Resilience is a term that has probably been used more of the last six months than it has over the last six years. In engineering, a resilient material is one that quickly returns to its original shape after being stretched, twisted or deformed in some way. A resilient organisation is much more than this.
The measure of a resilient care organisation is the extent to which it can carry on delivering services as usual in the face of extreme unexpected events. It’s also the extent to which it can cope with new situations, additional demands and pressures and learn from experience.
Resilience is sometimes assessed through stress tests. These explore how well finances and systems would hold up in extreme circumstances. It’s a way to see where there are significant risks and where systems and business tools would not function effectively or even fail in extreme circumstances.
The entire care ecosystem, from commissioners right through to individual care workers, has undergone a massive stress test in recent months. Unfortunately, it wasn’t an exercise, it was real life and driven by a deadly pandemic. What lessons were learned, and what risks were exposed?
Learning from Experience
Smart organisations are looking back at the experience and assessing what broke or nearly did, and whether tools and processes were sufficiently robust. There’s little doubt that organisations across multiple sectors – not just care – that had invested in cloud-based business tools found it easier to adapt when offices had to close and people had to maintain social distancing.
For others, the situation exposed a key weakness in their continuity planning and systems. It’s too common and easy to assess what tools a business needs by the current ‘normal’ situation. It’s far harder to imagine worst case scenarios and ask questions like: ‘If all of our data is on a server in the office, what happens if nobody can use the office?’ Well, now we don’t have to imagine – we know!
The New Reality
Suddenly, the debate about whether to retain legacy systems and processes or to upgrade to cloud-based systems that support remote and flexible working takes on a different complexion. It isn’t just about efficiency gains or easy information sharing, it’s suddenly about survival.
The other feature of any crisis is how quickly some individuals and organisations go back to what they were doing (the classic view of resilience). The urgency to change gets overlooked as routines return to what they were. Organisations that want to be more resilient don’t make this mistake. They heed the lessons and resolve to do immediately what they probably should already have done.