In the wake of a tumultuous 2020, Deloitte Global’s fourth annual readiness report explores the concept of organizational resilience. We wanted to know how organizations were coping with the unexpected challenges they faced in the past year and get their opinions about what made their organizations more or less able to withstand chaos. From that analysis, we sought to identify what traits define resilient organizations—traits business leaders can emulate to build greater resilience into their own organization.
We identified five characteristics of resilient organizations that enable and promote nimble strategies, adaptive cultures, and the implementation and effective use of advanced technology. Businesses that can bounce back from unexpected challenges typically are:
Most resilient organizations focus on all of these traits to some degree, not just one or two of them. In part, this is because these characteristics often overlap and support one another. For instance, companies that practice stakeholder capitalism are likely focused on trustworthiness and ethical behavior.
Further, these five attributes aren’t immutable, nor do they just occur organically. They require desire, effort, investment, and action to cultivate and maintain. The survey suggests that organizations that deliberately build these attributes into their mindsets and cultures are better positioned to overcome disruptions and help usher in a “better normal” postpandemic. For example, CXOs who said their organizations had done very well in cultivating resilient cultures were about three times more likely than those lacking resilient cultures to say they weathered the events of 2020 well.
Leaders can’t be sure their organizations are truly resilient until they’re tested by adversity. The toughest and most important test most have ever taken arrived in 2020, and for some CXOs, revealed that their organizations were more resilient than they realized. Before 2020, only 24% of CXOs felt completely ready to lead through potential disruptions, and only 21% felt completely confident their organizations could quickly adapt and pivot, if needed. In the midst of the pandemic, however, these numbers jumped to 34% and 30%, respectively, indicating that the events of 2020 have given some CXOs a confidence boost about their organizations’—and their own—resilience. Yet that still leaves 66% of CXOs who don’t feel completely ready to lead and 70% who don’t have complete confidence in their organizations’ ability to pivot and adapt to disruptive events.
Perhaps most importantly, the data suggests that speed matters. Organizations that made early investments in resilient strategies during the COVID-19 crisis—or, even better, had already made strategic, workforce, and technology investments in capabilities that enhance resilience—outperformed their competition. This finding points to a fundamental lesson that the pandemic brought home: that resilience is as much about thinking ahead as it is about doing what it takes to respond and recover from a crisis.