Gabazira's blog

The Effectiveness-Lab

Effective strategy and resilience

We have discussed at the Effectiveness lab the new normal for organisational strategists

The organisational development (OD.) power-play and dynamics have shifted in favour of intertwined and horizontal than vertical drivers. Siloed approaches to OD. have no place in the 21st Century bionically balanced organisation. The new normal is loose, fast-moving, and requires multiple factors to tame its adverse effects on the company.

This blog focuses on one such driver – resilience.  Resilience plays a critical role in helping organisations to attain strategy execution excellence. There is a general acceptance that organisational fragility, while part and parcel of the new normal, undermines execution excellence.

However, organisations won’t stop turbulence from wreaking havoc on their business. Instead, organisations have to stay the course – resilience. To use the analogy of the plane during a flight; organisations have to fly with their seat belts on all the time. Turbulent, fast-moving and interconnected business environments are here to stay.

What is needed to forestall the effects of the harshness is a change in the ‘psyche’ at the organisation. Things have to change from ‘business as usual’ to ‘permanently strange and harsh’. The appropriate word to use is resilience.

So, what is resilience?

Successful resilience is about taking a knock and quickly springing back into shape. Strategists have to think about ways to institutionalise resilience at organisations. Sustainable resilience is achieved by an interplay of the right leadership that will bring a different and particular mindset in the organisation; the right architecture that empowers small teams and individuals to quickly think of solutions to spring back into shape when disaster strikes; and the right people that like and are passionate about the brand

Resilience case study: The Netherlands – the effects of climate change, a business opportunity:

Well, how many of us consider trouble as an opportunity? Not many we suspect. CEO’s and Managers know how much they dread hearing the words: trouble, tension, problem, challenge, or crisis.

Yet, the new normal is such that organizational turbulence is here to stay. The wolf has indeed camped in front of your organization’s front door. And, do you have to keep the wolf away?  The solution involves resilience and not necessarily, getting rid of the wolf

According to the New York Times, The Netherlands, a nation that is constantly on the offensive from mostly being below sea level, sees climate change and the threats it brings to the country as an opportunity. The Dutch have accepted that they can’t do much about controlling the effects of climate change. Instead, they are adopting a resilience strategy; they have accepted not to always control climate change, but to work around it.

First the business opportunity – the Dutch have turned climate change threats into a business opportunity. They have accepted climate change is a reality that can’t be simply pushed away. The Dutch have chosen to live with climate change and its manifestations. Apparently, delegations from as far as Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City, New York visit the port city of Rotterdam to study Dutch climate change resilience. These countries are all coming to learn from the Dutch, water management. The Dutch won’t try to tame water, they have accepted that water will behave the way it wants to act and that they have to cope with its habits.

“……from the first-moment settlers in this small nation started pumping water to clear land for farms and houses, water has been the central, existential fact of life in the Netherlands, a daily matter of survival and national identity. No place in Europe is under greater threat than this waterlogged country on the edge of the Continent. Much of the nation sits below sea level and is gradually sinking. Now climate change brings the prospect of rising tides and fiercer storms.”

Apparently, 90% of Rotterdam, a city of close to one million people, is below sea level. This makes Rotterdam extremely susceptible to the rising ocean. Yet, instead of fighting nature, the natives of Rotterdam will let water have its way.

The Dutch: ‘live with the water, rather than struggle to defeat it. The Dutch devise lakes, garages, parks and plazas that are a boon to daily life but also double as enormous reservoirs for when the seas and rivers spill over.’

Second, there is a bionic-balance aspect between climate change management and the day-to-day living of the Dutch. The Dutch have learnt not to detach the environment and the social fabric of the Dutch society.

Dutch children have to earn a diploma in swimming while in their clothes and shoes. The Dutch have to know how far below sea level they are. The Dutch are very aware that evacuation can’t always be the answer to floods; they have built above the water. The latter takes us back to the Effectiveness lab’s proposition that resilience is to a large extent a ‘mind-set’ issue. It’s not only learning to live with your challenge but to tame it in a win-win and sustainable manner

The Dutch are helping other countries to learn and think resilience.  They have come to the rescue of the flood-prone Bangladesh nation. They have supported the Bangladesh authorities to tame water via effective design and implementation of emergency shelters and evacuation routes.  The latter has resulted in reduced deaths from floods from the thousands to a few hundred

CEO’s and Managers, as opposed to whining about your organisational challenges, learn to think resilience.


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About Me

Apollo B. Gabazira is an Ugandan OD. junkie fascinated by matters that render organisations/individuals effective or not. He blogs on effective leadership and management. He is a devoted green-farmer and breeds the Ayrshire cow at Nakabugu, Luuka district, Uganda. Apollo is quite effective at what he chooses to do.


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