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Building Resilience in Times of Crisis

The tiny Tardigrade is possibly the most exceptional example of extreme resilience in the animal kingdom. Also called the Water Bear, this microscopic Thor can survive destructive Antarctic cold, environments with no oxygen, extreme heat, and – this is almost impossible to top – an unshielded trip in space, exposed to doses of radiation that would fry lesser beings.

Every organisation needs heroes to emulate. In the tough times that the world is marching determinedly through in 2020, the Tardigrade is a good hero to have in mind as you make plans to sail through the economic storms churned up by the coronavirus pandemic.

Prof Julian Birkinshaw of London Business School said recently: “The world is turbulent. Big shocks will come. We cannot predict when, but we could prepare for them.” Possibly the greatest asset in these circumstances is the ability to move quickly and flexibly. Like the agility of a cheetah, being alert to environmental changes as they occur and being able to consider and implement adaptive tactics rapidly are winning talents. Succeeding long enough to touch the horizon of safety somewhere in the unknown future may need going easy on ‘high risk – high reward’ strategies for now. That is at least one big lesson from the fate of some giant investment banks in the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) that many corporations may have started forgetting already.

Prof Birkinshaw reminds us that there are three types of resilience to keep in mind: Operational, Strategic, and Personal Resilience.

A focus on operational resilience allows companies to continue the everyday clockwork activities of core operations. Anticipating events that could blindside, preventing such risks, bouncing back from unavoidable hits, and adapting to repeated adverse events that are affecting everyone form part of operational resilience.

Strategic resilience has more to do with reading even the weakest signals striking the company from all around, and forming effective responses to risks as well as opportunities that ensure the health and longevity of the business. In the US, an INSEAD survey found recently that nearly half of corporate boards had formed crisis management committees amid the pandemic. Continued engagement and open dialogue with other businesses, industry bodies, and governments at all levels are also important in maintaining strategic resilience. Collaboration can mitigate risks in many ways, and prevent siloed thinking from creating new dangers.

Personal resilience is something that the quote from Winston Churchill at the beginning of this article addresses in the wartime leader’s inimitable way. Gritty patience at the personal level tends to percolate through the entire organisation. But it also means ensuring that your employees have the support, in all its myriad forms, to maintain resilience in the face of uncertain conditions.

And it is important to always remember who the enemy is: Uncertainty. Even the world’s leading economists are struggling to predict the trajectory of the economic crisis caused by the pandemic. That said, information is flooding in from all directions about medical advances, government action, impending structural changes at the national and international level. Being sensitive to the most reliable bits of information coming your way is a massive advantage in forming the most effective responses.

So, keep your organisational senses sharp at all times. And remember: there is an inviting light at the end of this tunnel.

While time only will reveal when this pandemic ends, we at MyTreasur-e are already sure of one unshakable truth: our customers need the best treasury management system, supported by utterly reliable service. And, whether a vaccine solves the world’s biggest current problem within months or we have some way to go yet, our cutting-edge treasury management solution will be there to help you maintain resilience through the journey to the other side.