Position statement on organizational resilience

The Business Continuity Institute

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In recent years, there has been a significant amount of attention given to the concept of organizational resilience across the business continuity industry. Much of the debate has focused on the principles and practice of organizational resilience, and how this relates to the established business continuity management discipline.

The aim of this position statement, which has been produced and ratified by the Board of the Business Continuity Institute, is to add clarity regarding the position of business continuity in the context of organizational resilience. It also provides the BCI’s perspective on how the development of resilience concepts may impact on the practice of business continuity.

The BCI believes that this position statement will contribute to our stated purpose to "promote a more resilient world”. We also hope that it helps to move forward the future development of organizational resilience concepts, beyond definitional debates, towards a collaborative understanding between participants across many management disciplines.

Tim Janes Hon. FBCI, BCI Board Member

Organizational Resilience – BCI Position Statement - February 2016

Key Points:

  • Business continuity is not the same as organizational resilience.
  • The effective enhancement of organizational resilience will require a collaborative effort between many management disciplines.
  • No single management discipline or member association can credibly claim ‘ownership’ of organizational resilience, and organizational resilience cannot be described as a subset of another management discipline or standard.
  • Business continuity principles and practices are an essential contribution for an organization seeking to develop and enhance effective resilience capabilities.
  • The wide range of activities required to develop and enhance organizational resilience capabilities provide an opportunity for business continuity practitioners to broaden their skills and knowledge, building on the foundation of their business continuity experience and credentials.
  • The BCI, working with related partners and industry groups where appropriate, will develop relevant knowledge resources and training to support members who wish to advance their organizational resilience knowledge and skills.

Organizational Resilience

In recent years, the concept of organizational resilience has attracted a significant amount of attention across the business continuity industry. Debate has focused on the principles and practice of organizational resilience, and how it relates to the established business continuity discipline. On occasion, the term 'organizational resilience' has been taken to mean the same as 'business continuity'.

This paper does not intend to add further to the debate in terms of the formal definition of organizational resilience. Rather the aim is to clarify the position of business continuity in the context of organizational resilience and how it impacts on business continuity practitioners. While there is still much debate on the definition of organization resilience, for the sake of simplicity, this paper takes the definition contained in the draft ISO 22316.

Organizational Resilience is the: 

"adaptive capacity of an organization in a complex and changing environment"
ISO /WD 22316. Societal Security – Guidelines for organizational resilience

It is clear from this statement that organizational resilience is characterised as a broad concept. It is also widely accepted that organizational resilience draws on the experience and efforts of a large number of interrelated management disciplines. Business continuity is just one of the management disciplines that contribute to an organization’s resilience capabilities. The list of contributory disciplines is extensive; just a few examples include emergency management, crisis management, ICT service continuity, occupational health and safety, environment protection, physical security, supply chain management, information security management and various forms of risk management (e.g. credit, market, enterprise).

For this reason, no one management discipline or member association can credibly claim ‘ownership’ of organizational resilience concepts and principles. Furthermore, organizational resilience cannot be properly described as a subset of another management discipline or standard.

Clearly, business continuity and organizational resilience are not the same thing. However, it is apparent that business continuity provides principles and practices that are an essential contributor for any organization seeking to develop and enhance its resilience capabilities.

For example, business continuity practices explain how organizations can identify their priority activities and the risks of disruption to those activities. Established business continuity standards help organizations to understand what is required to ensure priority activities can continue in the face of disruption, and to rehearse the capability to respond to disruption through practical exercises.

Therefore, business continuity practitioners possess many, but not all, of the knowledge and skills that are necessary to help organizations to develop and enhance resilience capabilities.

As noted previously, a wide range of business activities and management disciplines contribute towards enhanced organizational resilience. It is unlikely that a single person in any organization will possess the necessary knowledge and skills to implement and deliver all resilience objectives. The development and enhancement of organizational resilience capabilities will require a collaborative effort between participants across many management disciplines.

This presents an opportunity for BCI members. Business continuity practitioners who wish to become resilience professionals can build on their proven competencies, broaden their knowledge and develop new skills in areas that contribute further to an organization’s resilience activities.

It is the BCI’s stated purpose to "promote a more resilient world”. The BCI recognises that this objective is supported when business continuity practitioners have access to a broad range of resilience-focused information and training. The BCI will support its members who seek to develop their organizational resilience knowledge and skills by providing access to relevant resources. This may be either directly through the BCI, training partners or working in collaboration with related industry associates and professional members groups.

If you have any questions regarding the BCI's statement on organizational resilience, please email the BCI's Head of Learning and Development – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.