One of the most significant things that we have learnt from the recent Covid-19 pandemic was not about the interconnectedness of our modern world, but its great unpredictability.
Consequently, it has reminded us how important risk management is in preparing for all expected and unexpected eventualities, whilst simultaneously showing us in the face of such massive, world-changing events, that even the most seasoned risk specialist can be blindsided.
The best-laid plans
It’s fair to say that the recent pandemic outbreak left almost everyone on planet Earth wrongfooted, from governments to businesses, transnational companies to local corner stores.
Contingencies, logically based on past experiences, were insufficient to manage the myriad of threats and demands that the pandemic brought with it. Even the most painstakingly organised plans were upended, including those for colossal events such as the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
The fact that they are still in doubt for 2021, shows us the importance of this latest evolution in risk management: a move towards resilience and adaptation.
Resilience and Adaptability
This is by no means an invitation to scrap all previous protocols in risk management, but one to add to existing frameworks, moving our focus towards ‘adaptability’ in order to respond to unforeseen threats in the future.
To put it another way, risk and resilience are not two conflicting concepts, but rather the next step in the same process of mitigating the effects of any threat.
If risk management is the analytical interpretation of a vulnerability and how to prepare in order to avoid or mitigate it; resilience is a set of behavioural skills needed to respond to a new reality as effectively as possible.
So, how can we develop our resilience skillset? These are undoubtedly softer skills, such as communication, leadership, teamwork and, of course, flexibility.
With experts predicting the next big threat coming from another possible (even more deadly) pandemic, or even climate change, and viewed through the lens of our recent experiences with the Covid pandemic, it is clear that even the best plans to prepare can be thwarted in the blink of an eye.
An ill-advised government policy change or sudden, unexpected natural disaster, such as the extreme winter weather in Texas, could instantly destroy thousands of manhours of planning.
So, what are we left with? In the face of this ever-changing and unpredictable reality, our success will be based on our ability to adapt as effectively as possible; that is, our resilience.