Organisational Resilience Blog


15/03/2024 - UK's Defence and Resilience Challenge in a Geopolitically Disrupted World.


Having observed how the Ukrainian situation has changed over the first three months of 2024, and how the Russian economy and rhetoric has also moved, there seems to have been a major shift of dynamics within the European / Russian relationships, with European nations now starting to openly “bare their teeth” towards Russian aggression. Against this backdrop, the recent discussions within the higher echelons of the UK’s Ministry of Defence, and subsequent politically focused message given by CDS, and his public rebuke of other serving and previous senior officers, may be misguided, or at least poorly timed.


Russia, over the last six months has started learning organizational lessons of conflict, and is ramping up its Defence industrial base to meet the demand of heavy casualties on the front line. However, while the population suffer as a consequence, there is a trade-off; securing the captured Ukrainian land through weight of military power, while also undermining Western resolve and unity. During the second week of March 2024, we have seen a major ramping up of international movement against Putin’s regime, while also witnessing several armed incursions into Russian territory from anti Putin regimes.


At the same time, with the expansion of NATO and the isolation of the Baltic Sea as NATO nations now surround it, Russia is experiencing issues not seen since WW2. Given the incursions, and the follow on sustained drone attacks on Russian territory, Putin’s regime has brought conflict on a scale not seen since WW2, to the Russian people. In March 2024 alone, Russia experienced:


  • 12% of its oil flow disrupted with 3 major oil refineries struck by drones;
  • 3 separate incursions into Russian territory with thousands of residents fleeing;
  • 70+ drones used to attack Russian establishments;
  • FSB HQ hit;
  • Further Black Sea Fleet ships sunk or attacked;
  • 15+ Russian aircraft destroyed; and
  • Several military airfields attacked.


With a major downturn on the sense of control that he has, the UK is still at risk to a belligerent Putin; the whole of Europe has been put at risk by both Putin's invasion, and the political power games being played in America. The decision in 2016 to leave the European Union, despite the Government’s rhetoric, has been shown through academic, economic and political research to have impacted the UK’s Defence and Resilience capability. What CDS seems to have glossed over in his recent statement is that the UK, post Brexit, is facing several challenges:


  • The UK, because of Brexit, has become one of the most reliant nations on a global supply chain; unfortunately the Russian invasion, the Chinese incursions into Taiwanese waters, and the ongoing Middle East conflict are all destabilizing the UK's supply chain.
  • The state of the UK's armed forces, and wider Defence capability has been significantly reduced under the Conservative Party, to a point where it would struggle to field a credible fighting force to support NATO operations. The UK MoD has sought to replace mass with technology, and unfortunately has failed to undertake that effectively. A failed Armoured Vehicle program (AJAX), too few combat fighting aircraft, a nuclear deterrent that fails to launch, and two new aircraft carriers that struggle to leave port. The MoD budget deficient also hints at the need to sell off military hardware, potentially including one of the new aircraft carriers.
  • The UK's resilience is near rock bottom, and has not been helped by the recent UK budget which did not fund further expansion for Defence, or address years of underinvestment. We have recently seen a disagreement between the Chancellor and the Defence Secretary, with Grant Chapps pushing for at least 3% GDP to be spent on Defence as a minimum to try and repair the damage caused to UK defence capability.


Ideally a CDS should seek to remain impartial to politicians; the role is focused on doing what is best for the nation’s security and resilience. By positioning himself in line with the current government’s approach, and failing to highlight that the UK resilience is indeed at risk due to sustained lack of investment and government support to the development of the UK’s Armed forces. Then the UK is not a safe place at the moment.


Add to this the increasing pressures on Local councils and Local Resilience Forums, continued societal discontent and breakdown, a government that is failing to provide any serious level of strategic leadership or guidance to the nation, and a dwindling economic and industrial footprint then, unfortunately, we at Squared Apples would challenge CDS’ current position that the UK is a safe place to be right now. In our opinion, the UK’s resilience has taken several steps backwards, and the government needs to be held to account. If the Head of the Armed Forces, the main agency tasked to providing that security and resilience footprint is unwilling to challenge his political masters, then who will?




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03/03/24 Starting the Organisational Resilience Journey.


When developing an organisational approach to embedding resilience, it is important to consider the framework that is going to underpin the journey that the business is going to undergo. Changing a culture from one that focuses on siloed mentality, or glass walls between Risk, Emergency Management, Business Continuity and Security will require a major cultural as well as procedural change. This can create tension or concern within the senior leadership, who may not fully understand the dynamics of organisational resilience.


A key component of enabling this change is the Organisational Policy and Strategy to embed resilience across the various business units. While the Policy document is a short piece of work, created by the executive leadership group, it should aim to set out the following:



  • Company’s vision,
  • the end-state and
  • what is going to be done to get the company from where it is now, to the desired end-state.


Supporting this is the company Resilience strategy, which turns the Policy document into a force for change and maps the various actions and owners that need to exist within the business. Key to the success of this document is how it is laid out. As a core text for the business’ resilience framework, the strategy document should contain the following:


  • Foreword & Introduction   (from exec lead)
  • The document scope
  • Key references, terms and definitions
  • Guiding principles of the business
  • Organisational accountabilities
  • Business practices of operational resilience
  • Establishing the context for operational resilience
  • Developing operational resilience
  • Stress testing operational resilience
  • Embedding resilience into organizational culture
  • Business ethics, practices and core values
  • Organisational learning & education
  • Governance and assurance for operational resilience 
  • Operational resilience reporting 
  • Maturity and measurement in resilience
  • Relativity and benchmarking
  • The concepts of maturity and measurement
  • Maturity Measurement mechanisms
  • Document review process and timeline


By having all these components mapped out within the strategy document enables the various department leads and accountable members begin to facilitate the change, at both the procedural and cultural levels, to enable the development of a resilience culture.




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22/02/24 Europe and Ukraine two years after the Russian Invasion: Observation


Earlier this week, the world watched as the leaders of many nations met at Munich to discuss the state of the world – the priority subject was the need for the free world to get properly behind Ukraine. While Europe stated that collectively they are seeking to increasing its support of Ukraine, the US noted that Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine was the same as a Mexican immigrant invasion of Texas. With that comment from a GoP senator, the joint nations of Europe agreed a collective understanding that the US is not a reliable partner anymore; it has lost the ability to see the bigger picture and is potentially on course for an internal political civil war.


NATO has also realised that limiting Ukraine’s ability to defend itself to within Ukrainian borders does not enable Ukraine to fight effectively. As of the 22 Feb, NATO supports Ukraine undertaking deep strikes into Russian territory to cripple key military targets. As the Command Centre of Putin’s leadership, the Kremlin would also be classed as a military target, should Ukraine seek to destroy the Russian Command and Control capability.


Current situation

The current conflict is not Russia vs Ukraine, but instead it is the free world vs authoritarian dictators. We have seen a clear alliance of aggression arise between Russia, Iran, North Korea, and China, with each nation seeking to expand its footprint through forced invasions of its neighbours. There is unmistakable evidence that Iran, North Korea, and China are funding and supporting Russia’s conflict; this has become a war of survival not just for Ukraine, but for democracy across several nations across the world.


Intelligence assessment has shown that if the Democratic nations of the world defeat Russia in Ukraine, then China will realise it is unable to invade Taiwan without international backlash. Iran will find itself fighting a coalition in the Middle East should it attempt to expand its borders, and North Korean regime may cease to exist if it attacks it neighbours. However, this will take several years to achieve, as Russia will need to be defeated on the battlefield, as well as in the markets and culturally it is required to undergo a major change in understanding power does not allow it to over-run its neighbours and slaughter innocent populations,


Increased European support

Building on the move by NATO, and accepting that America is currently no longer an effective partner against Russian aggression, and the fact that the UNSC has been neutralised by Russian and Chinese action, the European nations have increased their support, which, over the last few weeks seeks to establish its long-term security. They have realised the greatest chance of international stability is the complete defeat of Russia, which will send a clear message to the other three “Axis of Aggression” nations. A free and secure Ukraine also ensures a strong food producer within Europe, inter-European growth, a stable European economy, and another step to the United States of Europe, focused on mutual protection, growth, development, and prosperity. Part of this move is increased support to Ukraine through the following actions:


Danish government has announced a new package of military aid to Ukraine worth $247 m. Ukraine will receive the first F-16 fighter jets from Denmark this summer;


Denmark has gifted all its artillery systems to Ukraine to help provide modern deep strike capability against Russian Forces, and also calls upon other European nations to do similar;


UK will send Ukraine another 200 Brimstone anti-tank missiles, and train another 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers in the first half of 2024;


UK has also announced a £245m package of providing artillery shells for Ukraine;


Sweden announces a new package of military aid to Ukraine worth $682m;


Netherlands has joined the drone coalition and begun to provide Ukraine with drones;


Netherlands is also transferring battlefield radars to Ukraine to support artillery EW capability;


Ukraine has its own drone R&D successes. A recent one - Ukrainian drones analogous to Lancet have passed preliminary tests and are preparing for their first combat tests. Many of Ukrainian drones are done in partnerships with allies or employ their technologies;


Britain is working with countries including the United States to provide Ukraine with thousands of new artificial intelligence drones that could simultaneously attack many Russian targets;


Czech Republic has found 800k artillery shells of 155mm and 122mm calibre for Ukraine. In the coming weeks, they may be delivered to the Ukrainian army;


Germany is preparing a plan to transfer long-range systems to Ukraine; and


UK to continue training Ukrainian troops, aiming to train another 10,000 over the coming months.





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07/12/21 - Building Resilience Through Wargaming.



Across the military spectrum in time and space, various commanders have engaged with the art of Red-teaming and war-gaming in a bid to understand what the opposition may do, and how they may counter their actions. In modern conflict, the act of war-gaming has become seen an out-of-date process, similar to reading doctrine or reviewing past historical battles to glean knowledge and understanding of tactics and strategy. Military commanders have become too busy and too overloaded with information, resulting in a failure to understand the environment and the situations that they find themselves. One only has to dissect the campaign corpses of the Iraq, Syrian, Libyan or Afghanistan campaigns to understand the implications of the loss of this skill.


What is War-gaming?

The impression that the war-gaming individual is either a spectacle wearing geek, or someone with no friends and does it in the basement with toy soldiers reliving past wars, is damaging to a very effective intelligence gathering tool which is badly undermined within the military. Worse still, it is very poorly understood in industry, yet it is here that it can have the greatest benefit for industry leaders, if only to help identify risks and challenges to the resilience of their organisation. The question that we need to ask ourselves, before we allow our own internal bias to get in the way, is what is war-gaming?


Well, if we park the images of Gandalf and the dragon-riders inhabiting our minds, or the image of teenagers rolling dice and screaming “die, die” at the top of their voice as their dwarves attack an Orc encampment, the act of war-gaming, as defined within the UK Red-Teaming booklet, is:


“A scenario-based warfare model in which the outcome and sequence of events affect, and are affected by, the decisions made by the players.


In essence, for all those that have played the board game Risk, or a more classic example, Chess, you are engaging in a form of war-gaming, where two individuals plan, move and react to the actions of their opponent. Chess also creates the challenge that there are certain rules and actions that must be followed, therefore forcing each player to think outside the box and attempt to be several steps ahead of the competition. For the military, war-gaming provides a similar challenge, especially when played against an active and empowered red-team, who are given the leeway to utilise all available capability and methodology of the enemy when engaging in the war-gaming activity. By facing off against a thinking opponent, rather than a stereo-typed understanding of the enemy, the war-game can result in the “Blue force” player finding themselves staring into the jaws of defeat, as their plan is taken apart by their “Red force” opponent. This may be down to group think, incorrect planning assumptions, or the Red force player thinking outside the box and flanking the Blue force player.


Why Invest in War-gaming?

War-gaming is a tool for forcing adaptive decision-making, based on intelligence, understanding, and assessing your environment and the capability of your opponent. It forces individuals to try and get into the mind of their opponent, to guess their moves based on critical analysis and deduction, enhanced through intelligence and experience. The act of war-gaming can be as simple or as complex as you wish to make it, and may cover a single event, or string multiple events together and last for days; however it is utilised, it provides an effective and very valuable insight into the resilience of an organisation, and the effectiveness of the decision-making of the leadership team.


The same can be said for applying this capability to industry. By war-gaming certain events leadership teams can gain better understanding on how things may unfold, thereby informing their decision-making. The process can be enhanced by enabling an “active” opponent, either in the role of competition, or as an injector for events or scenarios, to test and observe the decision-making process of the leadership while under pressure. The fact that war-gaming is adversarial is its strength; it forces teams to think outside the box, as they try to understand their environment and the actions of the competition. It forces the consideration of certain activities to maintain a level of resilience within the organisation when attempting to achieve a successful outcome, while shining a light into the areas where there are potential concerns and potholes with current company practice and procedures.


There are those in both industry and the military that argue that the art of war-gaming is dead within the modern world, that the speed of information gathering and analysis rules out the effectiveness and relevance of war-gaming. I would argue to the contrary, as I have observed many individuals, both in industry and in the military, being overwhelmed by the sheer load of information that they are being asked to analyse, resulting in their organisation experiencing a state of strategic paralysis. War-gaming helps teach the importance of prioritising information, developing courses of action and decision-making under pressure, and maintaining an effective operational cycle while attempting to out-manoeuvre your opponent. War-gaming is a tool that can be expanded depending on the audience and complexity of the event that you wish to explore. You can conduct a war-game to test a single event with a table, a few scenario injects, chairs and paper, or you can build a multi-event situation that runs over several days using computer generated scenarios, virtual reality and a large support team to run complex events. The size and complexity of the war-game is down to the imagination of the individual who seeks to run it.


Final Thoughts

With this in mind, war-gaming is a very impressive teaching and learning tool, allowing individuals and teams to fail safe, without any real consequence for their actions, and to walk away with several key lessons to take forward. It is a powerful tool for building resilience, as it helps identify potential weak spots in incident management, business continuity and disaster recovery processes, as well as crisis communications, information management and adaptive decision-making and problem solving. It is a tool that provides a long-term leadership development capability, yet is rarely used outside of the military. Going forward, the inclusion of war-gaming and scenario based decision-making exercises should factor on senior and executive leadership programs, aimed at developing the behaviours and cognitive skills of the future leaders of industry within the UK. 




