Before COVID, I ran several Spartan races. The challenge of being outdoors and running down the trail while overcoming obstacles to finish the race . . . what a rush! The final accomplishment of achieving the objective of the finish line by leaping over the fire is an accomplishment.

In the ever-evolving landscape of uncertainty in achieving business objectives, organizations are like endurance athletes on a rugged trail encountering obstacles. Each turn and dip holds potential risks—yet also opportunities. The athlete’s dual objectives of maintaining speed while avoiding missteps mirror the organizational imperative of risk agility and resilience. This analogy paints a vivid picture of the strategic approach necessary for navigating today’s business environment to achieve objectives and sets the stage for a deeper understanding of integrating resilience (formerly business continuity) into risk management as part of a broader integrated GRC (governance, risk management, and compliance) strategy.

The Trail Ahead: Navigating with Agility

Imagine an athlete traversing a complex trail network with obstacles. Their success hinges on their ability to quickly perceive changes in the terrain and adjust their path accordingly. Similarly, organizations must cultivate risk agility: the capability to rapidly identify and react to risks as they arise on the horizon and plan on the best approach. This agility is crucial in avoiding potential pitfalls and capitalizing on opportunities swiftly. What is developing on the horizon may very well be a hazard, or it could be an opportunity, and perhaps both.

The foundation of risk agility lies in the organization’s ability to gain a holistic view of its risk landscape and understand scenarios on what is developing on the horizon. Modern businesses operate in a dynamic environment where risks such as market volatility, technological disruptions, economic uncertainty, and geopolitical shifts can arise suddenly and with little warning. Organizations that continuously monitor these horizon risks and opportunities can adapt their strategies proactively rather than reactively to achieve their objectives. For instance, a company might use predictive analytics to detect emerging market trends and technological innovations, allowing it to pivot its operations to exploit new market opportunities or mitigate potential disruptions from competitors. Scenario analysis, simulations, and table-top exercises are critical to navigating uncertainty/risk.

Staying the Course: The Resilience to Recover

No matter how agile an athlete—or an organization—might be, missteps are inevitable. Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from these setbacks, whether they are minor or catastrophic. For businesses, this means having systems and processes that can absorb the impact of a risk event and quickly return to normal operations or, in some cases, a new, more effective operational state. Organizations need strategic and operational intelligence on how the business operates and recovers.

Resilience in business is multifaceted, involving financial stability, operational redundancy, and a strong organizational culture that can withstand and adapt to challenges. For example, a multinational corporation might have backup supply chains to ensure continuity in the face of regional disruptions, such as what we are seeing on the Eastern seaboard of the USA with the bridge collapse in Maryland. Similarly, fostering a culture that encourages rapid problem-solving and adaptation among employees can enhance an organization’s ability to stabilize operations during and after a crisis.

From Continuity to Resilience: The Evolution of Strategy

The evolution from business continuity planning to operational resilience marks a significant shift in organizational strategy. Traditional business continuity focuses on recovery and restoration of operations post-disruption. In contrast, operational resilience is an ongoing strategy that integrates risk and resilience management into the very fabric of business operations, aiming not just for recovery but for continuous operation under adverse conditions.

This strategic shift requires organizations to rethink their approach to risk. It involves integrating risk management with strategic planning processes, ensuring that potential risks are considered in decision-making at all levels. It also means investing in technology that can provide comprehensive risk intelligence, such as systems that offer real-time insights into global operations, supply chains, and market conditions.

Implementing a Holistic Approach: Strategy, Process, Intelligence, and Technology

Achieving risk agility and resilience necessitates a concerted effort across four domains: strategy, process, intelligence, and technology.

  1. Risk & Resilience Management Strategy. First, the strategy must align with the organization’s long-term goals and include a clear framework for risk and resilience management. This strategic alignment ensures that every part of the organization understands its role in mitigating risks.
  2. Risk & Resilience Management Processes. Second, processes must be designed to support agile and resilient operations. This involves creating standard operating procedures that include risk assessments, scenario analysis, response protocols, and continuous learning cycles where insights from past incidents are used to strengthen future resilience.
  3. Risk & Resilience Management Intelligence/Information. Third, strong risk and resilience intelligence enables the strategy and process. The ability to take in feeds of information on geo-political risk, market/economic risks, uncertainty, supplier and vendor alerts, and more. The organization needs complete 360° situational awareness, which requires intelligence feeds.
  4. Risk & Resilience Management Technology. Finally, technology is crucial in enabling risk agility and resilience management. Advanced data analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning can provide organizations with the tools to predict, detect, and respond to risks in real-time. These technologies also support decision-making processes, ensuring that data-driven insights are available to guide strategic choices and provide structured workflow, accountability, reporting, and dashboards.

Conclusion: Leading the Race with Agility and Resilience

Just as an endurance athlete relies on both agility to navigate the trail ahead and resilience to overcome the inevitable falls, modern organizations must integrate these capabilities into their GRC strategies to integrate resilience into enterprise risk management strategies. The journey from traditional business continuity to operational resilience is complex and challenging but ultimately rewarding and becomes part of enterprise risk management that flows into the broader GRC, which enables an organization “to reliably achieve objectives [governance], address uncertainty [risk management], and act with integrity [compliance].” By fostering a culture of continuous adaptation and learning, organizations can not only survive but thrive in the face of uncertainty; to thrive on risk. This requires a comprehensive approach that blends strategic foresight with robust processes and cutting-edge technology, ensuring that the organization remains competitive and capable of overcoming any obstacle in its path.

GRC 20/20 Risk & Resilience Events & Resources

Upcoming Webinars


Research Briefing

Research Papers

Upcoming Workshop

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *