintenance to ensure readiness for all challenges. This integration may involve dedicating specific roles to operational resilience, involving crucial team members and stakeholders in identifying operational weaknesses, and continually improving documentation, management, or implementation of critical operational practices.

Building operational resilience also involves establishing reliable processes and investing in technology and people. Ensuring robust and reliable operational processes, from supply chain management to IT infrastructure to customer service, will enable your business to function efficiently even in disruptive circumstances. Investing in the appropriate technology and people can automate processes, enhance efficiency, and improve the flexibility and adaptability of your operations. Regularly reviewing and refining processes, learning from disruptions, and using these experiences to strengthen operations are essential to operational resilience.

Determine Critical Services & Potential Failure Points  

Determining critical services is central to operational resilience. These are services that, if disrupted, would have the most significant impact on your organization or stakeholders. Start by mapping your organization's operational landscape, including all services, processes, systems, and external dependencies. Analyze the potential impact of disruptions to each of these, taking into account both direct effects (like loss of revenue or increased costs) and indirect effects (like reputational damage or regulatory penalties). The services with the highest potential impact are your critical services. This analysis should take a holistic view, considering the interdependencies between different parts of the operation and the potential for cascading effects.


Identifying potential failure points involves assessing the vulnerabilities of your critical services. This includes both internal vulnerabilities, like system weaknesses or skills gaps, and external vulnerabilities, like supply chain disruptions or regulatory changes. The goal is to understand what could disrupt each critical service, how likely it is, and its potential impact. This risk assessment should be comprehensive, considering various potential disruptions and their varying probabilities and impacts.


Once you've identified your critical services and potential failure points, you can develop strategies to manage these risks. This could involve implementing redundancies, strengthening weak points, diversifying supply chains, or other risk management strategies. Importantly, your plan should focus on preventing disruptions and improving your response and recovery capabilities, enhancing the overall resilience of your operations.

Overhauling Risk Assessment & Analyzing Company Risk Factors 

Overhauling risk assessment in the context of operational resilience involves a paradigm shift from a traditional, siloed approach to a more integrated and dynamic one. It emphasizes understanding the interconnectedness of different risks and their potential impact on the operational landscape. This shift necessitates dismantling organizational silos to promote collaboration across departments and functions and employing advanced risk modeling techniques to capture the complex interdependencies and cascading effects of potential disruptions.


Transitioning from a reactive to a proactive approach is integral to this overhaul. Instead of merely responding to disruptions after they occur, the aim is to anticipate them and devise effective response and recovery strategies in advance. This proactive stance involves continuously scanning the horizon for emerging risks and opportunities, regularly updating risk assessments, and cultivating a culture of resilience and continuous learning across the organization. Integrating risk assessment into strategic planning and decision-making processes ensures that operational resilience is considered at all levels of the organization, thereby enhancing overall business performance.

analyzing risks and business challenges

A comprehensive risk assessment is fundamental to this process. It evaluates the likelihood and potential impact of disruptions to critical services, ranging from natural disasters and cyber-attacks to supply chain failures, market shifts, and regulatory changes. Each risk should be analyzed for its potential to disrupt critical services and the severity of the impact should it occur.

This holistic risk assessment should consider the direct effects of potential disruptions and their cascading effects across operations. For example, a cyber attack could disrupt IT systems, resulting in a loss of customer trust and reputational damage. A supply chain disruption could increase costs, leading to delivery delays and customer dissatisfaction.


Finally, risk analysis should be a dynamic process, reflecting the ever-changing business environment where new risks can emerge at any time. Regular reviews and updates of risk assessments, considering changes in the operational landscape, emerging threats and opportunities, and lessons learned from past disruptions, are imperative. This dynamic approach to risk analysis enables organizations to be proactive rather than reactive, thereby enhancing operational resilience.