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27/10/21 - Is There a Crisis within Business Continuity Education within the United Kingdom?



As the United Kingdom seeks to gradually edge its way out of the pandemic crisis, it has been observed that there has been a level of concern expressed about he ongoing resilience capability within the UK. A recent call for evidence around the capability of the UK’s resilience framework and the national resilience strategy has resulted in multiple observations being made about the uncoordinated and chaotic approach that was implemented during the Covid-19 pandemic. Organisations reported back concerns about missed messages from senior government officials, lack of clear decision-making, failure of contingency planning within the government itself and the failure to implement the Government legislation that was designed for such an occasion, the Civil Contingencies Act 2004. This key framework has not been properly reviewed since 2012, raising significant questions around how important the government has taken the building and embedding of resilience across the UK.


The Training Need

However, the issue does not just sit at governmental level. Over the last 18 months we have witnessed a significant cultural change ripple across the financial and commercial sectors within the UK as they seek to develop resilience capability. The disruptive events of the last 3 years have shown the fragility of organisations across all sectors. As the implications of Brexit, Covid-19 and constricting supply chains are impacting on businesses of all sizes and shape within the UK, there is the need for organisations to reconsider their operational and organisational resilience capability. There is now a real desire to invest in staff capability, building skills, knowledge and adaptiveness through training, education and currency. This requires the delivery of effective, timely and well-delivered and assured training solutions to address the complexity of the resilience domain.


Tied to this is the quality of Continuity and resilience education that is being delivered across the UK, and by whom. Several Critical National Infrastructure organisations noted the cost of business continuity training that is delivered by several large training organisations, while Local Authorities and small businesses have highlighted that the majority of the courses are priced too high for them to attend. A detailed analysis of the various course offerings noted that several offerings were proposing to cover topics that could not be addressed in the timeframe allocated. One such offering, which is now being promoted by several organisations, is the subject of Organisational Resilience. Training companies, professing to be experts in teaching resilience, are promoting two-day courses in Organisational Resilience, a subject that is an outcome of multiple operational disciplines and not a discipline in itself. This raises concerns about the validity of the course itself, as well as the quality of the instruction being delivered, and the honesty of the organisation itself in promoting such a course.


There is also the significant change that we have witnessed over the last 18 months with training design, development and delivery. The implications of training becoming virtually classroom based has resulted in organisations, which were predominately face to face based training deliverers, having to invest in building a more university lecture based approach to online training. Within the resilience domain, the UK Resilience Centre, based at the University of Wolverhampton, has invested in technology that enables it to deliver courses globally, using hybrid teaching techniques. The course delivery staff are all qualified academic lecturers, with practitioner experience, which enables them to blend the knowledge of training design and delivery with the professional knowledge of having undertaken the role.  Other training organisations may not find themselves in such a privileged situation with their delivery staff.


The impact of effective learning transfer is key to the success of training, and to obtain learning transfer face to face is very different to delivering it over a virtual means. There is the need to re-design and re-develop the training material, as well as reconsider the delivery methods, due to the implications of not being able to conduct group work events, case study discussions or classroom based discussions which utilise visual aids. Course design teams need to reassess the learning objectives and key learning points and develop the means for the trainer to deliver these. This hybrid learning challenge adds a complexity to the development of training that few resilience activity practitioners will have experienced before, as learning design is a skill normally undertaken by Learning Development Specialists (LDS) or Advisors (LDA).  This activity requires much more than the amendment of powerpoint slides or the inclusion of a video – there is the significant consideration required about the implications to the informal learning activities which normally occur within the classroom, which, due to the dislocation and the technology, may not unfold in the same way.


Linked to this is the skill of the training deliverer as well. Delivering online training requires slightly different skills than that of training delivery within the classroom. This includes

  • Clear, articulate communication skills: being able to give clear direction and guidance to the students, without relying on the ability to move around the classroom to check on what they are doing, and whether they have understood the task at hand.


  • Technological literacy: The virtual trainer needs to be very confident on the implementation of technology to enhance the delivery of training. Poor IT skills can very quickly create a poor learning experience for a student, resulting in learning barriers and disinterest setting it. There is also understanding the complexity of sharing information across digital means, managing online discussions and protocols, as well as managing minor IT issues.


  • Time Management: A key skill is managing the available time. Unlike a classroom environment where it is easy to move activities on, within the online domain it is very easy for the trainer to be pulled into the various discussions or online activities, losing track of time. Online training delivery can be difficult to deliver within a timeframe if communication is not clear, or IT issues affect the session, and the added challenge of remaining situationally aware of the various activities being undertaken can create a complex challenge for the trainer who is inexperienced in online training delivery.


Managing the Training Crisis

Research conducted within the UK by the Policy Exchange Group in 2020 noted that the pandemic had highlighted significant concerns over the delivery of vocational training, with many organisations not investing in a proper learning development framework. The author, who has a background in the development of training and learning materials using both the Systems Approach to Training (SAT) and Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation and Evaluation (ADDIE) models, has noticed that several organisations that deliver resilience activity training do not invest in such a methodical and robust approach to training design. This failure to invest in a detailed up-front analysis if the learning requirements, outcomes and assessment strategy can leave students feeling undervalued. Given the cost of the various resilience-based training courses being offered by various organisations, those who are seeking to undertake the training should first seek to understand what training framework the delivery agents have used to design the training material, along with the key learning points, end state and assessment strategy has been identified.


Organisations who are also seeking to invest into building staff capability within the resilience domain should also consider whether the course objectives meet the need for the organisation. There should be a review of the competence framework that exists within the organisation, and whether the training material meets the requirement set by the competence framework. If the training does not meet the need, then an organisation should reconsider the situation; it may be financially detrimental to the organisation, and, as the staff will still not have achieved the competence framework required, may add to the organisational risk profile, rather than addressing it.


There is also the risk that training organisations, and their training delivery teams, seek to remain within their comfort zone, rather than seeking to stretch and grow. Over the last 18 months multiple individuals, and organisations, have renamed themselves “Resilience Practitioners”, yet the courses that they are delivering are still Risk or Business Continuity focussed. This promotes a risk to an organisation seeking to invest in resilience training, as the trainer that is delivering the course may focus on their specialism, which may not deliver the requirement that the organisation seeks. Organisational Resilience is an outcome of multiple disciplines that come together to deliver a holistic framework, which produces the Resilience umbrella. Organisations seeking to build their own resilience framework need to identify the various resilience activities and team members that enable the framework development, and create a training plan to achieve the requirement, then identify suppliers whose course objectives meet their needs, rather than being pushed into accepting a sub-standard offering.


Implications of Poor Management of Training Delivery Capability

In a desire to obtain a level of training competence within the resilience domain, organisations may find themselves facing a choice of accepting a sub-standard offer or facing the risk of being unable to manage the impact of a disruptive event. The impact of this could leave the business facing more issues than it might first realise; rather than addressing the situation, poorly trained staff can create several adverse effects within the workplace, which may erode the trust within your business by stakeholders and customers. Poorly or untrained trained staff may not project the required professional image, may be unproductive, may increase the risk of poor decision-making under pressure and are more likely to leave when the organisation is under pressure.


This situation is not only focussed at the operational level; strategic management teams also require specialised training in leading resilience activities to minimise the reputational and performance impact to the organisation when experiencing a disruptive event. An example of poor management of a crisis can be witnessed on social media; currently there is an ongoing and very public dispute occurring between the founder member of the Business Continuity Institute (BCI) and the Board. As this event unfolds within the public domain, there have been multiple individuals who have highlighted that they have rescinded their membership of the organisation due to ethical and behavioural issues. There have also been several allegations raised against the Board members about improper conduct and their own level of knowledge within the various disciplines. For an organisation that has supposedly positioned itself as the forerunner of continuity, resilience and crisis-management within the UK, the BCI’s current approach to this reputational crisis has shown a significant lack of leadership and understanding of how to manage an unfolding crisis.


This leads to the observation made at the beginning, that within the UK there is a significant level of concern around the competency and availability of learning and training within the resilience domain. This may be due to the current cost of the courses, the capability of the organisation, the validity of the organisation, or the validity of the course that is being promoted. An investigation as part of a wider research programme also noted that very few of these organisations conducted external validation of the courses that had been delivered, or invested in the long-term development of the level of practitioner knowledge within the domain. The unfolding situation with the public crisis that the BCI is experiencing raises significant concerns over its ability to train and advise other organisations on how to manage crises, when it is struggling to manage the crisis it currently finds itself in. The apparent lack of action to address the situation raises questions over the validity of its training capability, its ethical framework and the professionalism of the leadership of the organisation. As a organisation seeking to obtain resilience training, these concerns may lead an organisation to look elsewhere.


Building Capability through Competence Management

However, there is an organisation which offers a welcome change to this situation. Recently within the UK the Disaster Recovery Institute (DRI) has been promoting its training courses, which have been competitively matched to the other organisations that are delivering similar training. As a not-for-profit organisation, the DRI has also been heavily investing in helping members of the UK and US Armed Forces in building their skills and knowledge within the resilience domain. Within the UK, the DRI has supported mental health charities which are supporting the UK Armed Forces community; within the US the DRI has set up an Armed Forces sponsorship scheme to help support personnel to obtain a qualification and then employment to utilise the new skills. Another element to the DRI offering is its ongoing competence framework, which ensures that those individuals that have obtained a certification in either Business Continuity or Cyber Resilience remain current and competent in their role.


In its approach to ensuring those that have obtained the certification, the DRI promotes the requirement of maintaining professional competence as part of its terms of membership. Rather than taking the BCI approach where individuals can obtain the training and then, if they wish, become a member of the Institute, the DRI requires individuals to become a member first. This provides an initial level of assurance regards the individual and the training requirement.


Once an individual has completed the training, there is an examination that enables the individual to obtain their currency. On completion of the assessment, the individual is deemed qualified. There is then the requirement for the individual to demonstrate the various activities they have conducted, against a defined criteria, for them to be accepted as competent, which is then verified through an assurance framework.


Unlike other training delivery organisations within the resilience domain, which deliver a training qualification without a defined period, the DRI require individuals to remain competent, and to demonstrate this. The DRI utilise a blend of self-reporting, evidence based scoring and independent referees to verify the evidence. This professional competence management sets the DRI a world apart from other providers within the UK, and, with certification that is recognised across the globe, positions it as the benchmark within the delivery of organisational resilience focused training. This approach provides a level of assurance to businesses that the individuals they employ, or for potential staff who have the DRI accreditation, that they are current, competent and qualified in the subject that they hold the certification in. By having developed this approach, along with the assurance model that sits around it, the DRI promotes longevity of the learning and development within the resilience domain, as every certified individual is required to maintain their competence through evidencing the various activities that they had undertaken within their role.



Maybe it is time to consider that there is a need for organisations, and individuals, to accept that rather than sticking with brands that are now starting to lose their validity, currency or ethical compass within the resilience domain, it is time to consider an organisation that not only delivers the training, delivered by fellow practitioners and leading experts in the field, but also has a well developed and trusted competency management system which organisations across the globe are investing in.  We have witnessed a monumental shift over the last two years within the financial and commercial sectors in the recognition that there is the need to build resilience capability. When the UK needs it the most, the BCI has been found to be in the middle of its own crisis of identity, still delivering an outdated model of training without external validation and competence management. The DRI, having learned from the failures of others, as well as global feedback, is providing the operating model that meets the needs of businesses operating within the modern congested, competitive and disruptive world.  



14/10/21 - The importance of developing and maintaining your supply chain resilience.



The last quarter of 2021 is looking to be one of hardship for many UK industries and businesses as the United Kingdom’s national resilience capability is put to the test. Under the current government, poorly managed strategic change has resulted in unprecedented levels of supply chain disruption. The rush to get Brexit driven through by the end of 2020, while the nation was in the grip of a pandemic has left multiple unfinished issues which has impacted on the ability of the UK to maintain its resilience.


Since the end of August 2021 supply chain issues have been observed across several industries. In August / September the MacDonald’s restaurant chain found themselves running out of food stocks across the UK, reminiscent of the Kentucky Fried Chicken debacle in 2019, where multiple locations ran out of food. In September we also saw car production globally be hit by a lack of computer chips and semiconductor pieces, causing major issues for the more technical car production lines. September also saw the UK on the verge of experiencing the reduction in available Carbon Dioxide gas, diesel fuel and the risk of extended disruption to the distribution of food across the supermarkets within the UK, all down to a significantly reduced number of heavy goods vehicle drivers. 


Reasons for Issues

Opposition parties to the UK government highlighted that several of these issues were caused by poorly managed policy decisions made to enable Brexit to be delivered on time, without a clear understanding of what risks these decisions could introduce into the UK’s supply chain. Farmers’ are raising concerns that without access to the extensive number of EU casual labour, there will be significant impact to the harvesting of the various crops, potentially reducing the yield obtained, causing increased food shortages.


These issues have demonstrated the importance of having an effective supply chain resilience framework in place, yet in recent years underneath the UK government there have been a significant upturn in the impact of supply chain issues. In 2015 a government review noted that there was a significant gap in the strategic planning capability within the UK government, with a culture of short termism being present. The disastrous Brexit process demonstrated further concerns with several governments’ ability to conduct effective strategic planning and risk management.


At an industry level, it has clearly shown that there is a failure to learn from previous near misses. In 2018 the UK witnessed a slowdown and disruption to Carbon Dioxide production, with multiple drinks and food production industries being affected. Ideally these organisations and the wider industry would have developed practices and procedures to prevent this from occurring again. The MacDonald’s chain had a real-time case study on the implications of poor supply chain resilience, having had the chance to observe the implications and financial impact experienced by Kentucky Fried Chicken.  Yet it seems these lessons were not learned, with the various industries suffering almost identical issues and impacts to those witnessed previously, demonstrating that there is a failure to learn culture that exists; potentially it is an organisational failure to apply lessons identified, resulting in similar disruptive events being experienced on a regular basis.


