By Georgina Black, Jaimie Boyd, Zabeen Hirji, Roxana Greszta, Don MacPherson
Government and public service organizations face unique needs and conditions as they plan for disruption—how can they learn, adapt, and emerge stronger than before?
The last two years have shown that government and public service organizations must be able to adapt and respond to change quickly, to maintain critical operations and services—as well as provide extraordinary supports and services to people, businesses, and communities. As we continue into a prolonged era of disruption and uncertainty, resilience has quickly become the foundation on which governments orient their strategies.
But how rapidly and successfully did government organizations respond to change during the last two years? According to a global survey from Deloitte, during 2020, only 23 percent of government leaders completely agreed that their organization “can/could quickly adapt and pivot in response to disruptive events” (compared to 30 percent of leaders who felt that way, across all sectors).
And while COVID-19 certainly brought the need for resilience to the forefront, we know this topic has been on the minds of executives for years. In fact, data from Deloitte also shows that more than 60 percent of CXOs think we’ll see “occasional or regular disruptions of this scale going forward.” Most of these CXOs highlight climate and future pandemics as the most likely causes of future disruptions.
So, will governments relax the resilience muscle they exercised during the pandemic or seize the moment to strengthen it to be better prepared next time?
At Deloitte, we define resilient organizations as those that “plan and invest for disruption, and can adapt, endure, and rebound quickly in a way that enables them to not only succeed in its aftermath, but also to lead the way to a ‘better normal.’” Furthermore, it’s important to note that “resilience is not a destination; it is a state of being. A resilient organization doesn’t ride out a crisis, returning to business-as-usual once disruption ends. It instead transforms” and adapts.
The case for cultivating and improving resilience in government is clear. For example, in Canada alone, Deloitte data shows the right investment in national resilience could boost GDP by more than 1 percent per year over the next decade—an increase of more than $350 billion in national GDP by 2030.
But building more resilient governments requires a much broader scope of activities than in other industries—with governments facing more intense public scrutiny, given the critical services they provide. By taking a more holistic view of resilience, governments can realize they can be a strategic enabler of other policy priorities. This holistic approach can also support a fundamental shift in how governments respond to change: from more intense and reactive responses to greater continuity and management through ongoing disruption, so governments may better advance their broad agendas.
Governments may consider focusing on resilience with two lenses:
From our research, we identified salient characteristics of the most resilient organizations. We see the following nine as key opportunities for governments to reimagine the dimensions for resilience to tackle the unique challenges they face. To promote and strengthen their resilience, governments may strive to be:
In both times of crisis and more stable conditions, people depend on governments for service continuity and, importantly, service excellence—and governments strive to deliver. That’s why the most resilient governments, organizations, and leaders themselves seek to “connect the dots,” tying together the above traits—and the processes, ecosystems, technologies, and people related to them—to better anticipate and successfully respond to change. And change is a certainty in the future.
As government organizations navigate what’s ahead, it’s important to remember that resilience isn’t about trying to return to the previous status quo. It’s much more transformative—requiring new competencies, and the ability to predict conditions and outcomes, and respond with more agile and precise policy interventions.
For government organizations, reimagining resilience—and embracing the characteristics and principles associated with it—can help them prepare with confidence for what’s next.