MAPping the Future

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The challenge of building resilient organizations

written by Mr. GERARDO “Gerry” A. PLANA - July 31, 2023

The 2023 Management Association of the Philippines Human Resources (HR) Summit discussed with great enthusiasm the high resilience of Filipinos when compared with other countries. While this is good news, the fact remains that having resilient individuals is not enough to build resilient organizations. Typical organizations are not built to change; they are built to scale. Built-to-scale organizations are focused on increasing performance levels of existing businesses. Through the hierarchy, which upholds principles of unity of command and limited span of control, these organizations can ensure consistency, reliability and efficiency in their operations. There is no room for mistakes. Customers demand perfect products and services. The battlecry is “Zero defects.”

Driving innovation

On the other hand, built-to-change organizations, working through a network of teams, are obsessed with continuous improvement and innovation. To these organizations, innovation is their insurance against irrelevance. When trying out new ideas, these organizations have a different perspective on mistakes and failures. These are considered as learning opportunities. In driving innovation, learning is prioritized over performance. The battlecry is “Fail fast, learn fast.”

However, we are not asked to make a choice. We are not choosing to either become a built-to-scale organization or a built-to-change organization. To be a resilient organization, we need to be good in both performance and innovation. However, these two desirable outcomes require different mindsets, skill sets and structures. This is one organization having a dual operating system. Others simply call this the ambidextrous organization.

Focus areas

Since Filipinos enjoy high resilience, we can capitalize on this advantage by strengthening further the Filipino resilience by integrating this in our leadership development programs. Since we are more familiar with built-to-scale organizations, the emphasis can be in building the innovation muscle of the organization. Thus, the focus is on leading for innovation.

The following can be the areas to focus on:

Purpose: Developing an inspiring purpose that can serve as the north star can be valuable so that people don’t get lost when navigating through uncertainties and chaos as they intensify experimentation.

Teams: Innovation is a team sport. Diversity in teams is the foundation for higher levels of innovation.

Transparency: This builds trust as people bring their true selves to work. Trust and authenticity improve capacity to innovate.

Learning: Since innovation is about learning, building a learning culture becomes important. A learning culture encourages everybody to undertake a continuous learning journey where learning key performance indicators are set and learning achievements celebrated. Leaders invest time in developing people by holding regular development conversations. These leaders know the direct connection between learning and innovation.

The way forward

Building on strengths is a shorter route to achieving our aspirations. Capitalizing on the resilience advantage of Filipinos is the way to go. Filipinos will be comfortable working in an ambidextrous organization. We are in a good position to build resilient organizations. These are the organizations that will thrive in a disruptive and turbulent environment.

This article reflects the personal opinion of the author and not the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines or MAP. The author is member of MAP Education Committee and MAP HR Management Committee.

He is chief executive of Investors in People Philippines. Feedback at and