Mitigating the issue

Effective supply chain resilience does not happen by chance; it is the outcome of data driven analysis of information captured through effective horizon scanning, risk management and lessons identified, married with a learning culture that focuses on an organisational desire to learn, adapt and improve. We are seeing more a more small, medium and large organisations get this process wrong, resulting in disruption, increased costs passed onto their customers, or going out of business. This is happening across all sectors, from retail to energy suppliers, and, if the researchers and experts are to be believed, the situation within the UK is only going to get worse over the next 12 – 18 months.


So, what can business leaders do to mitigate the volatile environment that they find themselves within? They can conduct a detailed review of their critical services and processes, mapped to the business continuity plans, to note where there may be issues during a disruptive event.  This review of supply chain resilience, which should analyse existing service level agreements, supplier’s continuity plans, compensation arrangements as well as resource and finance robustness, needs to be common practice when embedding new suppliers into the organisation. There is also the need to conduct a second- and third-line check of the supply chain to understand the robustness of it when faced with a disruptive event. Several organisations have discovered, too late in the day, that when they thought they had resilience within their supply chain, when faced with a shortage of equipment, such as computer chips, their several suppliers where all resourced from the same vendor. It is important to understand where your supply chain is brittle, and the implications it can have. Being more aware of key choke points, you can plan in advance and be in a better place to mitigate the impact of a disruptive event.



The successful management of an organisation's supply chain is a fundamental part of the resilience profile of a business, and critical to its long-term survival. Recent events within the UK have shown that in the modern business world, supply chains can be extremely brittle, and can break quite quickly when placed under pressure. Organisations can mitigate these potential breaking points, and the various follow on issues they can cause, by conducting a detailed analysis of their supply chain during their regular business continuity reviews. By embedding strong governance, assurance and risk management techniques, supported by effective horizon scanning, scenario planning, diversifying suppliers and insurance frameworks, an organisation can develop a robust approach to maintaining their supply chain during disruptive events.



02/09/21 - Afghanistan – A failure to understand, plan, prepare, protect and adapt.



The failure of an organization to understand its operating environment, the risks and vulnerabilities that it may create, and the impact that these may create, can rapidly degrade and potentially destroy the organization. The inability to utilize various mechanisms to scan your environment, conduct horizon scanning and testing various assumptions through effective red-teaming activities can create an intelligence blind spot, creating a failure to build situational awareness at a strategic level. This will result in an information blackout, or worse still, incorrect information being presented as fact, resulting in poor decision-making. In the worst cases in can result in the refusal of the senior leadership to make a decision, resulting in leadership paralysis and strategic stagnation. This can happen at an organizational, national and international level, and once it begins, it is extremely difficult to recover the situation, as we have witnessed on the global stage as the West were unsighted, unprepared and undone by the rapid fall of Afghanistan to the Taleban.


The recent events that we have witnessed in Afghanistan have demonstrated the strategic implications of failing to invest effectively in the development of resilience at the strategic and organizational level. The large-scale failings of Western Governments, their respective armed forces and civilian agencies to build the resilience required within the Afghanistan political and military organizations has resulted in the fall of a nation. For twenty years, several UK Governments and billions of UK investment, the loss of over 400 military personnel, and at least 3 times more severely injured, the fall of Afghanistan continues the ongoing failure of UK operations within the Middle and Far East. More concerning for the analysts amongst us is how did the West fail to predict the rapid fall of Kabul and consequently the rest of the nation, to a military power far less technologically advanced than its own?


Setting the Context

Before I analyse the situation, it is important that I set some context to the analysis that I will undertake. For two years I served with the British Military as a senior planning advisor, working within the Land Warfare Centre in the role of assessing headquarter staff for their ability to plan and execute operations within Afghanistan, Iraq and other combat areas. To enable me to do this role effectively, I had to become an expert in the planning mechanisms, operational deployments and tactics, as well as intelligence gathering and analysis processes, and how the command teams worked under a sustained pressure environment. With this background, the review of how the UK and her allies got the situation so badly wrong raises serious concerns about how the Western nations undertake smaller conflicts across the globe.


At the outbreak of the conflict in Afghanistan, there was the desire to have a conflict that would enable the US and her allies to strike a devastating blow against Islamic fundamentalism in the aftermath of the attacks on the United States in 2001. This conflict rapidly displaced the Taleban and removed the safe haven that Afghanistan had become for Al Qeada  although it did focus the threat onto the leading nations. Spain, France, Germany, the UK and the United States all experienced terrorism actions linked back to the campaign in Afghanistan. As the campaign staggered on, the West found itself getting embroiled in a war that was constantly shifting in aims and objectives, with a limited understanding of the nation being obtained by the various intelligence agencies. There was also question marks around the interaction at the operational level of the political, civil, and military components, with limited interaction between the three components during the preparation and pre-deployment phases of operations. This hampered the capability of the strategic mission, with the situation becoming a series of multiple short-term deployments, rather than one long-term campaign, with a single vision, strategy and shared purpose. Afghanistan is the example of a failure to manage strategic change and the inability to foster resilience to that change at a national level.


In 2006 the UK politicians and senior military commanders sought to shift the public gaze from a failing campaign in Iraq to a more effective and “clean” campaign that they could undertake in Afghanistan. In their minds they believed that the open expanse of the Afghan countryside would enable the UK military organisation to deploy and engage the Taleban, destroying their capability and securing the nation. What transpired was a drastic failure of the application of British military doctrine, resulting in the defeat of British forces in Musa Qala, and the failure to deploy an effective fighting force with the correct capability. The failure of military command structures, intelligence gathering agencies and the lack of moral courage of senior military commanders and ambassadors to tell the politicians in Whitehall the truth about the situation within Afghanistan led to a failure of situational awareness in the operational theatre. Analysis by RUSI, Frank Ledwidge, General Elliot, Dr Edwina Thompson and others highlighted major failings at the political and military strategic planning layers of the campaign.  The out-dated “Cobra” crisis management framework would regularly delay rapid responses required by the forces on the ground, with politicians becoming embroiled in tactical and operational matters, while failing to deliver the much-needed strategic advice that was required.  


At ground level the UK fighting organisations delivered above and beyond the expectations set upon them; unfortunately, they were hampered by poor information, haphazard political leadership and an unwieldy multi-national command structure, with decisions in Helmand being directed by individuals in Kabul, almost 300 miles away, or in the worst-case situation, from Whitehall several thousand miles away. The political long screwdriver resulted in British military operations being denied flexibility, equipment and strategic guidance due to politicians who knew little of the complexities of making war with an aggressive, elusive and very intelligent enemy. What was required was a strategic vision to counter the strategic message that was being promoted by the Taleban to the Afghan people; what the military got was a series of confused, siloed and often contradictory directions from a government not fully embraced in the conflict at hand. Research by Theo Farrell and others identified severe issues when it came to the effectiveness of the political leadership and campaign management.


As the UK forces lost the ability to contain the Taleban advance in the second decade of the war, we witnessed the shrinking of the UK presence within the region, leaving Afghan military and police forces under trained, under resourced and unprepared to face the increasing threat that was being created. The failure to build a support base within the population, through a lack of understanding their core needs and fears, resulted in local towns and provinces remaining unconvinced that the UK forces could provide the level of protection needed. This level of distrust was regularly demonstrated through the Taleban being able to conduct operations against the UK forces, demonstrating failure in UK intelligence and security mechanisms.  


Over the next 10 years we witnessed the gradual erosion of belief within the mission by the West, with the UK and US drawing down their presence within the outlying regions, seeking to secure the urban areas. In fact, looking back at the Russo-Afghan War, this was exactly how the Russians reacted to the collapsing security situation in the latter part of their campaign; in essence the West was following a similar plan of defeat that the Russians had experienced 30 years previously. Just as the Mujahedeen had fought the Russians, pushing them out of the countryside and gradually compressing them into the urban areas, the Taleban did that with western forces in 2020 – 21. Just as the West watched the military superior Russian forces limp back over the border in 1989, category defeated by a technologically inferior foe, so the Russians watch the Western allies flee haphazardly out of Kabul, leaving behind a nation without government and leadership.


Learning the Lessons of Failure

So what went wrong? The situation did not fail for any one reason alone, rather a myriad of issues that came together to create the perfect storm for failure.  These observations are also very important to consider for organisations, large or small, as the drivers that caused them are ones that can also affect every organisation. Although the focus is on the failure in Afghanistan, any one of these issues can be applied to a failed organisation


The first issue was the failure to understand the enemy effectively, or what their capability was, or the influence that they had within the operational environment. Many forget that the Taleban were never engaged with at the political level at the outset – although they were seen as a fundamentalist group, they were the government that had been voted into power by the majority of individuals within Afghanistan at that time. Like it or not, the West should have accepted that they were a ruling power and engaged with accordingly. Recently, we have witnessed China doing just this, and in return obtaining significant political and financial outcomes with this approach.


The second issue was how the change campaign was undertaken by the West, and the agents that were used to deliver it. There is the need, when undertaking a large-scale strategic change programme, either at national or organisational level, to bring the people along with you. From the outset, the West invested in supporting the Afghan militias as the lead for the ground forces for the campaign. These individuals were the very same warlords that had torn the nation apart during the power gap when the Russians left. Immediately this disenfranchised the population to believe the West’s intentions, while the various warlords forced their way into powerful positions across the country, which embedded corruption from the very beginning of the “New Dawn”.


The third failure of the campaign was the lack of a strategic approach to work collaboratively across all sectors of society to build national resilience, which resulted in siloed working, limited key stakeholder engagement and a mismanagement of key funds. Although NATO possesses an effective and well thought out approach to delivering a holistic framework for building national resilience, the Comprehensive Approach, there was a lack of investment in this by the US as it wished to stay away from being seen to be undertaking a nation building campaign. By failing to create a holistic approach across all components of a functioning society, it resulted in a fractured and siloed approach for several years across the nation, with no coherent approach evident.


The fourth major failure of the campaign was the use of information to keep the senior decision-makers aware of the actual situation on the ground, and holding them accountable for the direction and decisions that they were making, Within the conflict, the information given to the politicians that were involved in the process was often sugar coated with a layer of “Bias Optimism”, resulting in the politicians failing to obtain a true understanding of the situation. There was also the failing of the UK Foreign Policy, which has become more and more dependent on the benevolence of the US. The loss of American military power within the nation, especially air power and intelligence, resulted in the Afghan army being unable to meet the capability of the Taleban. The failure of politicians to be able to understand the impact of their decisions on the ground, and the failure of senior military commanders to hold politicians to account, resulted in several poor political directives being implemented, hampering any chances of successfully obtaining the support of the population. Failed initiatives to please the UK home population, such as the destruction of the poppy crop by UK forces, without clearly understanding the immediate implications to the various farmers, resulted in a mass increase of support to the Taleban within the Helmand region. Rather than destroying the crop, there may have been other options, such as buying the crop and legally utilising it in the development of opiate based drugs. However, this influx of opium may well have impacted on the prices of such drugs, eating deep into Western pharmaceutical companies.


The fifth major failing was the lack of investment into the psychological and moral component of the campaign delivery and building the justification for the change, and the need to re-organise the key operational components that provided security, critical operational services and logistics. While the Afghan military had received basic military training and modern weapons from the West and the politicians received funding and grants for the re-development of the Afghan critical national infrastructure, 20 years on few national infrastructure frameworks are functioning. The majority of the security services lacked the moral reason to defend their nation when faced with the threat of the Taleban, seeking self-preservation. As Napoleon observed two centuries ago on the battlefields of Europe the moral component is three times more important to foster than physical component; for the Afghan troops they saw a corrupt government, propped up by the West, living in splendour while many struggled to make a living in the Afghan countryside. For the people, they saw the failing ability of the West to keep them safe, a corrupt government being supported by Western nations, little in the way of security and food, and a Taleban who promised a return to pre-2001, where security was evident, even if under harsh Sharia law. Against this, the efforts of Western forces to maintain the status quo were rapidly failing.


The sixth major failing was that of communication of intelligence and how to turn the information collected into intelligence that could be used in a timely manner. Across the campaign the intelligence war was fought within the realms of cyber space, the streets of Kabul and Kandahar, and the various intelligence collection agencies within the West. While the West relied on a network of agents, collection assts in the air, or monitoring stations which prowled the cyber space domain, the Taleban utilised their ability to provide support for the suffering populations within the rural areas. They were able to travel, often in plain sight, with relative ease, obtaining information from the population. They utilised the widespread mobile phone network to collect and distribute information; they regularly distributed fake news about the Afghan government, undermining their credibility, and often presented fake target information to lure NATO forces into making unsuccessful, and sometimes reputational damaging, attacks on inconsequential targets. In the last days of the Western campaign, the Taleban fought a strategic information campaign, promoting themselves as a power that sought to rebuild an Afghanistan ravished by 20 years of war that was conducted by the West to uphold the very warlords that the Afghan people had sought to remove in the 1990s. By engaging in peace talks, agreeing economic deals with China, upholding the Doha agreements and being recognised as a political power within the eyes of Great Game nations, the Taleban quickly undermined what was left of the West’s failing justification for the campaign. Just as the West did to the Russians in the 1980s, so Russia and China returned the compliment in 2021, recognising the Taleban as the new political masters of Afghanistan, reaching out welcoming hands of negotiation and trade.



In the 20 years of war in Afghanistan, double that of the Russo – Afghan War, the West leaves behind a nation that is fractured, unbalanced and ravaged by war. The next two to three years brings the risk of civil war, destabilisation and the real risk of Afghanistan becoming a failed state. In essence Afghanistan began to resemble the last days of Vietnam, with the rush from Kabul very clearly replicating the desperate evacuation from Saigon. This is the price that Afghanistan has paid because the West undertook a poorly planned, incompetently led, siloed campaign in a nation it new very little about, or had much to invest in. We have watched countless Western Governments fall, while the Taleban bided their time. Unfortunately for the Afghan people, the Taleban now in charge are not the same that were ousted in 2001. In 2001 that Taleban understood the need to provide a level of security; this new group are warlords, emboldened by their ability to defeat the West and power broker with other Great Game nations, skilled in information warfare and building strategic alliances within the region. For NATO, this is a strategic failure on a magnitude it has never faced before. 




