How Do We Know If an Organisation is Resilient?

By: Vivi Soryano

We know it from its culture.

Although there have been many attempts to quantify resilience in recent years, there is no current consensus on how to measure it 1. However, it is widely agreed that resilient organisations commonly acquire a wide range of constructs – such as flexibility, learning ability, employee wellbeing, self-regulation, and a culture of awareness – through which their progress towards resilience can be assessed2. These constructs are called indicators.

Indicators can be traced by observing perceptions, opinions, judgments embedded in the system, in other words, the Logos, of an organisation. To know if an organisation is resilient we must also understand the nature of social interactions and the characteristics of social-ecological systems within the organisation 3.

The only place in an organisation where we can see whether these indicators exist is: Its Culture.

What is Organisational Culture? 

Organisational Culture is a set of shared values, beliefs, systems, symbols and assumptions that have developed over time 4,5. It is also a body of written and unwritten rules on how to act and behave in manifesting the purpose. In its simplest form, Organisational Culture is the way things are perceived and done in an organisation. 6

So how are things perceived and done in Resilient Organisations?

An organisation is resilient when the understanding that the future is unpredictable is incorporated into the culture, and when they have the absorptive, adaptive and transformative capacities to deal with this reality7. Resilient Organisations perceive challenges as opportunities to learn and grow from. Once an organisation embodies the Logos – principle of reason and rationality – that evolution is not only inevitable but necessary, then they can have a culture of resilience. A culture of resilience equips an organisation with a psychological immunity to adversities 8. Thus, as adversities arise, the organisation can mobilize its resources to survive and leap forward with the unfoldment of life, trusting that all strong organisms will thrive after the disruption.

To distinguish resilient organisations from others, Robb 9 lays out two opposing types of cultures prevalent in organisations:

1)  Performance Culture, which is driven by production and perfection. Highly based on logical, planned reasoning and organising.

2)  Adaptation Culture, which is innovation oriented and creates space for experimenting and allows intuition and emotion within the decision-making process.

For true resilience, there is a need for the integration of these opposites. “Wholeness” as Robb calls it, is the mark of a resilient company culture. This is when companies can both hold on and let go; they can give equal weight to reason and emotion, to planning and emergence. Thus, be able to negotiate change without yielding to it.

So, one of the main facets of a resilient organisation is the coexistence of performance and adaptability. This way, an organisation can sustain competitive advantage over time because it can simultaneously show exceptional performance aligned with existing company objectives and expertly innovate and readjust to rapid, turbulent changes in technologies and markets 10.

 When there is a balance between Performance and Adaptation, this allows organisations to have “restructuring ability”9, where they can adapt to change more easily and not be afraid of dissolving longstanding structures to build newer ones. The more organisations manifest restructuring ability, the more they become resilient. And when this manifestation is in line with the authentic purpose of the organisation and supports the wellbeing of its eco-community, then the organisation thrives and evolves.

Vivi Soryano

SparkUs Chairwoman


  • Winderl, T. (2014) Disaster Resilience Measurements: Stocktaking of ongoing efforts in developing systems for measuring resilience. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
  • Schipper, E.L.F. & Langston, L. (2015). A comparative overview of resilience measurement frameworks: Analysing Indicators and Approaches. Overseas Development Institute.
  • Maxwell, D., Constas, M., Frankenberger, T., Klaus, D. & Mock, M. 2015. Qualitative Data and Subjective Indicators for Resilience Measurement. Resilience Measurement Technical Working Group. Technical Series No. 4. Rome: Food Security Information Network. Available at:
  • Béné, C., Godfrey-Wood, R., Newsham, A., and Davies, M., 2012. Resilience: new utopia or new tyranny? Reflection about the potentials and limits of the concept of resilience in relation to vulnerability reduction programmes. IDS Working Papers, 2012(405), pp.1-61. Available online at
  • Ravasi, D.; Schultz, M. (2006). “Responding to organizational identity threats: Exploring the role of organizational culture”. Academy of Management Journal, 49 (3): 433–458.
  • Deal T. E. and Kennedy, A. A. (1982, 2000) Corporate Cultures: The Rites and Rituals of Corporate Life, Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, 1982; reissue Perseus Books, 2000
  • Needle, David (2004). Business in Context: An Introduction to Business and Its Environment.
  • Everly, G.S. (2011). Building a Resilient Organisational Culture. Harvard Business Review.
  • Robb, D. (2000). Building Resilient Organisations. OD Practitioner, 32(3).
  • Boin, A., Comfort, L.K., Demchak, C.C. (2010). “The Rise of Resilience”. University of Pittsburgh Press.

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