June 9, 2014

Useful: Dave Snowden on resilience


While preparing a proposal for a series of leadership workshops on resilience, I came across this list of seven characteristics of resilience in an older post by Dave Snowden:

They've probably changed, but I thought they were useful nonetheless.  Original text in italics.

  1. For a system to be resilient it must be capable of dynamic re-organisation on the fly.  That means it must be capable of rapid coupling and decoupling while maintaining a degree of system coherence.
  2. Dynamic re-organisation is greatly facilitated by modularity (or finely grained objects to reference my three heuristics of complex adaptive systems).  That means small units that can combine and recombine, or even split off and reform with ease.  Not so small that there is no coherence, but small enough for recombination. (Big implications here for large organisations who move towards bigger and bigger teams)
  3. Managing for resilience means building networked capability before you need it not when you need it.  That means techniques like social network stimulation which, over two years can connect everyone in an organisation within three degrees of separation based on some form of usable trust. (It's short-sighted not to build capability in advance of need - by the time you need it, it's too late!)
  4. Critically you need fast feedback loops into decision-makers so that they can ride the wave of disruption.  That means creating human sensor networks with supporting technology around current day purpose, that can be activated for extraordinary purpose in the context of need.
  5. Modularity means that a system is capable of swarming and clustering to meet unforeseeable circumstances in real-time.  Crews, an important new idea in non-military environments provide the right level of modularity and instant operational capability that are essential to speedy response. 
  6. Synchrony is a real danger, it's one of the main indications of impending collapse.  This is linked to the Cynefin concept of complacency, where everything seems ordered and controlled just before catastrophic failure.  Over focus on things like sick stigma means that organisations start to build synchrony before it occurs naturally thus hastening the collapse.
  7. Diversity and what I call requisite variety are key.  Without diversity, and dare I say it  contradiction, a system lacks the capacity to evolve quickly as it has too few things to build on.  Conformity and consensus are the enemies of managing under conditions of uncertainty.

I also came across this excellent video where Dave explains his thinking about moving from robust to resilient strategies.

This thinking is becoming increasingly relevant to business leaders as the world around us seems to be more and more volatile and uncertain.  As I come across more interesting bits I'd be sure to share them.  If you have an interest in resilience and have interesting info to share, please feel free to use the comments section.

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