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17/06/21 - Failing to Lead: Did Britain Get the Covid Response Wrong?



As the global business world struggles to manage the massive impact of the recent Covid-19 pandemic, it is important to start considering how do the leadership team of organisations, no matter their size, manage the impact of disruptive events. The Covid-19 situation has shown that the trouble with environmentally or human based organisational threats is that they know no boundaries, therefore are able to cause damaging impacts across several major and minor elements of the business.  The UK Risk Register notes that pandemics, extreme weather, man-made incidents, environmental issues and infrastructure failures are all clear risks that can lead to loss of performance, resources and capability, requiring leaders who are adaptive, agile in their thinking and effective in their decision-making (Cabinet Office, 2020)[i].  These events may appear as one off, large scale unseen entities, such as a terrorist event or extreme weather, or they could exist as slow, unfolding matters that build steadily, gaining mass until the impact is unavoidable and the damage is widespread, such as the recent experience of the UK with Covid-19. In either case, the key to building organisational resilience and maintaining staff capability is through being able to identify and track potential risks and hazards, understanding and testing various scenarios, and enabling a co-ordinated and well-resourced response before they create an unpalatable situation for the senior leadership team.  Through understanding the threat that a risk proposes, the impact it may cause and the various areas within the business it may reach out to, the correct action, within the right timeframe and with enough resources, can be deployed to address the issue accordingly.


However, As Britain walks its way tentatively through 2021, it has already faced the appearance of several new versions of the Covid virus that have rapidly spread across the UK These forced the Government to declare that the nation to abandon the flawed tiered system and entered into a second full lockdown from December 2020 until March 2021. Revelations from Dominic Cummins in May 2021 noted that there was a strategic failure to understand and address the threat early on[ii]. Looking at the situation, the real question that needs to be asked is “Did the UK Government fail to understand the threat, and therefore got their approach to Covid totally wrong?


Leadership, or Leaderless?

Disruptive events are situations that cause a deviation from the business norm; they may be caused by positive or negative factors, resulting in a minor or major impact to the organisation. A burst water pipe within the basement is a minor event, which can be addressed by turning off the water flow and repair the damaged pipe. If the event happens over the weekend, or at 01:00 hrs, with water flowing direct into the onsite servers, then it can cause a major incident to the business, causing potential long term data loss and reputational damage. Similarly, a business product may sell exponentially, resulting in stocks being stripped sooner than planned for. This positive event can result in a negative long-term impact, with profit loss and reputational damage.  The issue with disruptive events within an organisation is that they may impact over several connected systems, thus causing a wider impact than the initial situation would indicate. 


When it comes to severe disruptive events, these situations are complex in nature, requiring a holistic approach to respond and treat the situation. Complex situations can be difficult to manage and create an understanding as the interaction between multiple factors are cause of the disruption; as you try to address one issue on its own it will have an adaptive effect to the situation, with the event morphing due to the dynamic characteristics of the event. The situation itself has a characteristic of its own; the whole has properties that cannot be found within the individual strands.  Before long, crisis management teams can find themselves trying to contend with a Gordian Knot, with no apparent solution to the problem that they face. These types of problems, known as complex or “Wicked” problems (Conklin, 2005) require an individual response to each element of the situation; there is no quick win or easy solution when faced with such an issue[iii]. The current Covid-19 situation experienced within the UK, or the 2019 government shut-down in the US, are two key examples of Wicked problems.  While both events may seem a one-off national crisis, there were several indications that a Wicked Problem was unfolding, with multiple opportunities and lessons from other similar events missed on the journey to the crisis.


The world is observing UK politics at its worst, with a stalemate within Parliament, the UK leaving Europe without a clear roadmap for post Brexit growth resulting in Northern Ireland being subjected to EU importation laws, the destabilisation within the local political landscape, and the real threat of the Northern Ireland Executive invoking Section 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol (HM Government, 2020)[iv]. The exit plan also fails to address the numerous community schisms that have occurred across UK communities, or the impact to the lives of individuals caught up in the turmoil of Brexit, and the subsequent pandemic. What has been noticeably clear as the situation has unfolded is that the strategic leadership of the UK failed to clearly understand the complexity of the problem, the various strands of the Gordian Knot and how the situation could deteriorate. The failure to consider how the situation may, and has, changed is one of the catastrophic failings of the UK government during the Brexit negotiations. There has been no clear strategic understanding demonstrated at the political level on how to manage the complex problem and the shifting sands of the political arena. This has resulted in the effective shutdown of the UK Government in all but name, as it struggled to come to terms with the situation that it is faced with. However, Brexit was a minor political crisis compared to what was to come.


As Westminster sought to grapple with the fallout of Brexit, it turned a blind eye to the larger storm that was building in mainland Europe. According to the science community, which saw this threat as early as March and April 2020, the Government’s delay to respond to the early warning signs in February and March 2020 led to the initial lockdown. Professor Neil Fergusson, who previously advised the political leadership, indicated that lessons identified from the first lockdown were ignored by the political leadership, resulting in the current situation that has unfolded (Hard Talk 2021)[v]. Watching from across the English Channel, several European nations, who had often regarded the UK as the “sick man of Europe” reacted quickly and shut their borders, preventing travel from the UK. After having spent years on the receiving end of the UK’s bluster around Brexit talks, the sheer feeling of schadenfreude was almost tangible (Henley, 2020)[vi]. The UK Government, which had often promoted its level of preparation for a pandemic response and legislation, was proven to extremely fallible when it came to the actual delivery of an effective response.  


As leaders, either of organisations or a nation, there is the need for effective risk management and coherent contingency planning, based on potential harmful scenarios. In late 2019 and early 2020, there was a strategic failure to lead when the situation required clear guidance, response and critical decision-making. When the die was cast, Westminster was found to be acutely ineffective at understanding the risks it faced and the mitigation actions required.


Preparedness, or self-delusion?

The threat of a global pandemic, focussed on influenza, has regularly appeared on the UK national risk register (Cabinet Office, 2020)[vii], and it was common practice for a business to have the impact of a pandemic mentioned on its risk register. Discussions with individuals within industry and academia by the author noted that the risk would normally sit within the “Black Swan” domain – high impact but very low probability of occurring. This was despite recent situations such as Foot and Mouth disease and SARS. Late 2019 that risk landscaped changed overnight. Academic research posits that the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic is the greatest challenge the world has faced since World War Two (Omer et al, 2020)[viii], due to its ability to rapidly spread across continents, and remain hidden in asymptomatic carriers, which increases it ability to spread. Recent mutations of the virus have increased its transmission rate, leading to greater infection and death rates globally.


The UK was ranked 2nd in the world in 2019 security index to manage a pandemic, far higher rated than Singapore (24th), South Korea (9th) and New Zealand (35th) (GHS, 2019)[ix]. The fact has shown that rather than relying on the good faith of the population and localized activities, staggered approaches and a slow burn to crisis response, Singapore, New Zealand and South Korea reacted quickly, instigating a rapid, full scale track and trace program, supported by widespread testing, and testing every individual entering the country. Within these nations there has been a fraction of the deaths and infections, while in the UK on the 6 Jan there were over 60,000 infections and 1041 deaths (UK Government, 2021)[x]. This had rapidly climbed to over 84,000 deaths by the 13 Jan 21, with over 3.2 million identified cases across the United Kingdom. By 27 May 21 this had risen to 152000 deaths and over 4.4 million cases (Cabinet Office, 2021)[xi] .


Rather than listening to the science and accepting the modelling was demonstrating what was about to occur, Professor Fergusson, who urged a lockdown and going against government direction, remarks that the failure of the Government to act when advised, and instead forcing schools and universities to remain open led to thousands of unnecessary deaths. There has been a clear failure of the political class to act as leaders, and, in Professor Fergusson’s opinion, the government was more focused in placating the population’s desire to have a Christmas holiday rather than understanding the true risk of failing to act. Henley notes in his article that Germany’s newspaper Die Welt commented that the UK Government’s approach demonstrated a “yawning gulf between airy promises and the real world”[xii].


The most recent lockdown placed the UK into a far worse position than it was in Mar 2020, due to the new variant that is 50-70% more transmissible, and recent figures indicate that 1:50 members of the UK population were being infected daily (Kirby 2021)[xiii]. Early in 2020 SAGE advisors noted that the failure to act quickly would enable the virus to obtain a foothold; it was similar in Sep 2020 when they indicated that a failure to act would enable the new variant to gain a rapid foothold across the UK; twice the UK government failed to move quick enough, and when compared with other European nations that moved quicker, the infection and death rates have been significantly lower. The result was that there were several UK hospitals that have been forced to initiate a “Major Incident” situation as they become over-run with seriously ill individuals suffering from Covid. A review of the government’s approach in the Lancet in December 2020 noted that its failure to react quickly enough reduced the impact of the second lockdown period (Nov 2020) significantly (Davies et al, 2020)[xiv]. Their work clearly noted that an effective lockdown performs far more successfully than the other less stringent actions that the UK government implemented, which has resulted in the explosion of virus infections and a rapidly increasing death rate across the nation.


This difference in the approach between the UK and Far East nations, and the subsequent results, demonstrates the clear importance of operating quickly in a crisis, reacting to available intelligence, clear communication, and the need for effective leadership, willing to make the difficult calls early, and resist the desire to try and earn the favour of the population. The failure to act has now resulted in a significant drop in the trust in Government, with recent polls shows a major drop-in support for the Government; 55% of individuals asked thought they had poorly managed the pandemic, while only 38% of the population believing the Prime Minister will tell the truth (YouGov. 2021)[xv]. There is also a naive approach being pushed by the government that the vaccine will provide a clear way out of the current situation; this approach is challenged by the medical experts in The Lancet, who note that there are several areas of concern around the implications of the vaccine on certain elements of society (Covid Vaccines, 2021)[xvi].


Failure to identify and learn lessons.

Writing in May 2020, Omer et al identified several lessons from the impact of Covid-19 in Italy, and the effectiveness of the Italian response to the rapidly spreading virus. They noted that a limited response and initial understanding of the virus transmissible capability resulted in the virus being able to obtain a firm hold across the country. The first reported case was 31 Jan 20, by the beginning of Mar 20 it was present in all regions across the country (Omer et al 2020)[xvii].


Research into preparation for the impact of a global pandemic identified that there were several individuals and organisations that discussed the implication and probability of future trends for the next 20 -30 years, though few identified the risk of a global pandemic based on a unknown virus. The UK national risk register noted that there was a high risk of a global influenza pandemic, though vaccines and procedures were in place to respond to it. The MoD Global Strategic Trends programme, looking out to 2050 did not identify the risk of an unknown virus pandemic (MoD, 2018)[xviii].


It is important that there is an open investigation into the UK response to the Corona virus, the decision-making process at the political level, and why there has been such a failure of the UK to respond in a way it was expected to in 2019. There is also a need for investigation into UK legislation, including the failure of the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 (CCA 2004), which allowed many local councils to be in a position of not having a Business Continuity strategy in place when the pandemic erupted, even though it was a legal requirement. The current approach within the UK of a decentralized approach to emergency preparedness, response and recovery has failed within the Covid pandemic. Discussions with senior emergency services staff indicated that several local councils in the North West were still developing the contingency plans and operational priorities in Mar 20, while the rest of the country was entering lockdown. This failure of a category one responder to have a clearly defined and embedded business continuity framework was in direct contradiction to the requirements laid out in CCA 2004.


It is very apparent that the UK Government has failed to learn lessons on several occasions; there was the option to learn initial lessons from the outbreak in China, then the impact that the virus had in Italy, then Spain and then how it was impacting the US. Then there was the chance to learn lessons from the first lock-down and how resources, military capability and the behaviour of the population impacted the spread. Then, as other nations, such as South Korea and New Zealand, took control of the virus spread through tough measures and effective messaging. Finally, there was the option to act quickly when the appearance of the new variant appeared in September 2020. Unfortunately, these opportunities were ignored, resulting in the UK being placed into another lockdown, while Singapore and South Korea maintained a far better level of social mobility, a higher functioning society, and a continued level of control of the virus through effective social distancing, test, track and trace, financial punishments and population support. At the time of writing, the UK is now experiencing the threat of the resurgence of the ”Indian” variant, which is believed to be highly transmissible.



The development and implementation of resilience across an organization requires the creation of a strong, open and adaptive culture, driven by effective, transparent senior leadership, which understands the importance of setting out a clear vison, objectives and strategy. The impacts of disruptive events can cause staff and elements of the organization to experience discomfort, loss, and dislocation; the more effective the leadership, the more assured the staff and organization are that they will survive that impact. The collision of two major disruptive events, Brexit and Covid-19, presented the UK Government with a Wicked Problem that is was incapable of effectively managing. As the situation unfolded, planning assumptions and frameworks were shown to be inadequate. The Brexit planning was flawed, as Operation Stack was a failure, while the planning frameworks and supply chain to maintain availability of NHS facilities, staff and protective equipment was shown to be flawed.


What was very apparent with the UK’s initial response to the pandemic was that the senior leadership within the government had no clear understanding of the threat they faced, or the impact it could bring to the nation, the population and the economy. Several early warning indicators were ignored, and the culture of ignorance and apathy within the UK government was very clear. They had become focused on delivering Brexit and were to operationally focused on delivering a failing plan, rather than being aware of the threat that was expanding across Europe. Medical professionals observing the Government’s initial approach were highly critical of the cavalier approach, while in Italy doctors sought to warn the senior leadership of UK hospitals of the real threat they were about to face.


As the UK gradually returns to normal, there is the need for a detailed review of the CCA 2004 legislation, the information management at strategic level, and a lessons learned review of the UK’s approach. Further understanding of the decision-making at both Government and organizational level is key in helping develop the ongoing national resilience of the UK; both Brexit and Covid 19 demonstrated across the UK that at business and government level, the understanding of building and managing resilience effectively was questionable.


