What is Resilience in Projects?

What is Resilience?

Resilience is ability to withstand change without completely altering your plan or ability to recover fast from things you didn’t expect.

Lately there’s been a lot of discussion about resilience, resilience and IT but not so much talk on resilience in projects means. Main reason for this? In my mind I think it’s hard to prove resilience in projects and when you get it right, it’s usually not shown.


First of all resilience is invisible when you get it right. What does this mean?

It means in projects you plan multiple ways to get to same goal. Each way support each other and when “chance occurs” it seems like it was actually planned like this.

I’ll take short example from traditional way to proceed to a more resilient way. When I explain this it might sound self evident, but still people do planning usually in different, less robust way.

If you want people to learn how your governance bodies work (A), what are the team responsibilities (B) and what are each key roles responsibilities (C). Why would you make an order on how to train this?

A to B to C. This just creates an illusion in your mind that you can not do it in any other way and you will go on defense on how to proceed when something goes wrong. Usually major re-engineering is required.

Which is Usually the Scenario?

Scenario 1: Everything goes as planned and project is on schedule.

Scenario 2: Something unexpected happens: Key resources don’t have enough time, training many people scheduling is hard and time span expands or yearly budgeting surprises the whole organization.

What if you would think of an way A to train that supports both B and C and way B to train that supports A and C and way C to train that supports A and B? You would no longer be bound by the same strict linear thinking on how to proceed.

Or when actual change occurs, you would think: “It always happens, what’s the way forward” instead of “oh my God, we’re all going to die!”. I guess this is resilience on personal level than on a project though.


Why people then intuitively don’t play in resilient and robust ways? I think there’s two main reasons for it:


  • People are not good in withstanding uncertainty. However it is usually a given attribute that you can not affect, not much at least. You should not be afraid of it and wish it did not happen, but to identify it and act accordingly: Identify, embrace and adapt.
  • It requires a lot more work to get to a simple idea that still is robust.

How to Improve?

To improve on this is change your thinking on data in first and make analysis later. This might sound reasonable, but unfortunately it happens usually on intuitive level instead of conscious. When it happens on conscious level it’s usually on “portfolio level” where things are more clear, but not in micro level (on project in this example). I will go over this in more detail in my next post.

Simple way of improving your idea from linear to more robust is to have it plugged full of holes. Great technique I learned on Advanced Cynefin Tutorial for this is Ritual Dissent.

Basically you will go to group A with an idea and tell them how and what you are doing, then they will shred it apart, then you will go to next different group after you improved on your idea and keep doing this. There’s a lot of finesse on how to do this correctly that you can read from the link.

More common way is to track and block risks (risk management). You should always do this, but there are bad and good ways of doing it (I will get back on this one as well).


I think resilience is not present in many projects and it should be. What usually happens, is blurring details in start calling it “this is how it was supposed to be” after an year. The key reason resilience is not present is reaction that uncertainty raises in us (sCarf). It’s been researched a lot by the NeuroLeadership Group and to our best knowledge right now: That’s the way we as humans work intuitively, we protect ourselves. However if you want to be better, you need to do some things in an counter intuitive way and train on picking this feeling and your reaction earlier to gain control of it.


You can get better in two ways: Develop your thinking from intuitive to conscious and learn techniques that help you improve on this (like Ritual Dissent and risk management).

This entry was posted in Lean, Learning, Resilience, Risk Management. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to What is Resilience in Projects?

  1. Pingback: Just in Time | Troikka

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