Organizational resilience - a review of the literature, with lessons learned from a corporate governance and SME perspective

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Prof. dr. ir. Regine Slagmulder
Organisation type

Companies are currently operating in an environment of unprecedented risk and uncertainty linked to economic turbulence, geopolitical turmoil, looming climate change, and global health crises. While many organizations suffer setbacks when confronted with adversity, some seem to be more successful than others in responding to unexpected or extreme events. These companies appear to have found ways to rebound and emerge stronger, a phenomenon described in the literature as “resilience”. Organizational resilience is an increasingly popular theme in both academic research and business practice. In addition, several professional bodies have issued standards and guidelines covering principles and activities for enhancing organizational resilience (ISO, 2017).

The aim of this paper is to review the current state of resilience research, how organizational resilience is defined and conceptualized, and which mechanisms are used to make it work in practice. We summarize the main findings from the literature before briefly elaborating on resilience in small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). We will also make the link with corporate governance practice as boards, executives, shareholders, and other stakeholders have a shared responsibility for safeguarding the company’s long-term resilience. We trust the insights captured in this paper are of interest to those concerned with developing effective resilience in their organizations.