Business, Interrupted: The Keys to Building a Resilience Management Culture


When it comes to success—whether it’s resilience management or crisis response or any of the other many important programs that are part of your organization—building a culture that understands and integrates its importance into day-to-day operations is paramount to success.

But, regardless of how enthusiastic you are about your program and the benefits you know it brings to your organization, the reality is, you can’t force the rest of your organization to automatically adopt the culture you want.

Instead, you must build a program approach that builds and earns respect and understanding from your colleagues, regardless of role.

So, what does it take to achieve success in programs such as business resilience and critical event management?

That’s what we talked about recently with Ann Pickren, chief customer officer at OnSolve during our third episode of season two of Castellan’s podcast, “Business, Interrupted.”

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The Role of Critical Event Management

Critical event management is a significant influencer on how your organization might adopt a culture of resilience. It goes hand-in-hand with the old adage, “practice makes perfect.”

That’s because how you practice is what makes your organization as close to perfect as you can get during a crisis.

And, if you’re not exercising and flexing that muscle memory during your exercises—to the point it hurts at times—then it might not help you much along the way, Pickren points out.

How can you get the most of these exercises? Consider:

  • Developing realistic exercises that engage all levels of your organization.
  • Ensure they are well thought-out and planned.
  • Ensure those conducting the exercise understand its scope, objectives, and intended outcome.
  • Be flexible and adaptable.
  • Welcome failure.


Yes. Failure.

Some of the most successful exercises are those that don’t follow a script. Those that don’t go as planned. When your plans fail during an exercise, it can save your organization from a catastrophic failure during an actual event.

These failures provide great learning opportunities, as well as an opportunity to positively influence team-building and adaptability, with less stress than a real world disruption.

If you’ve ever managed an actual disruption or disaster, you should by now have an understanding that even the absolutely best planned tests and exercises may fail during an event. There are always different circumstances that can prevent your plan from falling into place as you thought it would.

Use crisis event exercise failures as an opportunity to close those gaps and decrease the likelihood it may happen again.

The ‘What If’

Thinking about the “what if” and building flexible plans that can adapt set strong resilience management professionals apart from others.

“I’ve seen it play out more times than not in either exercises, but even in real life events, that it never happens exactly the way you planned,” Pickren explained. “And if you can’t pivot on a dime—but keep in mind the focus of those downstream impacts — then you’re not gonna be comfortable in the role and you’re not going to be that trusted advisor that you need to be inside your organization.”

It’s something that plays an important role in culture building.

That’s because strong resilience and crisis management professionals naturally evolve as consultants to executives. It helps build confidence and help steady the ship, regardless of how strong the storm.

When your team can anticipate what’s coming downstream, you can better focus and leverage skills to be flexible through any event.

The Role From Executive Support

Executive support and engagement are also critical for building a culture of resilience.

However, many organizations struggle to gain executive and key stakeholder support.

So, how do you do that?

As a resilience management professional, it’s your responsibility to invest time in effort in building executive rapport and aligning your program’s goals and objectives to the overall business strategy.

This is more than just going to meetings with your executives and board members. It’s about finding an executive sponsor and working together to demonstrate the value and organizational alignment you bring to the table.

But a crisis is not the time to try to earn a spot at that table. Culture building depends on collaborative interactions, data that supports better business decision making, and workflow processes that add value to the organization as a whole. It’s how you design resilience into your organization.

Not All Risks Are Equal

Understanding that not all risks that your organization faces are equal—and developing skills to communicate that effectively—is another important part of resilience culture building. If you approach your program from a “the-sky-is-falling” perspective, you can easily create fatigue and a bit of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” eye-rolling within your organization.

Some risks are worse than others. Some won’t exceed your risk threshold. Others will. So, it’s important to ensure you’re effectively communicating and deploying incident-appropriate responses when things go awry.

Essentially, your plans are the foundation of resilience management, but that doesn’t mean they’re the sole focus.

There is a growing understanding across the industry that it’s just not possible to plan for every event type or situation. Accepting that is key. Days of unmanaged plans that cover every imagined event and response type need to become a thing of the past.

Just as all risks are not equal, neither are all plans. Instead, it’s about building strategies that adapt and flex, no matter what you face. This enables your teams to build manageable, succinct, and short plans based on risks and off-set strategies.

Your program should build confidence that if something happens, you have the foundation of what you need to react, respond, and recover.

Affecting Culture Change

Changing or influencing an organization’s culture is not without challenges. To overcome those, you must be deliberate, disciplined, and not afraid to hold your organization accountable.

Think of it as building an organization that has all the tools it needs to bend but not break during a crisis.

“If you can’t match the culture of your organization to build a resiliency program, you alone are not going to change that,” Pickren said. “You can’t force an organization to be the culture you want.”

And that goes beyond testing, exercises, and executive support. It’s also about how you build and work with your teams.

“You have to be able to establish a culture of collaboration and open communication and fun,” Pickren said. “People have to know how passionate you are. Every time they see you, how excited you are, but also how willing you are to help them.”

Want to hear more from our conversation with Ann Pickren, including additional insight into how you can master critical event management? Listen to the full episode, “Fleshing Out the Details of Critical Event Management with Ann Pickren,” which is available on the Castellan website or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

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