Establishing a robust resilience framework: The three pillars of Business Resilience

Kommunikation Krise

What can leaders do to enhance their organization’s resilience? Jana Meißner, the Managing Partner of Meissner – The Resilience Company, which specializes in crisis and resilience, and Markus Epner, the Head of Academy at F24, Europe’s leading Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) provider for incident and crisis management, know the challenges on the way to a more resilient organisation. Their recipe is simple: work on and with the company – focus on a holistic approach.

Resilience in the Era of Permacrisis

When it comes to Resilience, companies currently face several challenges. The discussions are too timid, the measures too unsystematic, the awareness at management level too low. Recent studies by management consultancies like Deloitte or McKinsey observe a common trend – while many companies worldwide are now addressing the issue (partly driven in Europe by the new DORA EU Directive), there is a general lack of comprehension, adequate resources, and a well-defined strategy for implementing organizational resilience.

Resilience is commonly described as the capacity to overcome difficult circumstances without suffering enduring repercussions. This same principle often underpins the concept of a resilient company – one that can withstand crises swiftly and with minimal damage. However, in the age of permacrisis, constant change, and an ever-evolving array of risks, we need to reconsider the definition of crisis resistance.

Even amid the new normal, the ultimate goal remains constant: to secure and enhance a company’s long-term value and enable it to meet the demands and expectations of its stakeholders within a highly complex, multi-hazard environment. In addition to competent crisis management, modern resilient companies must foster a multitude of resilience factors like agility, the capacity to learn and adapt, the ability to regenerate swiftly, and the agility to recognize and seize opportunities embedded in crises – a corporate culture that encourages resilience. Markus Epner cautions, “Companies, however, often overlook the crucial fact that they must first and foremost master one thing: the art of recognizing dangers. Without a cross-functional early warning system, even the swiftest and best response will be ineffective.”

1 | Embracing Resilience as a Core Management Responsibility

In discussions with managers about resilience, Jana Meißner frequently encounters statements like, “We’ve just emerged from a three-year crisis; we don’t need to practice that anymore,” “If something arises, we’ll handle it,” or “We have your contact details.” She observes that many underestimate the complexity of the task while overestimating their own capabilities. Some even believe that resilience can be outsourced, similar to cybersecurity or IT services. “A well-intentioned yet often ineffective approach is the creation of a resilience strategy consisting of a project team and an Excel spreadsheet,” notes Markus Epner. He emphasizes that true resilience necessitates a comprehensive, interconnected, and systemic approach, as well as a genuine commitment to change and a willingness to break down organizational silos. Jana Meissner stresses, “The journey toward a resilient company must commence from the top management.”

The Obstacles: Project Structures, Misleading Reporting, Lack of Objectives

“Those who view resilience as a project assume that there will be an end result in the near future. But the path to a more resilient company is not a sprint, but a marathon that often spans several generations of managers,” Jana Meißner explains. Resilience, like crisis management, should therefore be seen as an ongoing task for the management level, to which appropriate attention and resources must be devoted.

Markus Epner identifies a significant issue in reporting structures, where reports within companies are frequently uncoordinated and, at worst, exhibit contradictory figures. For instance, the Annual Risk Report and the Crisis Management Report may address different risks, or the HR department may pursue a strategy misaligned with risk management team.

The Optimal Approach: Understanding, Awareness, Resources

Empirical research corroborates daily observations. According to a recent Deloitte[1] study, three primary obstacles stand in the way of achieving resilience: a lack of comprehension of the subject, insufficient prioritization amid the multitude of strategic tasks, and, above all, a glaring shortage of skilled staff.

To enhance understanding and awareness, resilience should be a recurrent item on the management agenda. An initial orientation can be provided through a resilience assessment. For example, ISO 22316:2017 outlines fundamental terms and methods and addresses organizational resilience through nine key areas. A systematic approach is also developed by the University of Lucerne.

Excerpt from the Resilience Check of the University of Lucerne

Caption: Resilience benchmark in the form of a spider diagram. It shows what companies can work on in terms of leadership, network and change.

