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Understanding Organizational Resilience: Duchek’s model

In this article, we introduce you to a model for understanding organizational resilience by Stephanie Duchek.

In April, 2020, a wonderful research paper titled Organizational Resilience: A Capability-Based Conceptualization by Stephanie Duchek was published by Springer Open Access. A link to this exceptional piece of research is provided here. As this module is dedicated entirely to the concept of organizational resilience, the article crafted by Dr. Duchek will serve as the foundational platform upon which we will be exploring the topic. While you would be very well served by reading through this article in its entirety to fully appreciate the scope of the research conducted by Dr. Duchek, this module will attempt to build on her research findings and provide practical recommendations that are ready for immediate implementation.

Here is the abstract that Dr. Duchek used to describe her work:

“In highly volatile and uncertain times, organizations need to develop a resilience capacity which enables them to cope effectively with unexpected events, bounce back from crises, and even foster future success. Although academic interest in organizational resilience has steadily grown in recent years, there is little consensus about what resilience actually means and how it is composed. More knowledge is particularly needed about organizational capabilities that constitute resilience, as well as conditions for their development. This paper aims to make a contribution to this heterogeneous research field by deepening the understanding of the complex and embedded construct of organizational resilience. We conceptualize resilience as a meta-capability and decompose the construct into its individual parts. Inspired by process-based studies, we suggest three successive resilience stages (anticipation, coping, and adaptation) and give an overview of underlying capabilities that together form organizational resilience. Based on this outline, we discuss relationships and interactions of the different resilience stages as well as main antecedents and drivers. We formulate propositions that can act as a foundation for future empirical work.”

From this abstract, we can draw a few conclusions about the concept of resilience and some practical considerations for high stakes leaders. First, the author states the foundational premise of this module and a key learning objective for this entire course: organizations need to develop the capacity for resilience. This is consistent with our discussion so far about the nature of our VUCA world. Our organizations will have to deal with significant events, major disruptions, and crises. When they do, they must have the ability to bounce back, to recover, to be resilient. It is also reasonable to assume that one reason for the increase in academic interest in this area has been a similar increase in cases where resilience was either a primary contributor to a successful recovery or a root cause of significant difficulties while attempting to recover.

Second, while most practitioners view resilience as simply the ability to bounce back from adversity, Dr. Duchek proposes three resilience stages: anticipation, coping, and adaptation. All three of these stages will be explored in greater depth later in this module, to help you not only understand what it means to be resilient in each of these three stages, but also how to develop resilient practices. These practices will help you and your organization develop a greater capacity for resilience. Here, however, it’s enough to recognize that resilience is described as a collection of stages, each of which present challenges and obstacles, and that an understanding of each can help an organization become much better prepared for the inevitable.

Third, and finally, Dr. Duchek’s summary suggests a collection of relationships and interactions between and among these three stages. Logically, as these three stages are presented in a sequence, one would expect the existence of some connective tissue between stages. In this module, however, it will be argued that the most important and meaningful common thread running through all of these stages is the potential for stakeholders to be incredibly helpful in all aspects of organizational resilience – again, something that will be presented throughout this course.

The Conceptualization Model

This graphic presents an illustration of the Duchek model. Take a moment to explore the model as a whole in Figure 1.


In the graphic, several key features help guide our exploration of the resilience model. Upon first glance, it is easy to identify the three stages of the model. On the left of the illustration is the pre-crisis stage, or what Duchek calls the Anticipation stage. In the middle is the Coping stage – during which actual crisis leadership is taking place or, at least, there should be crisis leadership taking place. On the right side of the illustration is the post-crisis stage, what Duchek calls the Adaptation stage. This is where all post-crisis recovery takes place.

Duchek adds to her model some broad categories of cognitive and behavioral actions that should be taking place during each stage. In the pre-crisis Anticipation stage, members of an organization should be cognitively thinking about scanning their environment for signs of potential trouble and, when signs are spotted, identifying them as such. Behaviorally during this stage, with the support of high stakes leaders, organizations should be taking specific actions to prepare for a potential future crisis. During the crisis-Coping stage, when Duchek suggests that organizations have found themselves in the midst of a crisis, organizational members must cognitively accept that they are, in fact, in a crisis. While this may seem somewhat counter-intuitive, it’s worth considering how long it took the United States government to accept that COVID-19 was, in fact, a national crisis. Arguably, earlier acceptance of this situation as one in which a coordinated, nation-wide emergency response was warranted would have almost certainly reduced the number of cases and fatalities resulting from the pandemic. Concurrently in this stage, crisis management teams and their leaders need to be developing and implementing solutions. Solution generation and implementation are how most leaders think about crisis management practices, but you will learn in this module that there is much more to crisis management – and being resilient – than coping with a crisis when it appears.

Finally, in the third stage presented in the model, the author suggests that post-crisis – once the major disruption has been resolved to a manageable level – organizations should be cognitively focused on reflection and learning. Behaviorally, this is the time for high stakes leaders to be implementing change initiatives. These should be designed, as you will explore a bit later, not only to prevent similar future crises, but to apply lessons learned from the entire crisis management process, to further develop the organization’s capacity for resilience.

Remember that resilience is not simply the ability to deal with adversity when it appears. Organizational resilience can help businesses prevent crises, deal more effectively with them when they do appear, and then learn from them once they have been resolved.

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