Agile & Digital

Why we don’t focus on resilience in our training

It has become a trend with clients recently to discuss training resilience in their employees. There is nothing wrong with resilience, and in many cases it is admirable. But for organisations to push resilience is often the wrong message.

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from tough failures or adversity. It is the ability to continue to battle forward despite adversity. And in modern complex and digitally integrated organisations it is easy to argue that the responsibility of resilience falls on the individual to pursue.

Working with a client yesterday we were faced once again with the question of whether we will address resilience. My colleague’s response was that “we need our employees to have resilience if they see failure as a bad thing”. If we actually re-frame the conversation to addressing the underlying reasons that we view failure and adversity as negatives, then resilience moves from the responsibility of the individual to the responsibility of the corporate culture.

A lot of our recent focus has been readdressing the organisational response to failure with clients going through their Digital Transformation. Agile & Digital working is predicated on the assumption that you can fail fast and test and learn. Without the failure and without the learning our ability to innovate at pace is handcuffed. However, too often senior leadership talk a good game and communicate the positives of failing, without providing the space and empowerment to put it into action.

A client of ours takes this even further and talks about accountability as not the person whose “head is going to roll”, but instead “the person who can celebrate first”. Because we aren’t good at supporting failure and aren’t excellent at celebrating success we have come to expect the answer to be individual resilience.

So, how can you support the change to making failure positive in your organisation:

    1. Focus on where you want innovation
      1. Not all areas of the business you want to be regularly failing (e.g. payroll). However, there will be areas where the opportunity for innovation is greater, so focus there
    2. Start making failures more visible and celebrating them
      1. Share your biggest failures with your team and ask your manager to do the same
      2. Make sure to not only share the failure, but just as importantly share what you learnt
    3. Make the failure sharing a regular part of your work
      1. This needs to be consistent to continue to remind the team that failure is a part of the process
      2. Our client yesterday came up with the idea of having a monthly award for Biggest Learning
      3. At Global Integration we have a company Chatter where we have a thread specifically created for our failures and what we learnt
  1. Don’t forget to also celebrate success
    1. Celebrating failure also needs to sit alongside celebrating success. Spontaneous acts of celebration often are more well received than regular awards so go out of your way to make someone’s day!

Finally, start small and manageable. The value of this is the consistency over time, as changing long-held culture will be hard. However, over time we have seen organisations be able to readdress their mindset around failure. This has meant that although resilience can still be part of the answer, there are some more fundamentals that need to be in place first.

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