Examine Competitors Operational Resilience & How They Approach Challenges Their Organization Faces 

Examining a competitor's operational resilience can provide valuable insights for improving your resilience strategies. However, since much of this information may not be publicly available, it often requires a combination of indirect observations, industry knowledge, and informed deductions.

One way to examine a competitor's operational resilience is through their responses to past disruptions. Look at how they've handled cyber-attacks, supply chain disruptions, or market shifts. Did they recover quickly, or were their operations significantly impacted? Did they manage to turn the disruption into an opportunity, for example, by innovating or capturing new markets? Their response to past disruptions can give you an idea of their resilience capabilities and strategies.

You can also analyze a competitor's operational resilience by examining their business practices and strategies. Do they have diversified supply chains or rely on a single supplier? Do they invest heavily in cybersecurity, or do they seem to neglect this area? Do they have a continuous improvement and learning culture, or do they stick to their established ways? These practices and strategies can provide clues about their operational resilience.

Finally, you can gain insights from industry reports, regulatory filings, and other public documents. For example, a competitor's annual report might reveal risk management strategies, investments in resilience-enhancing technologies, or contingency plans for potential disruptions. Regulatory filings could provide information on their compliance with operational resilience standards or preparedness for specific disruptions.

discussing growth strategy and solutions

When examining a competitor's operational resilience, it's important to remember that what works for one organization might not work for another. Each organization has its unique operational landscape, risk profile, and strategic objectives. Therefore, the goal is not to copy a competitor's resilience strategies but to learn from them and adapt them to your context. This can help you enhance your operational resilience, giving you a competitive edge in a fast-paced and unpredictable business environment.

Create a Plan for Identified Operational Challenges & A Framework for the Unexpected 

Creating a plan for identified operational challenges begins with clearly understanding the risks you've placed in your risk assessment. You should develop strategies for each risk to reduce its likelihood, minimize its impact, and improve your response and recovery capabilities. These strategies range from implementing redundant systems, diversifying supply chains, developing contingency plans, or investing in crisis management training.


Each strategy should be clearly defined, with specific actions, responsibilities, and timelines. They should also be tested and updated regularly to ensure they remain effective in a changing business environment. Moreover, these strategies should be communicated across the organization so everyone understands their role in managing operational risks.


On the other hand, creating a framework for the unexpected is a bit more complex. By definition, unexpected events are those you haven't identified in your risk assessment. However, that doesn't mean you can't prepare for them.

One approach to dealing with the unexpected is to develop flexible and adaptive response capabilities. This involves having specific response plans and the ability to improvise and adapt these plans as needed. This flexibility can be enhanced through training, simulations, and after-action reviews, which can help your organization learn from past disruptions and improve its response to future ones.

team creating business continuity plan

Another approach is to build redundancies and buffers into your operations. This could involve, for instance, maintaining excess inventory, overcapacity, or backup systems. These redundancies and buffers provide a safety margin that allows you to keep delivering your critical services despite unexpected disruptions.


Finally, creating a framework for the unexpected involves fostering a culture of resilience and continuous learning. This means encouraging employees to be vigilant for emerging risks, promoting open communication and feedback, and rewarding innovation and knowledge. In this way, your organization can become more resilient to known risks and unknown or unexpected ones.

The Necessity of Building Operational Resilience  

Building operational resilience in your business is a necessity and a strategic advantage. It enables you to manage risks, create value, and meet the growing expectations of regulators and stakeholders. It involves identifying your critical services and potential failure points, overhauling your risk assessment and analyzing your company's risk factors, examining your competitors' operational resilience, and creating a plan for identified operational challenges and a framework for the unexpected. It's a complex but rewarding process that can enhance your business's competitiveness and sustainability.


Remember, operational resilience is not a one-time effort but a continuous process of learning and rebuilding. It requires a deep understanding of your operational landscape, a proactive approach to risk management, and a culture of resilience and continuous improvement. Integrating these elements into your business strategy ensures that your organization is prepared for today's challenges and poised to seize tomorrow's opportunities.