Both Brexit And the Coronavirus pandemic has shown major failings in the UK’s intelligence gathering mechanisms, the UK’s response framework, and the political decision-making effectiveness when faced with complex crises of increasing severity. The pandemic was a Black Swan event requiring effective, timely decisions and clear communication; there was a failure of both from the UK Government, resulting in many unnecessary deaths, the UK suffering the highest Covid-19 death rate in Europe, and financial implications for multiple UK businesses. The failure to understand the political and strategic planning implications of Brexit has resulted in the destabilizing of the political landscape within Northern Ireland, and over 50% of all surveyed UK businesses have suffered disruption since Brexit came into force on 01 January 2021 (Smith,2021)[xix]. As both these major events have demonstrated, failure to prepare properly can lead to disastrous consequences.







[ii]BBC News (May 2021), Dominic Cummings Revelations, accessed 27 May 2921. Available at

[iii]Conklin, J., (2005), Wicked Problems and Social Complexity, Cognexus, Available at (accessed on 22 Feb 2021).

[iv]HM Government, (2020), The Northern Ireland Protocol, Cabinet Office, Crown Copyright, accessed 10 May 21. Available at

[v] Hard Talk, (2021), BBC News Channel, 6 January 2021.

[vi] Henley, J., (2020) `World's media ask how it went so wrong for 'Plague Island' Britain`, The Guardian, 22 December. Available at, accessed 6 January 2021.

[viii] Omer, EOM, Almisalam WA, Al Moaigel SM, Gibreel MSM and Albagami FM, `Case study of Covid-19 epidemic the lesson world learns from Italy’, International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research and Development, Volume 7; Issue 6; 2020; pp. 01-04, available from, accessed on 16 January 2021.

[ix] Cameron, E.E., Nuzzo J.B., and Bell, J.A., (2019), 2019 Global Health Security Index, John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Nuclear Threat Initiative. Available at, accessed on 20 December 2020.

[x] UK Government, (2021), UK Daily Corona Virus Summary, 06 January, available at Accessed on 06 January 2021.

[xi]HM Government, (2021) Coronavirus statistics, Cabinet Office, accessed 27 May 21. Available at

[xii] Henley, J., (2020) `World's media ask how it went so wrong for 'Plague Island' Britain`, The Guardian, 22 December. Available at, accessed 6 Jan 2021.

[xiii] Kirby T., (2021), `New variant of SARS-CoV-2 in UK causes surge of COVID-19’, The Lancet, 05 January, available at, accessed on 6th January 2021.

[xiv] Davies, NG et al, `Association of tiered restrictions and a second lockdown with COVID-19 deaths and hospital admissions in England: a modelling study,’ (2020), The Lancet, 23 December 2020, available at, accessed on 6th January 2021.

[xv]YouGov Time Survey, (May 21), accessed 26 May 2021. Available at

[xvi]Editorial, `Covid-19 vaccines: the pandemic will not end overnight`, (2020) The Lancet, 18 December 2020, available at, accessed on 6 January 2021.

[xvii] Omer, EOM, Almisalam WA, Al Moaigel SM, Gibreel MSM and Albagami FM, (2020) `Case study of Covid-19 epidemic the lesson world learns from Italy’, International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research and Development, Volume 7; Issue 6; p. 01, available from, accessed on 16 January 2021.

[xviii]Ministry of Defence, Global Strategic Trends: The Future Starts Today, Sixth Edition, Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre, Shrivenham, 2018. Available at 

[xix]Smith, H, `More than half of UK firms have faced disruption due to Brexit, poll finds’, Sky News, accessed on 27 May 21. Available at




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20/05/21 - Building an organisational understanding approach to people focus



Within the 21st Century, seen as the Information era, modern organisations are forced to operate within the VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world, understanding risk to enable the leadership to build a coherent and holistic approach to managing risk. The rise of Islamic fundamentalism, greater instability in the Middle East, the Ukraine crisis, ongoing cyber-attacks and the impact of pandemics has made the world more unstable1. Research in the first decade of the 21st Century identified serious concerns over the resilience capability of the UK at a strategic level, with government and industry organisations failing to respond effectively to natural and man-made crises2


If approached properly, businesses can prevent the onset of a crisis through the creation of a powerful risk culture without turning the organisation upside down. Given the implications that risks can have on organisations, most executive leadership teams will take the management of risk, and the development of an effective risk culture, seriously, as an unmanaged risk can result in financial, reputational and performance damage; in the worst cases it may bring the business down completely. Over the last decade many organisations within the UK, suffering from the fallout of the 2008 financial crisis and follow on recession, sought to put in place a more thorough approach to implementing risk-related processes and management oversight activities to identify potential fraud, operational situations and safety breaches, enabling the leadership team to react long before the risk materialises. Effective early warning processes and robust response mechanisms can prevent a potential risk escalating into an issue which may grow into a full-blown crisis. 



Impact of failure to understand risk effectively 

Building an organisation’s capacity through the active involvement of the leadership team can create confidence and pave the way for collective and continuous development in strengthening resilience through organisational learning and development. Yet having well defined processes and management oversight structures established within the organisation are only parts of the framework to build an effective approach. A reliance on bespoke specialists within an organisation creates a resilience paradox, with the risk of losing the capability if specialists are unavailable or unable to react to an unfolding situation. Despite progress at the global level for greater commitment for more holistic ways of working, 3 there are still considerable gaps between what has been agreed in principle and how policies can be mainstreamed into government practice4.  Failure to implement effective risk management frameworks, focused across the organisation at all levels and woven into a holistic approach to building organisational resilience can have devastating effects, resulting in wide reaching impacts. The collapse of large retail and department stores within the UK over the last decade demonstrate the social impact of poor organisational resilience, poor management of strategic risk and a failure at the strategic leadership level .



(Table 1)- Social impact of business failure5

 Organisation                      Impact – Job losses 

 Blockbusters                        2000 jobs 

 British Home Stores7             11000 jobs 

 Austin Reed8                          1000 jobs 

Woolworths9                            30000 jobs 

Carillion10                                20000 jobs 


Although the organisations shown in the table all had certain structures in place to manage risk, the various investigations and case studies into their collapse noted failures to identify or respond to certain risks that where allowed to materialise into issues, that then escalated into a business wide crisis. These organisations realised, often too late, that crises can continue to merge when the leadership team neglect to manage attitudes and behaviours within the organisation, at all levels, which would normally act as an initial front line layer of protection against risk.


For example, The collapse of Carillion highlighted the predatory aspect of the financial assurance community, with the Government investigation singling out the large firms of KPMG, Deloitte, Ernst Young and PwC as having created a monopoly and not providing an effective assurance framework for UK industry. The report highlighted that the drive for profits had impacted negatively on the ability for the companies to act independently of its customers, calling into question the reliability of the accounting and assurance industry and the fact that "The Big Four" had set out to create a natural monopoly, barring access to competitors11 . Rather than the Carillion leadership raising concerns around certain practices and behaviours, the report identified that the senior leadership were complicit in creating a permissive environment for those behaviours to continue. The report noted that two-thirds of Chief Financial Officers of large listed and private companies were the alumni of the “Big Four” 12, raising concerns over the independence and audit quality of the services provided by the “Big Four” organisations. The failure of the executive leadership of Carillion to hold the various financial assurance organisations to account for their activities resulted in higher prices, lower quality and less innovation being provided by the “Big Four” 13, contributing to Carilion’s eventual collapse. 


Building an effective approach to risk management 

This demonstrates the impact of a poor understanding of risk, and the risk culture within an organisation. A risk culture defines how the employees within an organisation will react when it comes to making decisions; it may mean the difference between avoiding a crisis and having to respond to it. However, having a strong risk culture does not mean that an organisation will take less risk; sometimes it may be the exact opposite. 


For example, a military commander on the ground will seek to fully understand the risks that they face, the balance of probability of success, the effectiveness of the opponent and the environment they are operating within. That commander, armed with all the knowledge from these factors may still commit to the task, knowing there is a strong risk of casualties, but also a strong opportunity of success. The fact is that the individual, through the strong risk culture, is risk aware, and thereby able to make an informed decision on the activities to take. 


The same approach can be seen in business, where well informed organisations with a strong and well established risk culture may take seemingly reckless risks, yet always seem to be successful; conversely, those organisations without a strong risk culture may be reacting too late, failing to spot opportunities because they are risk averse, rather than risk aware. This approach of developing a risk culture enables the development of certain traits and characteristics within managers which enable them to react quickly to situations, either preventing a crisis or seizing an opportunity. It is impossible for any organisation to build a framework to protect itself from all disruptive events, it is more important to develop the capacity for adaptive thinking, and to understand the root causes of the disruptive event, identify lessons and plan dynamically. This will help to optimise the utilisation of the resources, finances and time available to minimise the influence and impact, while simultaneously maximising opportunities as competitors struggle to recover14


The development and embedding of a well defined risk culture is key within an organisation to build its resilience; the majority of research into Organisational Resilience has identified that the majority of available literature focusses on building Organisational Resilience to disruptive events such as risks or crises, which are events that are a threat to business goals, caused by the reduction of capability, managing the environment, or acting in constrained performance and / or timeframes caused by a negative atypical shock15. These disruptive events may compromise performance, resources, employee well-being, customers, operating community, or threaten organisational reputation. Additionally, like the Covid-19 pandemic, these events are often portrayed as unique, significant, and widespread situations that create highly adverse results. 


The development of a strong risk culture will also help you develop more effective processes and procedures, greater education and better preparation to manage risk within the organisation. Being able to understand the difference between systemic risk and idiosyncratic risk may be the difference from recovering from a shock and going permanently out of business. The level of understanding across the organisation is critical, helping the leadership clearly understand the implications of risks being allowed to materialise. However, to initially recognise a risk takes a level of confidence within the individual and the leadership team, taking the responsibility to make that judgement call to react and raise the concern, even if it may impact on operations or shareholder profits. The organisation needs to breed a culture of acceptance and openness when it comes to discussing potential catastrophic risk, trusting in the policies and guidelines of the business, though individuals need to feel empowered to challenge these if it is clear the documents are unfit for purpose. 




Building an effective approach to risk starts with empowering and educating the workforce and encouraging transparency of working practices and decision-making across the organisation. A business that encourages this promotes early engagement, discussions and the building of awareness and trust among the employees of the organisation at all level. Time needs to be allocated to allow education and learning solutions the opportunity to permeate throughout the workforce, supported through effective policies and direction from the leadership team. Members of the organisation, at all levels, need to be supported if they raise potential concerns and issues; it is better to have an investigation into a wild miss than have to address the impact of an unseen hit. Education, learning solutions, policies, programs and leadership direction can only do so much to develop the risk culture and risk capability within the business. The organisation needs to also create and sustain the permissible atmosphere to allow the learning transfer to occur across the business, enabling it to grow and learn from these close calls and near misses. The more open and transparent the reporting culture, the more potential small risks are identified and prevented, thus assisting in preventing the catastrophic risk from occurring. The development of that atmosphere sits within the responsibility of the senior leadership team, who are charged with protecting the organisation. 


On the other hand, the business that discourages the lower levels of the workforce to look for potential risks and empower them to raise issues to the leadership creates an atmosphere of fear and overconfidence, which leads to denial of risk and failure to observe triggers until the risk has materialised, resulting in serious financial, reputational or performance impact; most of the time it is all three. This level of leadership creates a toxic environment, which prevents learning, hinders growth and promotes the generation of risk and places the organisation squarely in harm’s way. 



1 Cameron, D., NSS and SDSR 2015, Government, OGL, London, 2015, p.5 

2 Cole, J., Securing Our future: Resilience in the Twenty-First Century, The RUSI Journal, The Royal United Services Institute, Routledge, London, Volume 155 Issue 2, 2010, pp 46-51. 

3 UNISDR Hyogo (2005 – 2015) and Sendai (2015 – 2030) frameworks. See for more details. 

4 Thompson, E., Smart Power, Kokoda Papers Number 12, April 2010, Kokoda Foundation, Kingston, p.2.

5 Gracey, A., `A Collaborative and Co-ordinated Approach to Success – How can the rail industry learn from the recent military campaigns (2001 – 2015) for the development of Strategic Resilience Management Leadership?’, PhD Thesis, Wolverhampton University, Wolverhampton, 2020, p.5. 

6 Ruddick, G., `Blockbuster Collapse to Cost Taxpayer £7m`, The Telegraph, reported 21 Dec 2013, available from accessed 10 Mar 2016). 

7 Sheffield, H., `BHS Collapse: Sir Philip Green Called to answer Questions`, The Independent, reported 26 April 2016, available from (accessed 10 Mar 2016). 

8 BBC Business, `Austin Reed Collapse to Cost 1000 jobs`, reported 31 May 2016, available from (accessed 10 Mar 2016). 

9 Hall, J., `Woolworths: The Failed Struggle to Save a Retail Giant`, The Telegraph, reported 14 Nov 2009, available from (accessed 8 Mar 2016). 

10 Mor F., Conway L., Thurley D. and Booth L., `The Collapse of Carillion', House of Commons Briefing Paper Series, Number 8206, House of Commons Library, Whitehall, London, 2018. 

11 House of Commons, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Work and Pensions Committees, Carillion, Joint report (Second Joint report from the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Work and Pensions Committees of Session 2017– 19), Government, Open Government Licence, London, 2018, p.79; HoC, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Work and Pensions Committees, Carillion, Joint report, Government, OGL, London, 2018, pp.79 - 86. 

12 HoC, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Work and Pensions Committees, Carillion, Joint report, Government, OGL, London, 2018, p.79.

13 HoC, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Work and Pensions Committees, Carillion, Joint report, Government, OGL, London, 2018, p.80. 

14 Gracey, A., `Building An Organisational Resilience Maturity Framework` Journal Of Business Continuity & Emergency Planning, Henry Stewart Publications, Vol 13, No.4, 2020, p.2. 

