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Resilience for Organisational Change


Building capacity for change

We've recently developed a new product offering: Resilience for Change.  Given the amount of change we get to see across hundreds of client organisations, we've wondered for a long time about how we can help build capacity for change within organisations.  By this we mean - how can we help individuals and team absorb change, respond to change, cope with the change, and even grow through the change and learn to thrive during change.

When you think about it, we human beings actually quite enjoy change, and often bring change voluntarily into our lives (think about the promotions and jobs you’ve gone for, the new house you’ve sought, the challenges you’ve sought out in your life in order to stretch yourself and prove to yourself that you can achieve big things!).  We know that lack of control within organisational change can be a huge debilitating factor.  But what else needs to be accounted for, when organisations are embarking on huge change initiatives?

Our research into resilience at work has enlightened us on this.

People vary in the extent to which they have the capacity to be resilient.  And, everyone can work on their resilience to increase it.  Our early years have a huge influence on our resilience for later in life: risk factors include the adversities we have faced in early life, low socio-economic status, and marital tensions to name but a few.  Protective factors include our ability to problem solve, our intelligence, and our ability to form friendships and supportive relationships.  The good news is that these protective factors, over which we have control, have more impact on our life course than the risk factors.

Professor Salvatore Maddi conducted a 12 year study of managers and executives at the Illinois Bell Telephone company.  This organisation had formed out of a part of AT&T when the telecommunications industry in the  States was deregulated.  This involved seismic changes for the 450 men and women in Maddi’s research subjects.  He discovered that two thirds of his group did not and could not cope with the uncertainties, chaos, confusion, fears for the future; symptoms included negative physical impacts (e.g. increased rates of strokes, heart attacks, increased blood pressure) as well as emotional (e.g. depression, panic attacks, anger tantrums, confusion) and addictions (e.g. alcoholism, drug dependencies).  The other third, however, had the complete opposite reaction.  They remained healthy and happy, their relationships with others at work and at home improved during the change, and they received excellent performance reviews.   In effect, they thrived in the chaos.  Maddi identified what he called ‘Three hardy attitudes’:

  • Emotional Commitment to do one's best (through the change) and to help others as well
  • An attitude of Control - a belief that one can influence the change in some way
  • Facing up to the Challenge - and learning from it

We have produced a Taylor Clarke model, made up of three broad areas:

  • 'Me' - my personal resilience characteristics e.g. my self-belief
  • 'It' - the change I'm in, and how i respond to that change e.g. seeing wider perspectives and seeking to find ways round any problems; and
  • 'Them' - the importance of others around me when my resilience is being tested, e.g. do i have people around me whom i can turn to for support

Resilience _for _Change _V2


We now have a toolkit of resources to support individuals, teams, and leaders, in diagnosing resilience capacity, and building on it, in order to support individuals and team to prepare for, and cope with, organisational change.  Our aim in developing our resilience product has been offer practical and relevant to workshops and rools to enable amanagers at all levels to self-diagnose their resilience, and that of their teams, and to be supported in building that resilience, laying down capability for the future, and the changes yet to be encountered.


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