Organizational resilience through crisis strategic planning

University dissertation from Tampere University of Technology

Abstract: Resilience, in an organizational sense meaning the ability to withstand crises and disturbances, has become a keyword during the last ten years. It is associated with established activities like risk and crisis management and business continuity planning or with strategic management, but it allows for new perspectives and insights into the conditions for doing business. Applied to the whole supply chain it also provides tools for managing and aligning the logistics flows in an appropriate way. But why is resilience essential for success or survival?In context to the Swedish textile and clothing (T&C) industry, the average number of firms that went bankrupt during the recent crisis (2007-09) escalated twofold compared to the average over 2000-10 due to tremendous pressure on the Swedish credit system. The structural industrial statistics also plummeted in these crisis years aggravating other inherent or internal problems as a ’ripple effect’. The small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) were the most affected of all, facing major threats to their financial performance and ultimately to their survival, at times of economic crises. In such a context, study of organizational resilience (ORes), to survive and thrive becomes increasingly significant.To address this issue the thesis concentrates on understanding the resilience development process through crisis strategic planning in context to Swedish textile-related SMEs amidst economic crises. It investigates and answers how resilience development can be considered as a precursor for business success, how to develop and monitor resilience, and identifies its antecedents and key strategic initiatives and their differential degrees of influence. No prior studies describing organizational resilience and crisis strategic planning in an integrated processual approach using both short-term and long-term strategies through planning and adaptation were found in the literature.The thesis adopts a critical realist-grounded theory (CR-GT) approach along the metaphysical level as the structure for the resilience development process follows a causal relationship between the object (the organization), its structure (competences and strategies), the causal power (crisis strategic planning) for attaining an event/outcome (resilience) in a particular context (economic crisis).For addressing this issue of devising an outcome-based processual approach, a multivariate financial indicator called the Altman’s Z-score (used basically for calculating bankruptcy potential in firms) was used for quantifying resilience. For investigating the causal mechanism epistemological relativism along the grounded theory approach was chosen for theory generation. A mixed methodology was adopted based on quantitative statistical analyses, at first, followed by a detailed qualitative work based on surveys, interviews, case studies and secondary data for data triangulation.Analysis of data was conducted through certain thematic coding principles. A four-step hermeneutic spiral was followed by systematically combining the pre-understanding, empirics and extant literature to develop a theoretical framework through constant modification. Overall, the resilience development was highlighted along a processual framework adopted along the CR-GT view of causation.The findings are manifold. Firstly there is a need to develop economic resilience in SMEs to shift from just component-view to a more holistic systemic view of organizations, upheld by an integrated crisis strategic planning (CSP) approach, for facing dynamic environments. Secondly, the CSP process prescribed in the thesis is quite integrated and holistic, taking a view from all angles, viz. organizational structure (capabilities and strategies), processual approach etc. Such a resilience development process through CSP is based on a six-step process: (i) identification of environmental context, (ii) impact analysis, (iii) leadership analysis, (iv) capability analysis, (v) formulation/selection and implementation of strategies, and (vi) evaluation and review of strategic options, utilizing a suite of strategic tools and techniques and is particularly simple for application in an SME setting. Third, operationalization of such a causal mechanism based upon implementation of strategic tools is based upon using a multivariate financial indicator like Altman’s Z-score to outline the relation between ORes and business ‘health’, thus quantifying it. Finally, in order to develop a resilient organization it is important to engage and utilize effectively the key resources and assets (financial, material, social, networks) by developing dynamic capabilities (strategic and operational flexibilities, redundancy, robustness) and organizational learning (culture, employee wellbeing, attentive leadership and decision-making). These competences must be employed for the appropriate strategy development (selection, implementation, and evaluation) framed on both growth and continuity strategies, both planned and adaptive in nature. The research develops a holistic analytical framework of organizational structure for resilience development based on these two criteria. It also tests this framework for Swedish textile-related SMEs amidst economic crises. The findings in this contextual delimitation suggest that the resilient SMEs possess better financial resources, relational networks, operational & strategic flexibilities. The economically resilient firms mostly showed planned resilience in economic crises based on long-term strategies through business continuity planning (BCP) and in terms of growth strategies through market penetration, diversification and transformational initiatives. These firms also showed better short-term crisis management (CM) through higher operational flexibility while the less resilient ones lacked in strategic readiness due to resource scarcity. This is beneficial for firms to understand the key areas in which to invest and develop a multistrategic CSP model, categorizing firms along different resilience types – planned or adaptive.