15 Gracey, A., `Building An Organisational Resilience Maturity Framework` Journal Of Business Continuity & Emergency Planning, Henry Stewart Publications, Vol 13, No.4, 2020; McManus, S. T., `Organisational Resilience in New Zealand', PhD Research Thesis, Canterbury University, New Zealand, 2008; Stephenson, A. `Benchmarking the Resilience of Organisations,’ PhD Thesis, Civil and Natural Resources Engineering Department, Canterbury University, New Zealand, 2010, p.5. Available at 




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10/10/20 - The Need to Think Our Way to Building Effective Organisational Resilience 


There is increasing recognition post the Covid-19 pandemic that emergency and disaster preparedness will not be effective without the engagement of other ‘vulnerable’ communities within an organisation which have traditionally not be considered part of the “Resilience” spectrum of activities. Given the scale and severity of the recent Covid-19 situation, coupled with the ongoing health care issues that this will cause for nations downstream, this means that most organisations can be regarded as vulnerable when it comes to access to staff capability, especially when the communities are forced into lockdown or widespread limitation of movement. 


Building an organisation’s capacity through active involvement can create confidence and pave the way for collective and continuous development in strengthening resilience through organisational learning and development. While this may require a greater focus on understanding issues and root causes, building effective 360-degree communication channels, and empowering the workforce through a more adaptive leadership approach, these alone will not build and sustain an organisation’s resilience capability. Rather, the concern is to reflect the lack of accountability of the C-suite in building and sustaining Organisational Resilience, and the level of vulnerability that this can create. This discussion may help light the touch paper for experts and lay-people to start driving the need for C-suite accountability for developing and funding Organisational Resilience activities, including the creation of staff capability. 


What is Organisational Resilience? 


Research in the last twenty years into the development of Organisational Resilience (McManus 2008; Stephenson 2010; McAslan 2012; Carden 2018; Gracey 2020) has identified that the majority of available literature focusses on building Organisational Resilience to disruptive events such as risks or crises, which are events that are a threat to business goals, caused by the reduction of capability, managing the environment, or acting in constrained performance and / or timeframes caused by a negative atypical shock. These disruptive events may compromise performance, resources, employee well-being, customers, operating community, or threaten organisational reputation. Additionally, like the Covid-19 pandemic, these events are often portrayed as unique, significant, and widespread situations that create highly adverse results.


However, little is known about what happens when a company encounters an adverse event that seems to be never-ending and threatens the viability of the firm (Carden 2018:25). Resilience is promoted as being an output of activities, or key to maintaining the bottom line, or recently promoted as building

“Organisational Power”. This promotion of Organisational Resilience in such a way demonstrates a lack of understanding of the topic at a conceptual level. Organisational Resilience is the outcome of an effective strategic approach across the organisation, holistically managing all elements and departments to create operational excellence, which in turn creates an effective running organisation and building a learning and adaptive business.


However, many organisations focus on the disruptive event, or adverse impact of continual negative situation caused by the ineffective approach by the organisation due to a failure to invest in its resilience capability, or its inability to respond because of the size, tempo or complexity of the event. Organisations and communities are experiencing increasing numbers of disruptive events (UNISDR, 2015). Though the concept of resilience has now been around for over 30 years, there is still no clear consensus on what the concepts and components of resilience are (Darkow 2018) and few measurement mechanisms exist. This raises the question that rather than just building resilience to manage the immediate outcome of crises and major disruptive events, organisations need to also build resilience to change; however, this will require a completely different approach from the C-Suite to maintain effective capability in a never-ending changing environment. This creates a dynamic tension within the organisation for funding, resources and developing an organisational learning culture, enabling the embedding of a continuous improvement and development framework. It also moves the focus of Organisational Resilience away from traditional “Corporate Security” activities (risk management, Incident Response and Business Continuity) and more towards staff development, research and innovation and building a proactive Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Research into the fast food industry (Carden 2018) noted the inclusion of CSR to drive certain activities that promoted the development of Organisational Resilience.


Carden observed that Organisational Resilience was an output of the activities; I would contest this, as Organisational Resilience is the outcome, rather than output, of several disciplines working together. 


Resilience Through Learning 


This now raises a second area for consideration. The current baseline for Organisational Resilience is based on the premise set by Holling’s work in the 1970s, or the concept of resilience within engineering. However, these concepts are set within a closed system concept, which seeks to apply resilience in a linear fashion (Davoudi 2012: 301), and do not reflect the complex, non-linear systems that have been created in the 21stCentury through global networks, pan-national organisations or dispersed communities that span national borders. Unlike the prescribed, linear concepts that underline the thinking around current Organisational Resilience practices, the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world of today is discontinuous, non-linear and inherently unpredictable (Davoudi 2018:4).


Rather than seeking to “bounce back” to the previous condition prior to the disruptive event, in reality the organisation seeks to adapt and break away from the current “new normal” that has become an undesirable situation and re-develop its environment to thrive and excel. This can only be achieved if the organisation, and those within it, are able to learn and transform.


Research into the concept of Organisational Learning (Senge 1990) examined how to move the institution from reactive thinking to becoming more adept at critical thinking and learning lessons to enhance performance and capability. Senge challenges that the modern organisation needs to enable all members to learn and feed into the development of the organisation; the time of the “grand strategist” directing figuring out the problem and everyone else following suit is gone. Senge’s approach to building an effective Learning Organisation is the implementation of his framework, based on five key elements. 


These are:


  • Shared Vision
  • Systems Thinking
  • Mental Models
  • Team Learning
  • Personal Mastery 


These five components focus on developing and communicating a shared vision for all involved, a systems-thinking approach across the organisation and the development of mental models to help individuals and the organisation understand the various elements. The framework builds the organisation through the implementation of team focussed learning, as well as building individual expertise through personal mastery of an individual’s role. Collectively these build a Learning Organisation.




Organisational learning does not require an organisation to experience a crisis or disruptive event in order to learn. The most effective way of learning is observing how others handle crises, what worked and what didn’t, and then for organisations to take away those lessons (Fink 2002:90). By noting how and where competitors were vulnerable provides two options of learning; where an organisation may be weak and therefore address the gaps, or where it may be able to target its resources against its competitors to obtain part of their market share. This approach offers a double impact of greater awareness of potential vulnerabilities within the organisation, as well as potential areas of exploitation of the competition’s weaknesses. While learning is critical to how an organisation adapts to change, it is often a by-product of the performance tasks that are carried out for other purposes (Lines 2005). Organisational learning is rarely a defined and bespoke programme, therefore understanding the relationship between the structures, processes and procedures is key to being able to understand how the organisation is identifying and absorbing lessons. Lines used strategic change as the concept of his research as multiple researchers had noted close links between strategy, change and the subsequent learning that occurs.


Therefore, there is a relationship between how an organisation invests and builds its resilience capability and its cultural approach to organisation learning. Without support and engagement from the C-suite into building and sustaining a learning culture, the organisation itself will be unable to develop its Organisational Resilience effectively to build not just an ability to react to disruptive events, but also to manage operating successfully in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous new normal, where change is the only constant.




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10/08/19 - Building Organisational Resilience – Understanding Your Environment


The UK landscape provides multiple challenges for business large and small, with many organisations having to operate within a highly dynamic environment, with many impacts being outside of their direct control. This severely impacts on the ability to conduct long-term planning as they are fighting the complex, changing environment of today, unable to direct any resources to the potential threats and opportunities of tomorrow. On the wider scale, several natural monopolies manage, maintain and operate supporting elements for the multitude of UK businesses, which contributes to the strategic running of the UK society, such as the rail and road networks, the National Power Grid and the communications networks. The ability of any one of these organisations to respond, recover and adapt to a major disruptive event is vital to the successful management of essential services which provide power, manpower or capability to UK industry; the collapse of any one of these can have a major impact across the various businesses and industries that rely on their services. Enhancing the level of organisational resilience within UK business, and its dispersed supply chain, is a critical step in the move to develop more resilience within the wider community and the UK as a nation, in line with the National Security Strategy[1].


The world in which organisations operate within is more technologically advanced, with globalisation making businesses and supply chains becoming more interdependent. Disruptive events and their impacts are becoming increasingly felt across operational, tactical and strategic operating levels and in some cases,  they can cause national and international crises. Simultaneously, organisations are being forced to diversify and innovate in order to maintain their share of the global or local markets, thus inviting risk into the daily operating model.  These organisations maintain the foundation of society by building the economy; they provide employment, wealth generation, material, services and a spirit of community. If a large organisation collapses, invariably the community within which it operates in will also feel the impact. It is impossible for any organisation to build a framework to protect it from all disruptive events; the capability is not possible, no matter the size or resource of the organisation. It is also impossible to plan for every eventuality. The skill is being able to develop the capability to adaptively think, understand the root causes of the disruptive event and dynamically plan accordingly, utilising the resources, finances and time available to minimise the impact and maximise the potential growth opportunity as competitors struggle to recover. This is the concept of organisational resilience; delivering a holistic approach to enable an organisation to dynamically respond, recover and grow in the face of disruption.


Development of resilience within organisations will build strength within communities; organisations that provide employment and purpose to communities can provide catalysts to address the negative downturn of the local community. The social decline of the communities built around the UK coal mines provide recent evidence of the impact of poor organisational resilience and the community impact at the end of the 20th Century. In the first two decades of the 21st Century the decline had spread from UK heavy industry to the more commercial aspects of UK businesses. The UK witnessed the collapse of large high street retail and department stores, such as Blockbusters[2] (2000 jobs), British Home Stores[3] (11000 jobs), Austin Reed[4] (1000 jobs), Woolworths[5] (30000 jobs), as well as the public collapse of Carillion (20000 UK jobs). These events brought to light the complexity of managing businesses in the 21st Century, highlighting the importance of organisational resilience over the more tactical activities such as risk management, business continuity and emergency planning. These events also demonstrated the social impact of poor organisational resilience, poor management of strategic risk and a failure at the strategic leadership level.


The collapse of Carillion brought to light another concern about certain operating models within the methods used to provide objective assurance to the decision-makers of large national and international organisations. Investigations conducted into the reasons for Carillion’s collapse, the decision-making and objective advice received identified the predatory aspect of the financial assurance community, with the Government investigation singling out the large firms of KPMG, Deloitte, EY and PwC as having created a monopoly and not providing an effective assurance framework for UK industry. The report highlighted that the drive for profits had impacted negatively on the ability for the companies to act independently of its customers[6], calling into question the reliability of the assurance industry and the fact that "The Big Four" had set out to create a natural monopoly, barring access to competitors[7]. This raises concerns for the quality of support and guidance given to UK industry by the same "Big Four" agencies, as these agencies advice and are woven into multiple commercial and industrial companies. The government report has raised several issues around the quality and performance around the business models and advice that these organisations have delivered to multiple companies, as well as their operating methodologies to maintain a closed market to competition. Detailed research analysis conducted in 2018 / 19 identified several trends that may impact on the UK and its commercial interests, resulting in a strategic deterioration of the UK’s influence and power across the globe and within its borders. These trends are touched upon below:


Demographic Change

Over the next 25 – 30 years the population of the globe is predicted to continue growing, reaching between 8 – 10.5 bn individuals, depending on the research document that is reviewed. This will be primarily driven by the increase in capability of medicines and health provision, which will reduce infant mortality and increase life expectancy within the older generations. It will also be fuelled by continuing high birth rates within developing nations, which will result in an increase in population migration as employment becomes more focussed within urbanised centres. The growth rates are likely to become imbalanced, with developed nations seeing a slowdown and potentially a decrease in their population due to reducing birth rates.


This may produce several areas of tension, as developing nations population seek to move out into areas of available work; with reducing working age populations, the developed nations may become reliant on migration workers, but their societies may not be tolerant of large diaspora communities. Rapid growth in developing countries may challenge the stability of weak national government or the ability of the state to provide the required resources; this may lead to conflict, exacerbated by age, gender and poverty. There is a risk this could overspill into diaspora communities within the developed nations. Within the UK, with the extraction of the Nation from the EU, the UK workforce may consist of more non-EU nationals, with the development of multi-cultural society hubs across the country. This may lead to tensions between UK borne and diaspora population, especially in areas of social depravation and high levels of unemployment. With the potential extraction of EU based industry from the UK, there may be a greater increase of Middle / Far East businesses operating within the UK borders; this may bring a clash of cultures and financial implications, with international cooperatives operating outside of UK legal frameworks, which may impact on local UK businesses and industry’s ability to recruit and retain experienced personnel.



As touched upon within the Demographic Change paragraph, there is the indication through research and analysis that up to 7bn individuals will live within urbanised centres within the next 25 – 30 years, placing extreme pressure on governments / states to conduct and manage proper city planning and critical services management. Urbanisation will rapidly increase within the developing nations, as the population demographic is leaned more towards individuals of a working age seeking not to work within agriculture, but more within commerce, industry or the technology sectors. While urbanisation may increase the output capability of a nation, enhancing economic growth and social development, if left unchecked with proper mitigation and control measures, it may result in widespread ecological / environmental damage which impacts negatively on the urbanised population. An predominately urbanised population will also demand extensive levels of infrastructure and power generation, again potentially out-stripping the capability of a developing nation. This in turn could lead to social depravation, increase in corruption and crime, conflict and potential break-down of social order.


Worst case, the rapid, uncontrolled urbanisation of developing nations may lead to the triggering of large-scale infection and disease outbreaks, new strands of drug resistant bacteria, and an increase in the number and size of humanitarian crises. If historic trends are replicated, large urban centres will be located near extensive water course ways or the coast; this places them in an increased risk of flooding, especially with the impact of environmental change of the next 25 – 30 years. Within the UK, the continued urbanisation of the population will bring increased political challenges around the destruction of the green belt, national parts and coastal land reclamation projects. The increase of urbanisation will demand enhanced transport links, power generation, health facilities and social infrastructure. Pressure will be placed onto local councils to manage an increasingly complex constituency with dwindling resources. Proposed plans for urban expansion may lead to increased social tension, public disorder and the disruption of vital services to UK businesses. The UK may need to seek the procurement of power from the EU, with tariffs / financial agreements in place due to Britain’s exit from the EU.



