Often referred to in corporate circles as 'Business Continuity', resilience is the practice of preparing your agency to survive, and even thrive, in the face of adversity.

Most agencies only work on this in two scenarios:

  1. Some kind of shit hits the fan and they need to respond immediately
  2. A client's procurement team asks for a business continuity plan

So, unhealthy agencies rely on 'positive thinking' — hoping nothing unexpected happens. But healthy agencies rely on 'positive action' — preparing in case something unexpected does happen.

And you know what? Unexpected stuff happens all the time. Political upsets, economic troubles, corporate failures, illnesses, terrorism, wars, strikes, fires, new competitors, key staff leaving, and so on. From huge events, to small events, there's a lot of stuff the universe wants to throw at your plans for the business.

That's why the healthy agencies are able to be calm agencies — because they expect the unexpected, and have proactively prepared for it.

They work on their resilience preparations for their own purposes, ahead of any external need for them.

This enables them to:

  • make better strategic decisions, aware of the wider context and risks.
  • provide clients with wise advice in advance, and be seen as trusted advisers
  • be ready for a wide range of adverse events, able to quickly adjust course, and still deliver the same results

Improving agency resilience

In this section of the Playbook we'll look at the approach and tools you can use to improve the resilience of your agency.

The UK intelligence services define risk (in their counter-terrorism strategy) as:

Risk level = likelihood x vulnerability x impact

and then focus their work on specific initiatives to reduce the likelihood, vulnerability and impact of the key risks, which has the result of reducing the risk level.

We can adopt a broadly similar approach for our agencies.

This work is divided into five steps:

  • Recognise risks: identify what kinds of events could impact your agency
  • Reduce likelihood: identify ways to make it less likely that these events will happen
  • Reduce vulnerability: prepare the agency's defences against such events happening
  • Reduce impact: prepare the agency to be ready to respond more effectively if those events happen, and recover more quickly
  • Reinvent: the best organisations are able to learn and innovate based on what they learn in preparation, and if adverse events do happen, to become significantly better at what they do, and even find competitive edges. Good agencies can become stronger from adverse events.

And then all of this can be brought together in your Agency Resilience Plan, which can be in a document, on your intranet, or in your team's playbook.

Then you have a single source of all your thinking on ensuring your agency is prepared for the unexpected, and will not only survive, but also thrive.