In the subsequent step, it is advisable to define binding objectives and a resilience policy that spans across departmental boundaries to foster a shared understanding and a coordinated approach. Establishing a resilience committee as a dedicated staff unit, akin to a compliance manager, can ensure that the topic doesn’t fade into the background amidst the demands of daily work. Companies, including those focusing on resilience, benefit from open, cross-departmental communication and the integration of systems and processes. Better alignment leads to the more efficient implementation of planned measures. Lastly, maintaining an impartial view of the overall situation is crucial. Cross-departmental, coordinated key performance indicators offer a holistic view of both successes and improvement areas.

Resilience as a Management Responsibility: Initial Steps

– Resilience Analysis: Subject your company to a resilience assessment. It unveils blind spots and identifies potential quick wins.

– Define clear objectives and/or a resilience policy that transcends departmental boundaries. Communicate these openly and restructure your reporting systems to align with the defined resilience goals.

– Establish a resilience committee as a top management staff unit.


2 | Establishing Systemic Resilience

Resilience always starts with people. Without the right attitude or behaviour among both management and staff, even the most well-crafted policies will amount to nothing. “Organizational resilience is not a conventional skill,” remarks Jana Meißner. “Resilience stems from an inner attitude, a mindset.”

Resilient individuals understand their self-efficacy. They have firsthand knowledge of where they can rely on themselves and where they may need support. “Organizational resilience should not be confused with sheer strength or assertiveness. It’s, instead, the ability to view challenges as a collective task,” emphasizes Jana Meißner. She continues, “Managers with a resilient mindset can be identified by their habit of asking, “How can my actions enhance not only my own department but the entire company?”

Inseparable: Individual and Organizational Resilience

Employees bring varying degrees of individual resilience with them, which companies can strengthen. This can be achieved by incorporating resilience into staff development and feedback discussions. “Resilience can be cultivated, both on an individual and organizational level,” says Jana Meißner. Recruiting also presents a crucial lever. “Ideally, companies already address the topic in the job advertisement and specifically look for people with the attribute “resilience”,” says Jana Meißner. “This is especially true for top management. Managers today have to bring multiple professional and personal qualities to the table. However, if we look at the common recruiting profiles, we don’t find resilience among them,” observes Markus Epner. “Why not, actually? Personal resilience is just as important as a leadership strength as teamwork skills or solution orientation.”

True Partners: How Companies Contribute to Individual Resilience

Resilient individuals possess certain personality traits, ranging from problem-solving abilities, self-efficacy, tolerance, and reflection, to humour, openness, and social skills. Companies can mirror and support these individual resilience factors by demonstrating respect and recognition, fostering integration, promoting cohesion and reliability, and conveying a sense of belonging and care.

Companies can establish a significant course during the onboarding process. Jana Meißner explains, “Research has confirmed that a sense of belonging significantly enhances job satisfaction.” Companies can actively nurture this by effectively integrating new employees, fostering cross-team and cross-department networking, proving themselves as reliable partners to their employees, and demonstrating genuine care.

Structural Deficiency: Systematic Training

Both experts agree on one issue: a glaring absence of systematic training in many European countries. ” We still see a structural deficiency in this area. Higher education or university programs dedicated to crisis and risk management, let alone resilience management are hard to find across Europe.

On the other hand, Great Britain and other Scandinavian countries are setting examples by having ‘Resilience Managers’ as a standard position in many companies,” reveals Jana Meißner, who is currently developing one of the first degree programs in organizational resilience with the Hochschule des Mittelstandes. Markus Epner also provides a striking example of the head start enjoyed by Scandinavian countries: “Around 150 crisis managers attended a small F24 conference for crisis management software in Oslo, a number many times higher than we would expect in other countries.” Companies currently collaborating with universities and training institutions have the opportunity to take initiative and launch new training formats or educate their own staff.


Establishing Systemic Resilience: Initial Steps

– Consider resilience as a quality in recruiting and personnel development, particularly in top management positions.

– Support resilience during the onboarding process by fostering effective integration and being a dependable partner to employees.

– Make a commitment to training, such as through collaboration with universities.


3 | Enhancing Resilience through Strategic Digitalization

Jana Meißner firmly believes, “Resilience is initially independent of technology and always starts with people. But the path to a resilient company is leaner and more efficient if it is specifically supported by smart digitalisation.”