With the changing of demographics across the globe over the next 25 – 30 years, there is the real threat that certain areas will experience a lack of critical resources, which may fuel resource conflict, large scale demographic moves, failing nations and instability on a large scale. As the population increases, there will be a greater demand for food, yet food production may decrease due to the move towards urbanised centres, climate change, large-scale conflict and population age distribution changes. Water shortages and carbon-based fuels are likely to remain the most critical resources, though developed nations may seek a large increase in renewable energy and nuclear power being inputted into their national power grids. Within the UK there is the risk of large-scale ecological impact through the promotion of fracking, while the exploitation of large oil reserves in The Falkland Islands may lead to an increase in tensions with Argentina. There will be an increase in the levels of renewable energy sources utilised, but there may also be political and social tensions created by the introduction of more nuclear power stations and the experiencing of “brown outs” as the drive to increase the electrification of transport networks continues.


For UK based industries, those involved in the development of sustainable power production may experience a large increase in opportunity and market size, long with the nuclear sector. However, the need for resources and workforce to construct these potential opportunities, along with the technological skills, may be in limited supply as the UK experiences a reducing home-based workforce. For organisations involved in resource heavy, industrial production, there is the risk of a decline in requirement, as developing worlds will seek to obtain more of a market share to help develop their economies, under-cutting UK industry rates. Potential impacts from the UK leaving the European Union may also see an extraction of European businesses due to increased operating costs for their UK based sites, resulting in a loss of skilled workforce from the UK, or an increase in unemployment within lower skilled personnel.


The Environment

Over the nett 25 – 30 years, there is going to be an increasing demand on the natural resources and food production across the globe. A growing population will demand more food and water, power, shelter and employment opportunities, increasing the strain on the environment. Within the developing world large industrial centres will develop to create economic growth, providing the resource to change raw materials into processed goods which will then be exported to the developed nations, thus bringing financial wealth into the developing nations, while increasing the supply chain risks, issues and opportunities to the developed nations. To fuel these, centres of population will cluster around these centres, or, as climate change continues to increase the temperature of the Earth, in vulnerable areas such as coastal regions, to access increasingly scarce vital resources such as water, food, timber and arable land.


Based on current trends, the consequences of adverse weather are highly likely to be felt more keenly, with increases in highly damaging tropical storms, increased temperature fluctuations and longer winters, impacting on the localised climate. Within 30 years, climate change is likely to have more noticeable effects., with coastal populations at risk of rising sea levels, which will increase the risk of coastal flooding, particularly in regions affected by tropical cyclones. We have already seen the potential damage these events can cause in the US, the Pacific and in Bangladesh. In the more centralised, land-based regions, droughts and heatwaves are also likely to increase in intensity, duration and frequency, placing populations at risk, similar to the heatwaves that swept across Europe in 2003 and 2019, resulting in multiple deaths.


For UK industry, the next 25 – 30 years will offer some major challenges as the environment experiences changes caused by man-made and natural activities. Some of these environmental events could precipitate natural disasters which, because of the interdependencies enabled by globalisation and extended supply chain, may have consequences far beyond the site where the disaster occurs. Within the UK, there may be more extreme variations in temperature, resulting in impact to working conditions, transport link reliability and increase in flooding / severe weather events, which in turn may damage / destroy critical national infrastructure nodes. We may see more coastal and inland flooding, risk to critical national infrastructure, such as dams and power lines, or the requirement to re-design road and rail infrastructure to cope with environmental changes. This may increase cost of transporting goods, commuting rates and business taxes to cover the strategic planning and re-development. It may also result in increasing damage to ports through flooding risks or increased land erosion, forcing new structures to be built. Within river-based cities, increased flooding risk may render current business hubs unusable, or raise the rates of business insurance to cover such eventualities.


[1] D Cameron, National Security Strategy (NSS) and Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) 2015, HM Government, Open Government Licence (OGL), London, 2015, p.5.

[2] G Ruddick, `Blockbuster Collapse to Cost Taxpayer £7m`, The Telegraph, reported 21 Dec 2013, available from (accessed 10 Mar 2016).

[3] H Sheffield, `BHS Collapse: Sir Philip Green Called to answer Questions`, The Independent, reported 26 April 2016, available from (accessed 10 Mar 2016).

[4] BBC Business, `Austin Reed Collapse to Cost 1000 jobs`, reported 31 May 2016, available from (accessed 10 Mar 2016).

[5] J Hall, `Woolworths: The Failed Struggle to Save a Retail Giant`, The Telegraph, reported 14 Nov 2009, available from (accessed 8 Mar 2016).

[6]House of Commons, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Work and Pensions Committees, Carillion, Joint report (Second Joint report from the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Work and Pensions Committees of Session 2017–19), HM Government, Open Government Licence, London, 2018, p.79.

[7] HoC, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Work and Pensions Committees, Carillion, Joint report, HM Government, OGL, London, 2018, pp.79 - 86.



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  • Ayushi (Tuesday, November 17 20 05:05 am GMT)

    Conquering psychological safety is priority no. 1 to achieve leadership and organisational resilience. Read Dr. Justin J Kennedy’s enlightening views on effective leadership coaching in his interview with peopleHum.

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30/07/19 - Combating Illicit Organisations Through Building a Better Understanding of Organisational Resilience



In a complex contemporary environment, the blurring of the battlefield and the financial markets has become increasingly common, with military personnel being taught how to identify and correctly collect financial documents, credit cards and signs of financial transactions during searches within hostile areas. Due to the amorphous nature of the current threat within the contemporary arena, the UK Armed Forces and business establishments are more likely to face a simultaneous amalgam of regular and irregular opponents than a clearly defined and identifiable threat[1].


Observations of military units operating within the failing states of Iraq and Afghanistan, and, to a lesser state, Northern Ireland during the late 20th century, highlighted that there were multiple lessons identified on the capabilities of the illegal groups acting within the local societies. Though the situation created by the various conflicts was fraught with risk, there were numerous illicit organisations operating within this complex environment, either criminal or insurgency focussed, seeking to exploit the population, or destabilise the political framework, for their own advantage. To survive and thrive within this type of complex, constrained and often confined operating space, these groups have developed a high level of internal resilience, utilising a networked framework to prevent the authorities or security forces from being able to disrupt their leadership hierarchy.  This internal resilience enables them to quickly gather intelligence and adapt to changes within the population’s tolerances, political policies, potential market expansions (legal or illegal) and the introduction of security forces with new technologies, procedures or capabilities.


Understanding the resilience capability of illicit groups is more than a societal research piece; by understanding how these organisations are able to build and sustain their resilience capability, it offers a chance of being able to target security and policing efforts to break the links across the organisation, stripping away its ability to function coherently as its resilience levels drop. Resilience is no longer just an academic concept or the speciality of business; it offers an opportunity for criminal specialists or military planners to understand the key resilience capabilities, develop a means to interdict them and attack and dismantle these illicit organisations at a strategic and tactical level. This level of research, drawn from operational experiences in Northern Ireland, the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan, supported by academic research into the topic of resilience and conflict.

Understanding the Threat

Illicit organisations may also be adapt at identifying and managing change on a rapid and effective scale, morphing, expanding or contracting depending on the situation at the time. In Iraq, criminal elements would quickly switch operating bases depending on the patrol patterns of the UK units. In Basra, Iraq and the surrounding areas, insurgent teams would seek to adapt their approaches depending on what coalition member was conducting protective operations, switching between population coercion, direct attacks on security forces, or remote attacks through rockets and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The same was witnessed in Afghanistan, with illicit elements conducting lessons learned activities and, at times, sharing experiences, technologies or capabilities. There was also a level of internal change capability, with these organisations having to manage dynamic internal change due to operational casualties, elements being captured, splintering of teams, amalgamation of multiple groups to create greater capability to face a larger threat.


A number of these illicit organisations have been identified to also be recruiting from disaffected communities from the UK, seeking to build an international framework for the purpose of securing a global market, or, in a more threatening situation, increase the capability of conducting a terrorist attack within the UK. These organisations increase the risk of tensions over-spilling into UK communities, affecting the stability of the nation. The range of tasks the military can expect to undertake also continues to increase[2], with concern over UK organisations funding illegal activity unknowingly, funding different warring entities, or their vulnerability to cyber-attack, such as the attack against TalkTalk telecommunications company, which resulted in 157,000 customers having their data hacked into, with 15000 losing financial data[3], costing the organisation up to £35 million immediately after the event.[4] Recent operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya confirm this trend of increasing complexity[5]. The military and government security and intelligence gathering agencies must increasingly work with civilian organisations to build a greater national resilience against the illicit organisations that are building their own resilience capability. This proposed inclusive approach is not just cross-governmental; it is an alliance between all those that have a stake within the complex battle-sphere that now reaches from the combat zone back to the industrial and societal base. Therefore the ability for the military, business sectors, law enforcement agencies and Government Departments to work together to develop National Resilience through the creation of Organisational Resilience is critical to combatting irregular activity which seeks to cause a detrimental impact to the UK, from within and without.

Building Resilience Through Leadership and Awareness

Resilience is not about “bouncing back” or “bouncing forward”, rather it is about negotiating disruptive events and thriving on uncertainty, focussing on the development of the entity against an infinite timeline.[6] It is not about the resources, the financial capability or the relevant structures in place, though these all assist the process. Resilience is not something that can be achieved by any one organisation acting in isolation[7], there is a need to understand the supply chain and the customer focus. In essence it needs to by dynamically aware of Porter’s five forces and adjust accordingly to maintain its survival. Resilience is holistic[8] and those tasked to develop the resilience of the organisation must be able to influence all activity at strategic and operational levels, providing an active voice in the organisation’s direction.[9] Only by understanding fully the dynamics of any particular situation or crisis can the appropriate range of activities be planned, orchestrated[10], reviewed and evaluated. The term itself was initially mentioned in the early 1960s by CS Holling on his work within the ecological concept of the topic; in the 21st century resilience has become a “hot” topic due to the fear of climate change, risk to the global fuel reserves, and the ongoing threat of over-population of some areas, risking pandemic situations of lethal pathogens. The key component of resilience is that it does not focus on one area; it is based on the capability of the system, or system of systems, to identify, respond adapt, recover and learn from a disruptive event. Holling looked at this from the point of an eco-system, how it adapted to the various situations around it, how it shrank or grew depending on the space available to it. He also analysed how the various components worked together to maintain a balance that benefitted the eco-system.


For organisations, the capability of the leadership staff to manage a complex, dynamic situation with limited information under an intense time pressure through cognitive adaptability is critical to success. The ability for an organisation to develop its own Organisational Resilience is dependent on the internal agility of the entity, the culture that is embedded within it, and the direction and guidance of its leadership function. Organisational agility is itself built upon six pillars (components) as identified by David Alberts.[11]  The six components are Responsiveness, Robustness, Flexibility, Resilience (though in his concept it may be argued that it is component resilience rather than organisational resilience that he refers to), Innovativeness and Adaptability. Just as Organisational Resilience relies on the personal resilience of the staff within the business, the agility of an organisation relies on the ability of the staff to link their resilience with actions, strength and understanding to develop the agility to support the creation of an Organisational Resilience capability.


This capability is how the organisation will approach the situation through its ways, ends and means[12]. It needs to have three key elements to enable the successful development of resilience; an understanding of where the organisation wishes to head towards (The Endstate), the journey, or strategy, the company is going to take to develop its resilience (The Ways) and finally how it is going to resource the journey (The Means). By building the information gathering and subsequent analysis capabilities, supported through effective change management and organisational leadership structures, of an organisation, the ability to identify, prepare, react and adapt will be increased, providing a higher level of resilience to manage and recover from disruptive events. Similar to business, the outlook of the Armed Forces is to see that as a nation the UK is increasingly in a state of permanent international competition, competition that can occasionally risk becoming confrontation or conflict.”[13] The similarities for the need to develop strategic influence and vision is also key for both the Armed Forces and business, to align to the direction that the UK Government is setting for the UK Home and Foreign Policies are also quite clear. Clausewitz viewed war as “nothing more than a duel on a larger scale. Countless duels go to make up a war, but a picture of it as a whole can be formed by imagining a pair of wrestlers[14].”  

Resilience and Illicit Organisations

The first issue with this consideration is that there is still not a large amount of detailed research in existence around Organisational Resilience; there is still a level of incompleteness around what it is made up of, how it should be managed and what practices need to be implemented. This leads onto the second issue; the majority of the research has been in the legal operating sphere – few articles have considered how to build a resilience model for an illicit organisation, then how to unpick it to destroy that model that was developed. If the collaborative understanding of resilience within the legitimate business world in fragmented, the level of knowledge around the illicit business world is very limited.


Consider applying all that has been identified to the situation with Illicit Organisations; it is time to learn how the military and legitimate business builds it resilience and remains capable to operate when faced with multiple threats, then reverse engineer this approach, which can help identify the key components to target within an illicit organisation, with the right tools, to start to dismantle its resilience capability to function. It is key to note that no entity will remain static; just as businesses will seek to develop new products, illicit organisations will seek to adapt to the “grey” market, either mixing legal and illegal activities into a “hybrid” business model in the aim to obtain greater market share by reducing overheads, time or regulation to name a few areas. Through better understanding of their business models, hybrid approaches and potentially temperamental supply chains, there is an opportunity to target these various weaknesses within their resilience framework. The absence of regulation and governance may allow them a level of flexibility and drive down operating costs; at the same time there will be a lack of financial support if the market crashes or the supplies are late, or if customers stop buying their services. While the concept of Organisational Resilience is a holistic approach, it is important to understand that there is an individual aspect within the illicit groups, especially those that seek to conduct acts of subversion or terrorism. Attempting to apply a broad brush approach to these organisations is destined for failure; the examples of the UK military in Iraq and Afghanistan is evidence of this. Crime, illegal operations and terrorism are complex phenomenon to unpick and prevent due to the multi-factored input that can create them. This is where a greater understanding of the elements that contribute to organisational resilience can help; by being able to focus not just on core activities but also those that sit on the fringes, the security services may be able to start impacting on the resilience capability and longevity of such organisations.


