Union Foxtrot International – People Centric, Resilience Focused
January 5, 2016
Definition of RESILIENCE
1 the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress
2 an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change
With all the buzz about resilience it’s pretty easy to get lost in the details. What does it mean to be a resilient organization? What plans do you need, how much stuff do you need to buy…and what software products do you need? Even the definition is subject to debate. Why resilience instead of preparedness? Does it apply to systems, infrastructure or people?
It gets exhausting.
Years ago I put my stake in the ground and started going with resilience as opposed to preparedness because it acknowledges that bad things happen. Disasters, violence, industrial accidents…. you name it the world we live just isn’t a very safe place. You can prepare all you want, but no amount of duct tape or MREs are going to help an organization recover and forge ahead if the people and the systems aren’t resilient.
There are probably thousands of pages written on this topic. I’ve read some, even been interviewed by a few people regarding my thoughts on the topic. The truth is I’m a huge fan of keeping it simple and have zero qualms telling you I’m no expert on resiliency. I know people that can get into the weeds on this (some can go right past the weed and straight to the roots), but the academic aspect of it isn’t my focus – the functional application of this concept of resiliency is. My thoughts are based on my observations and studies over the past 28 or so years that I’ve spent neck deep the emergency business. First as a paramedic and then as a government executive running an emergency management organization. In that time, I’ve dealt with the whole spectrum of humanity. I have had the chance to march in the humanity parade alongside rich and poor, the homeless and the elite. I’ve learned it truly is just they say…we all bleed red, we all laugh, cry and use the restroom. Along the path I’ve been honored to walk alongside amazing individuals; sometimes celebrating with them, sometimes propping them up, and sometimes just sitting down and crying with them.
People. That’s the key. Humans have a natural resilience to them. A survival instinct so primal it rivals a bear protecting her cubs. Even in today’s digital world, where it’s a fair argument that we’re becoming too dependent on tech to do anything, people will still come together and figure it out when the chips are down. No argument that some are weaker and some are stronger, that’s also nature. Inside the vast majority of us is that little primal flame of survival. That’s where resilience starts. Don’t believe me? Scan the news for survival stories. People helping each other. Strangers risking it all for someone else. It happens every day. You might need to dig, because editors prefer those other stories where the strong take advantage of the weak, but they’re there. It might not be leading for lack of bleeding but they’ll put the story below the fold in the “human interest” category.
With a little preparation and some practice people can deliberately become more resilient. The ancients knew this to be true, just as we do today. For a great read on it pick up a copy of Resilient by Eric Greitens. He talks about what it means to be resilient as a human, and does a far better job than I can in a blog post.
Captain Sully didn’t just become that cool voice telling air traffic control that he was landing in the Hudson. He trained for it. He rehearsed that moment a thousand times in his head (OK, maybe not with birds…but you get the point). Part of his job was to be that guy in a pinch. He nailed it. And so can you.
From a practical perspective I’ve been helping organizations and people find their footing and build resilience for years. I like to think it’s what I did as a leader, as mentor and as a government executive. So it was easy to know what the focus would be when we started this little consultancy. People are at the core of every success and failure in an emergency. Whether it’s a power outage or a catastrophic earthquake, how well prepared the people are to deal with a high stress, constantly evolving situation goes a long way towards determining the outcome.
Union Foxtrot International offers a variety of services to help the individual, organization, government or business become better prepared for the everyday, and not so every day, emergencies that are part of life. No matter if we’re helping you get your home in order, write a business continuity plan or teaching elected officials crisis leadership our focus is always on the people. The tools will vary from situation to situation, the tech will change, and nothing will unfold as planned. A resilient person will have the inner means to adapt what is and MacGyver the best solution available (for those who don’t know MacGyver click here – I’m old and I make no apologies).
We can help build your individual and organizational resilience through strategy development, planning, and practice. That’s what we do. Take a look around the site for more details on the service lines. We’ll be adding to and updating as we grow and learn, building our own organizational resilience as we go, just like you do.
Thanks for reading and I hope you’ll keep checking in. The plan is a weekly post and the topics will range to anything related to preparedness, continuity, resilience, and probably a war story or two. The goal is to keep it readable and entertaining, or at least thought provoking.
So here’s a thought to get you going: you’re more prepared than you think. More on that to come. Have a great day everyone, and thanks for stopping by.
“You are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. It’s a muscle, you can build it up and then draw on it when you need it.” -Sheryl Sandberg