Want to be more resilient? Here are the 10 elements required


By Veronica B. Marquez

Resiliency: A word that has been mentioned in several articles, chats, and webinars since the beginning of the COVID crisis, but is not new. A word that is part of business lingo but is seldom understood. A word that encourages people to accept and adapt to change, when few deal with change easily. A word that is synonymous with strength, adaptability, flexibility, durability, toughness, and elasticity.

Resiliency means staying balanced during the struggles of extreme conditions while managing one’s capacity to adapt, learn and improve. For people and organisations, resiliency is a catalyst for performance. For people it also significantly impacts mental state and well-being as well as helping with the physical effects, like stress, blood pressure, cholesterol, and cardiac rhythm.  

We know what resiliency is, but how often do we see or read about the right conditions to help resiliencygrow? How do we create such an environment? I propose 10 key essential elements for resiliency to flourish in people and in organisations.

1.    Sharing the goal, the mission

Simon Sinek’s book “Start With Why” shows the importance of knowing and understanding why we do the things that we do, “knowing your WHY is not the only way to be successful, but it is the only way to maintain a lasting success and have a greater blend of innovation and flexibility”.

Adrenaline and firefighting are great temporary motivators, but when people don’t know what they are fighting for, they get out of breath quicker than those that believe in the cause. When people work towards a common goal, share a mission, they strive together towards something. It gives them meaning.

In our Lean world, the True North gives us such perspective and focus, it indicates to all team members the priorities and the objectives, so that we all work in the same direction.

2.    Following the progress

Intimes of adversity, there may be several projects or actions that need to be undertaken at the same time. Making sure that the entire team is aware of the ongoing efforts, that they know who is responsible for which part is crucial.Understanding which projects are strategic, of capital importance or“nice-to-have” will also help in making sure that the efforts are deployed according to severity and importance.

Following the progress also means being able to see when projects have stalled or when the efforts are not offering the expected results. Making the difficult choice of stopping a project requires managerial courage, communication, and recognition of the efforts deployed. But most importantly, it is still an opportunity to learn from the project, learn of the steps and the reasons why it did not bring the expected results. That learning can then be applied to future projects and ensure their success.

The Lean Management System offers hourly and daily tracking of the objectives, identifying gaps against the goals, and the ability to put in place measures and counteractions to return efforts to the right direction.

3.    Giving recognition

By following project progress, we can share and celebrate wins with the entire team, even those that are not directly involved. This will provide encouragement and motivation to pursue the efforts and gives added meaning to all the efforts that they have put forth.

Recognizing the work of people on projects that are cancelled is as crucial to maintaining their engagement, give them strength for the next project, and to share the learnings gained. Their experience will help others in their own projects. In a culture of continuous improvement, not all ideas generate results and the ‘failures’ are as important as the wins, especially when we learn from them.

4.    Having compassion, for our team and oneself

As leaders, we are there to help our teams succeed and coach them through adversity. For many people, adversity drives intense focus and discipline, but it is also accompanied by discomfort and uncertainty, which require greater physical and mental energy. Resilient people tend to be results-oriented and see adversity as a challenge. The role of the leader is to understand the reality of what their team is going through (in and outside of work) and set limits so team members know they can have balance during these difficult times.

Leaders that show compassion for their team, also need to take care of themselves. This means understanding what one’s own limits are and recognizing that mental and physical health are key components of being resilient.

TheLean leader, during huddles, has the opportunity to enquire about their team members, their health, their mental status, to encourage all and provide support for those that need it.

5.    Building and taking care of positive relationships that create a supporting environment

Having a great group of people that works well together enforces the motivation to success, defuses the stress with playfulness, creates an environment where sharing information and knowledge is valued, and boosts self-confidence and self-esteem. Respect of people, respect of ideas, accepting different and crazy ideas, testing them out and letting data dictate the next steps drives engagement and ideation. If no idea is too crazy, then all ideas are great to try.  

In the Lean culture, RESPECT is at the core of everything that we do. We respect people, their experience, expertise, and ideas. Lean encourages teamwork, through standardization, but also through coaching and kaizen events.

6.    Having a healthy relationship with control

Understanding what we can and cannot control will ensure that the focus is in the right place. When performing a fishbone diagram, the team members identify the variables that they can work on, ensuring their time is spent on value-added work. The same is true for resiliency. This tool not only lets us see all the variables that affect our issue but creates consensus in identifying what can be controlled by the team members and acted upon.

7.    Being optimistic

No one can reach a target if they think from the beginning that it is unattainable.Having objectives that are attainable, even if stretched, creates a challenge.Staying positive, believing that adversity will turn into opportunity, striving together towards making it better will drive optimism. Without that, resiliency is impossible.

8.    Having time for oneself so that Calming the mind is possible

Having time to stop, exercise, think, process what is going on is crucial to gaining abetter understanding of the situation at hand. Stepping away from the problem provides a better perspective of the situation, to gain new insights and develop new ideas for improving.

When we read about Lean, most of the time we hear about reducing muda. Often time, muri and mura are not mentioned. Having time for oneself to calm the mind requires not to be overworked, the muri principal.

9.    Trusting our own abilities

Our experiences have led us down certain paths that give us insights, knowledge and expertise. Through our life experiences, we gain perspective which lets us see and understand the world around us. Putting together our different perspectives, building upon our diversity and upon the knowledge from the entire team, lets us be better equipped to handle what’s to come.

Trusting our abilities also means that we accept and recognize that mistakes will take place, and that they provide an opportunity to learn. As our own Karyn Ross says “I’m human, and being human inherently means I’m going to make mistakes! There are things I’m good at...and things I’m not good at! And that’s okay! There are many others who are good at the things I’m not who I can ask for help from! That’s why there are so many of us here on no one needs to be perfect!”

10.  Establishing a routine

Having a routine, a standard approach to performing tasks, provides security, guidelines, as well as a fall-back position. Routines establish how things need to be done, prevent people from wasting time searching, help maintain and grow the knowledge within the organisation, share work methods in order to improve processes, and finally can be a method of reinforcement that reduces variations.

InLean, one such tool is standardized work. It helps people know where to be and what to do, removes the doubt and questions about frequently executed work so that they can free up their time for the exceptions, the problem-solving side of their daily work.

Finally, all these steps are necessary to get to a point where people feel robust enough to handle the disturbances and continue to operate, resourceful enough to oversee the management of the crises as it happens and to put in a place a strategy for rapid recovery while adapting to the changing situation, learning from these experiences and incorporating this new learning within the organisation’s processes and decisions. This is what being resilient is all about!

So Lean leaders, continue on! We are helping develop resilient individuals who will then be able to transform their organisation into one that is resilient and that can tackle whatever the world throws at them. Because the only constant is that change will continue to happen, and resiliency will be required in abundance to succeed in the new normality.

This article was first published in Women in Lean's Magazine, vol. 1.

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