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Building resilience and elasticity to survive and thrive

Three areas of resilience create the opportunity to build business sustainability, which is the ultimate goal: building capacity, capability and competence.
Read time 4min 40sec

The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the importance of building resilience, both personally and in business. Resilient businesses fared far better than vulnerable ones and are in a better position to plot their future prosperity.

Building resilience and a degree of elasticity into a business is vital to ensure survival − in good times and in bad. In tough times, like now, the case for resilience and elasticity is obvious, but it is equally crucial in good times to stay the course.

There are practical steps that a leadership team can take to build this elastic resilience. It comes from building capacity, capability and competence. These three areas create the opportunity to build sustainability, which is the ultimate goal.

Capacity

The important thing around capacity though is that you don't give away the crown jewels, but keep core IP with you. You pay more for those people, and you continue to pay more to keep them. Being able to keep core IP and skills in-house should be prioritised. These are the people that are going to make a huge difference in the business, not only now but also in the future.

Another aspect of capacity-building is working with partners. These partners could be competitors the company is co-operating with, and they can be small to medium enterprises where the business is helping build capacity in the country and in the firm, but the key is an eye on capacity.

Capability

This is largely around understanding what is in the tank. Identifying capability is a key skill, a requirement. This is not limited to the person's functional role, what they do today and how they do it, because there's a capability that could well exist in people to do other things altogether.

Being able to keep core IP and skills in-house should be prioritised.

How do you identify this capability? One way is by creating business challenges. In other words, imagine a business is running a special project around developing a new website. It would have the traditional staff in the business that would work on the website, but then it may also have some undercover creative people in the workforce, and by opening the project and allowing them the scope to express this, more of their potential is unmasked.

Another example would be to challenge someone to investigate and build a business case for an entirely new offering, with the reward being that they would run the new business unit. In this instance, the company would be saying: Carry on doing your day job, but here is an opportunity to go and do something else.

Many businesses don't do this, instead leaving everyone to continue with their primary jobs. The problem with this is that all the latent capability that's sitting just beneath the surface cannot be harnessed. From a leadership perspective, it does require a level of courage; it does require the bravery of allowing people to fail.

Competence

The underlying theme here is around lifelong learning. You identify an area of competence you are good at, and instead of feeling as though you have arrived, you must always be at the forefront of whichever area it is. Continually learn, continually consume content. Find ways to go beyond merely being competent and strive to become a deep specialist in your chosen area.

This definitely does not mean that just because you’ve done a course everything is hunky-dory. Especially in our industry, where technology is growing and evolving at breakneck speed, people must continue to add new levels to their competence, because a defined job description today may not even exist in a few years’ time.

Sustainability

Once there is capacity, capability and competence in an organisation, it can begin to talk about sustainability. The leadership team can manipulate these three levers to build elasticity and resilience into the business so that it becomes sustainable.

If an organisation is going through a growth phase, it will be able to augment these levers with partners and build around it, becoming stronger and more resilient. If the organisation goes through tough times, through a period of disruption, while partners will naturally consume some of its capacity, it can start to cross-skill people and start to identify opportunity areas they can move into.

There's an opportunity across the board for people to take up different responsibilities in new areas. The resiliency benefit here extends beyond businesses and includes the individuals who work within them. This is particularly important when considering new skills and the shifting job landscape as the world continues to digitise.

Instead of being afraid that their job security is waning, the alternative for employees is understanding there will always be a demand for top-notch skills − the types of skills forged by continually learning and delving deeper into their areas of expertise, as well as latent skills that are uncovered when they are challenged and thrown into uncharted waters.

Ultimately, the business will develop the elasticity and resilience required to navigate calm or stormy waters, while its workforce will develop the resilience and elasticity required to thrive in an ever-evolving work environment.

Collin Govender

Managing director of Altron Karabina

Collin Govender is managing director of Altron Karabina, having first joined Altron as group executive for shared services. He is known for his strategic and highly pragmatic approach to leadership, as well as an innate sense for driving team outcomes and driving people to realise their full potential.

Prior to joining the Altron Group, Govender was vice-president for sales and service management at T-Systems. Instead of following a conventional route into enterprise IT, he entered the workforce with a Durban-based logistics company, where he was tasked with everything from running cables, building networks and developing code. He later moved to Johannesburg, where he spent 17 years at T-Systems, a German multinational IT services and consulting company.

Looking ahead, Govender is focused on connecting individuals with their purpose in the new digital environment – and finding ways to align purpose with sustainable business practices.

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