Technology can provide efficient support in opening silos, and significantly accelerate the process. “What sometimes doesn’t work on a human level for a variety of reasons, for example cooperation across departmental boundaries, can be established and promoted very easily by technological means,” Markus Epner speaks from experience. Direct communication channels, networking at the operational level, automation of standard tasks – these are small measures that can very quickly trigger changes in behaviour. A major advantage of smart digitalisation is the automation of processes and recurring standard tasks, such as controls, assessments or reports, and the associated relief for the teams.

A Critical Foundation: Centralized Data Management

While digital crisis management solutions are enabling companies to efficiently prepare for and handle acute crises, one aspect is often overlooked:  digitalization necessitates a holistic, cross-company approach. “It is crucial that all areas work with the same, redundancy-free data. Only then are reports meaningful and automations resource-saving,” emphasizes Markus.

That is why service providers like F24 go a step further with their suite of tools for Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC). Not only does its resilience module provide the capability to analyse risks and consequences, oversee measures, and monitor resilience, with its unique data repository it can also seamlessly integrate into existing systems, establishing a shared database with minimal effort. This involves a continuous import of data from existing systems into a central repository, where it is processed and then fed back into the original systems. Subsequently, the entire company operates with a shared, non-redundant database.

A Management Instrument: Tailored Visualization

Comprehensive resilience monitoring is indispensable for evaluating threats to continuity and stability, enhancing crisis prevention and management, and ultimately ensuring the company’s long-term resilience and viability. Both experts emphasize that, “When dealing with critical business functions, technology should always adapt to people, not the other way around.” Meaningful and comprehensible visualizations of corporate data serve as the fundamental prerequisite for making well-informed decisions during crucial moments. Ideally, a resilience management system should produce intelligent analyses, maps or radars tailored to the personal requirements of each manager.


Key Metrics: Can Resilience be Quantified?

The Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS) is a psychological tool that gauges resilience indicators in individuals, enabling the assessment of their resilience thresholds. In essence, recent life events, like personal losses, starting a family, purchasing a home, or significant changes in one’s living circumstances, are quantified using a point system. The more points a person accrues on the resilience scale, the closer they are to reaching their resilience limit.

“We can apply this principle to the corporate environment as well, allocating points to current stressors such as competitive pressures, managerial transitions, supply chain disruptions, or environmental demands within the company,” Markus Epner explains. In simple terms, we could then ascertain, for instance, whether the company possesses the resilience needed to navigate a major restructuring at the present moment. If the resilience score is low, you can take the risk; if it is already very high due to other stresses, it is better to choose a different point in time.


Initiating Resilience Enhancement through Strategic Digitalization: Preliminary Actions

Establish a shared, non-redundant, consistently updated, company-wide database.

Employ an interconnected technological platform to foster cross-functional collaboration and communication.

Alleviate team workloads by automating repetitive routine tasks like reports and assessments.


Markus Epner – Head of Academy at F24 AG

Markus joined F24 AG in 2022. He worked in several positions in different security and crisis teams, was one of the first officers in the Kommando Spezialkräfte and his experience from the Bosnian and Kosovo wars as well as his many years of leadership experience in industry give him confidence when acting in critical events.

Markus studied Security and Crisis Management in Kiel and have more than 20 years of experience in security and crisis management with Lufthansa and Boehringer Ingelheim. During his time in the industry he managed, beside some other crisis, the evacuation of two crews out of Mumbai during the terror attacks and the covid-19 crisis during his time in the pharmaceutical industry.

Jana Meissner – Managing Partner, Meissner, The Resilience Company

Jana Meißner, a seasoned attorney and the managing partner of MEISSNER The Resilience Company GmbH in Dortmund, is a specialist in organizational resilience—a comprehensive management practice that encompasses risk and crisis management, along with crisis communication. With a legal background and over 15 years of experience in (crisis) communication, she established the corporate consultancy in 2015, focusing on the interplay of law, crisis communication, and crisis management as the cornerstones of her consulting approach.

Furthermore, she imparts her knowledge as a teacher at the University of Applied Sciences for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses in Bielefeld.

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