This blog entry has aimed to raise the question about how to use a better understanding of organisational resilience to assist in the deconstruction of illegal organisations. By understanding the factors and how they are interdependent within an organisation, specific targeting of certain factors may result in a detrimental effect on other areas. There are several methods that businesses and security services can achieve this, though it will be a protracted experience as illicit organisations, similar to legitimate businesses, will seek to learn and adapt to potential threats that it identifies. Having worked closely with security organisations to develop a capability within Iraq and Afghanistan to destabilise, reduce and then dismantle illicit organisations within the complex operating environment, it became apparent that several of the tools being used had their origins in business change processes and tools. This was particularly apparent in the information and intelligence gathering activities, which, for industry, would not be very dissimilar to stakeholder engagement, mapping and business analysis activities. What has become very apparent within other research is that the analysis and effective processing of information into intelligence is poorly conducted within UK industry; this regularly results in lost productivity or failed programmes.


As these organisations may be implementing a hybrid business model, this approach may require a blend of financial, legal, security and political activities to slowly unpick one element at a time, helping to unravel the Gordian Knot that organised crime has become for nation states. Current business is fighting a confrontational campaign against illicit organisations which seek to destabilise the market for their own benefit; rather than operating in silos, businesses and security organisations, similar to the those entities within the failed or failing states, need to work closer together, across all spectrums of commerce and information gathering, to build their own resilience, and also to target and reduce the resilience of the illicit entities that are operating across the globe. The requirement to understand the organisational resilience framework within businesses and how to reverse engineer it to deconstruct an entity is crucial to increasing the pressure on illicit organisations and impacting on their illegal activities. By stripping away the components of their resilience, security services can improve their targeted interventions, being able to focus on factors that may cause maximum impact to the organisation but require minimum resources to implement. As the majority of resource into organisational resilience has been focussed on assisting legitimate organisations prepare and survive, there is the need to conduct detailed research into this area, either on the streets of major cities in the UK or examine the war-torn suburbs of failing nations. Either area will start to identify key components that illicit organisations require for their resilience; components that become the vital ground for security services to disrupt in order to deny these organisations the ability to function effectively.


[1] MoD JDN 2/07 (2007) Countering Irregular Activity within a Comprehensive Approach, DCDC. P.1-1.

[2] JDN 3/11 (2011) page 1-1.

[3] Farell, S. (2015) The Guardian: Nearly 157000 had data breached in Talk Talk cyber attack, dated 6 Nov 2015.

[4] Thomas D., (2015) Financial Times: TalkTalk warns cyber attack costs could could rise to £35m, dated 11 Nov 2015; dated 11 Nov 2015.

[5] JDN 3/11 (2011) 1-1.

[6] Newnham (2012),

[7] Seville et al (2010) p.2

[8] Newnham (2012), p.3

[9] Newnham (2012)ty, p.4

[10] BDD JDP 0-01 p.1-11.

[11] Alberts D. S.,(2013) “Agility, Focus and Convergence: The Future of Command and Control, The International C2 Journal, Vol 1: 1.

[12] Jermy S., (2011) Strategy for Action: Using Force wisely in the 21st Century, Knightstone Publishing, London, p.18.

[13] Houghton N., (2014) Chief of Defence Staff Speech, RUSI, published in JDN 1/15: Defence Engagement, MoD, p.iv.

[14] Clausewitz C., (1997) On War (abridged), Wordsworth classics, London. P.5




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21/07/19 Squared Apples Presents ORM3 Framework


Five years in development, members of Squared Apples have recently circulated the Oraganisational Resilience Management Maturity Model (ORM3), presenting it at the Resilience Association in London, and then the Business Continuity Institute in Utrecht, Holland.


The framework has been the culmination of a PhD research programme, analysing lessons from UK military, international business and UK heavy industry.  During the research, individuals from UK military, industry, local government, international practitioners and the BCI were consulted on their thoughts about the absence of an Organisational Resilience framework. Key to the development of ORM3 was the regular engagement with the Resilience Association and, in its latter stages, discussions with the Resilience Center in Telford.


Working together with the Resilience Association and the Business Continuity Institute, Squared Apples has been able to hoild open discussion forums around the organisational resilience domain, building greater awareness of the need for resilience to move from the shop floor to the C-Suite level. Research in multiple countries has demonstrated that the majority of failures of large businesses are down to strategic leadership miscalculations, leading to financial, performance or reputational damage; normally all three. By understanding that an organisation is a system of systems, and therefore the resilience approach needs to follow a similar approach, then we can begin to build a greater awareness and capability of how to build, embed and sustain a resiliecne culture across an organisation.


Further information is available on the model in the slideshow featured in the Whats New section, which gives a high level of the research approach and the components of the framework. If you wish to discusss the framework in detail, please contact us here




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09/04/2018 - What is the Cost to Community Resilience of Poor Strategic Leadership?


The current situation within the halls of power of Westminster is constantly demonstrating two warring parties who are losing situational awareness of what is actually happening across the UK. As the Brexit question continues to shatter the fabric of communities, depending on whether you are "in" or "out", there is an increasingly apparent trend of poor strategic leadership decisions now returning to haunt the ministers that made them; there is also the failure to admit them. Is this a failure of moral courage to accept mistakes and address the issues at hand?


Austerity policies have caused a number of issues that have resulted in the environment to create increased violent crime. The impact of these issues have decreased the resilience of the communities across the UK and the ability to provide adequate security and local intelligence gathering. These issues are:

  • Reduction in community centres;
  • An over-stretched, under-resourced and under-funded NHS, with some trusts not having enough vehicles to cover critical activities;
  • Ongoing poor pay and support for teachers, resulting in children being poorly educated for the workplace;
  • Limited emotional resilience support for teachers and young people;
  • Decrease in police on the streets (21000 personnel), resulting in a reduction in community engagement and a loss of local intelligence networks;
  • Reduction of the Armed Forces capability, impacting on national resilience and ability to respond to critical national threats;
  • Failure to build a way forward for the next generation, resulting in an increase in the younger population seeking to find other ways;
  • Eroding of the UK's international standing within key influential organisations, such as the EU, The Commonwealth, the G8 and NATO;
  • A rapid increase in the number of children living in poverty;
  • A continuous attack on local councils to reduce funding, which in turn leads to a deconstruction of social support frameworks;
  • Increasing council taxes, pushing more families into poverty; and
  • An increase in the homeless on our streets.

If we were to look at this situation through another lens we may see things differently. Applying the framework that the UK military sought to apply in two Resilience building campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, we can observe how these issues would be treated in combat. Using the guidance of Templar (Malaya), Patreaus (Iraq) or McChrystal (Afghanistan), if you are fighting a counter insurgency, the issues listed above are the things you seek address quickly through the provision of resources, as well as to provide the host nation its own integral capability to fight the lure of the insurgent.


This is not a situation just for the Middle East; this approach was also used in Northern Ireland to help stop the ongoing slaughter during the OIRA / PIRA insurgency campaign. What it does demonstrate though is that the current UK government, across all parties, have lost sight of the bigger picture, with the majority of focus being spent on Brexit. Discuss.




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20/10/2017 - Building a Business Continuity Framework


The British Standards Institute identified that 0ver 43% of SMEs had no IT continuity plan, while the Charterer Management Institute indicated that the average cost of severe weather disruption was approx. £52k. The CMI also highlighted that 86% of UK business owners recognised the importance of a business continuity framework, though only 63% had one in place. Of those individuals that had a Business Continuity framework in place, 87% indicated that when activated it reduced... the impact of a disruptive event. If you’re looking to build a continuity framework within your business, follow these tips;


• Build an initial business case to identify what are the key components of your business that needs protecting, the cost if operations are disrupted or lost, and the available funds you have to initiate the development of a continuity plan;


• Invest in your staff capabilities and development rather than outsourcing the development of your continuity plan; 80% of your continuity plan being successful relies on your staff knowing what to do and when. If they have been involved in its development they will provide a far greater agile edge for your company during disruptive events;


• Conduct an indepth risk analysis and SWOT to understand what disruptive events, positive and negative, may impact on your business. A good Business Continuity framework is the outcome of a holistic approach of adaptive leadership, an inclusive organisational culture and a shared understanding of disruptive events and available resources;


• Your risk analysis needs to conduct a full analysis of all risks, including your supply chain, staff capabilities, internal structures and organisational frameworks;


• Build a natural level of redundancy within your structure through the integration of business continuity activities into of all business activities; business continuity is fundamental to building resilience. Resilience is cultural, supported by business processes such as risk management, business continuity and resource management;


• Utilise business intelligence to build situational awareness to create the relevant responses needed; this will enable the organisation to effectively prepare, react, recover, learn and improve from disruptive events;


• Develop the capability of Red-Teaming and regular review of your business continuity framework within the organisation at all levels; build a culture of consented dissent to build capability and avoid potential crisis events;


• Develop a strong leadership model to support your staff during disruptive events and create the feeling of empowerment to enable rapid response and decision making during disruptive events;


• Build a level of understanding within your customer base and supply chain to identify key operational elements to keep going in order to release resources to manage disruptive events; and


• Develop a culture of learning lessons; both from yourself and from others to support your business development.




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10/09/2017 - Building Organisational Resilience


In the current global market place, the political, financial and cultural pressures being placed upon the modern business personnel are often draining, pulling physical and emotional strength to the limit. Individuals try to juggle their priorities - work, family, friends, interests, in a bid to obtain a balance. Often the pressure of all these can generate their own self driving pace, which rapidly becomes overwhelming and potentially destructive. This in turn removes the effectiveness of the individual in their business role, resulting in a reduction in both personal and organisational resilience.


As a thought leader in the area of organisational resilience, Squared Apples has offered some tips for building your resilience to these pressures that exist in the workplace. Whether as a business or an individual, these tips can help if you are experiencing a significant disruptive event at work, or just in life in general.


A number of resilience experts describe resilience is defined as the ability to bounce back or recover well from change. This is not totally accurate; this definition is more based within the discipline of Business Continuity rather than Resilience. Rather than bouncing back, organisations, or individuals, with a high level of resilience seek to take advantage of the situation and thrive while their competitors around them struggle.. So what are the characteristics that these organisations or individuals possess that enables them to react and adapt to their situation quicker and more effective than others? Squared Apples research into organisations with a high level of organisational and staff resilience, such as the military, emergency services and financial institutions points to following key characteristics:


Vision and Purpose

Organisations with a high level of resilience have identified a clear sense of purpose, values, direction of travel, which is aligned with the high-level purpose, mapped through a number of established goals which are aligned to the strategy. The organisation has a strong learning lessons framework, effective governance and well developed problem-solving skills.


Belief and Confidence

When organisations invest in strong governance frameworks, enhanced skills development and the design and implementation of a competence framework, its workforce become more effective, thus building resilience. Individuals feel competent, they have effective strategies for coping with disruptive events and are able to cope better with stress. Managers and individuals have strong self-esteem, believe in the organisation and focus on their skills and abilities. With a lessons learned framework, the organisation develops a learning and growth mindset. When things go wrong, the leadership ask themselves, “What did we learn from that?”


Strong Social Support Framework

Organisations that develop strong business and personal relationships with others generally create a stronger resilience framework. By having good supportive commercial relationships, organisations understand that seeking support can help the organisation, industry sector or individuals overcome adverse situations, rather than trying to cope individually. Organisations can also provide collective support to others, but not at the expense of self, during difficult situations; a good example of this was the collective decision of the staff of the John Lewis Group to sacrifice their 2008 bonus payments in order to save one of their major outlets. Organisations build and sustain themselves as they understand that if they are not strong they are can’t support other industry partners, or, in the worst case, their own workforce.


Agility, Adaptability and Flexibility

Organisations that develop a high level of resilience have an inherent agility within their corporate framework, obtained through workforces and structures that are flexible and adaptable to changing situations which are beyond their control. The agility also reaches to the decision-making process, enabling wicked problems to be managed through dynamic response, crisis management and early engagement. As an organisation there is a clear understanding of capability, resources and the critical components of the company to maintain momentum. These organisations cope well with change because they are optimistic for the future due to the preparation they have engaged in; they see the opportunity to thrive as their competition struggle, rather than the threat that the change may bring.


Build Team Ethos and Sense of Empowerment

As a manager, or a leader within an organisation, you can build your resilience with these tips:


·     Develop positive attitudes and emotions within your teams early;


·     Spend time getting clarity on a sense of purpose, team objectives and organisational goals;


·     Develop contingency strategies for potential disruptive events and practice them regularly. Use discussions, table top exercises and exec study days;


·     Establish, build and sustain a supportive social and professional network; be unafraid to share ideas across the business sector to build trust early;


·     Ensure that you look after yourself through exercise, rest, and healthy eating. As the leader / manager, you set the example for the team;


·     Create time to do team building events that strengthen understanding and the team ethos; and


·     Recognise and develop the strengths within the team; do not be afraid to invest in individual and team CPD events; this builds trust within the team as well as enhancing their capability.


These are a few ideas to spark discussion and informed debate on the building of resilience across the UK private and public sectors. Please feel free to leave any thoughts / comments below.


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23/12/16 - Is the Resilience of the Union Threatened by Brexit?


As Northern Ireland now seeks to lodge a formal challenge to the extraction of the UK from the EU and Scotland, under Nicola Sturgeon, explores the option of another independence referendum, does Brexit pose the biggest threat to the resilience of the United Kingdom?


The 23rd June 2016 saw the UK, as a nation, vote to leave the European Union. On closer examination however, the figures do not tell the true story. Only England and Wales voted to leave, with Northern Ireland, Scotland and Gibraltar voted to remain. The result of Brexit resulted in social and political divisions becoming highly visible, the senior leadership of the UK police forces reporting an increase in racist attacks within the southern counties of England and a change in political leadership. For approximately three months the nation remained leaderless, with key political decision making processes placed on hold, priority given to the preparation and implementation of the Brexit decision.


Now Scotland and Northern Ireland seek ways to remain within Europe, risking the splitting of the Union. Brexit was supposed to offer a choice for the UK, to demonstrate democracy and the ability of the nation to forge its own destiny within a modern Europe. Instead, Brexit has become the greatest threat to the survival of the Union, a threat that is becoming more tangible by the day as political parties and devolutionised nations now move to forge their own destiny, potentially separate to that of England. As the tidal wave of emotion now settles, the political and social shockwaves now become very apparent, with the United Kingdom becoming dis-united about the Brexit decision.


Please feel free to leave your thought on this topic below; remember that this is a public website seeking to promote considered debate on the subject of resilience. Please write your comments accordingly.


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