The Four Cornerstones of Resilience

Updated: Jun 29, 2020

Erik Hollnagel writes in the book Resilience Engineering (2009) that companies are resilient if they are: able to adjust their functioning prior to, during, or following events to ensure continuation of operations under both expected and unexpected conditions. He defines four essential properties that characterize these organizations:

  1. Ability to respond to current challenges

  2. Ability to monitor incoming critical situations

  3. Ability to anticipate the occurrence of future events

  4. Ability to learn from the past

These abilities constitute a resilient system when they work together to achieve the emergence of organizational resilience. In light of these four cornerstones, anticipation along with planning may be considered as crucial since they help to envisage the required level of resiliency, performance, and capabilities in response to anticipated events. These will need to be established long before an event occurs. In addition, the performance of the system will be determined more by how each ability functions as a whole rather than separately which requires planning. During the COVID-19 crisis many organizations will find themselves responding (perhaps reacting) to current uncertainties which is necessary. However, it will the ones that have all of the four cornerstones that will be most resilient during the months ahead. Organizations that are missing the four cornerstones should not wait until the crisis is over to make improvements. COVID-19 can become the catalyst to greater resiliency now and for future events. Be Safe.


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