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Resilience as Bouncing Forward: Developing the capability to cope when bouncing back is no longer sufficient

SERIES ARTICLE

Advances in Project Management

By Prof Darren Dalcher

Director, National Centre for Project Management
University of Hertfordshire

UK

 


 

In recent years resilience appears to have proliferated the discourse in many domains and contexts to become the buzzword of choice. The term resilience is to be found in dialogue regarding policy, cities, security, development, energy, resources, food, health, politics, terrorism, natural disasters, climate change, enterprise risk, governance and organisational change. Yet, it appears to be described in different terms and understood in a myriad of ways. Nonetheless, the plurality of domains and conversations seem to regard the concept as a positive and much needed quality or capability.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines resilience as: The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; or the ability [of a substance or object] to spring back into shape. The former invokes a certain quality, for example mental toughness; whilst the latter implies elasticity, illustrated by the ability of grass or trees to bend with the wind and ultimately return to their former shape or position.

At a fundamental level resilience refers to the ability of a system (or a person) to cope with change. In engineering, this will often refer to the ability of materials and structures to absorb and avoid damage. In psychology, it might refer to the ability of individuals to adapt to stress and adversity. In ecology, it acknowledges the potential responses to perturbations and disturbances. In urban development, cities, security contexts and enterprise planning, it might relate to the preparation for, response to, and recovery from threats and challenges.

Change is always a challenge

The growing interest in resilience corresponds to the increasing realisation that uncertainty and turbulence play an inevitable part in a world of relentless change, continuous innovation and fierce global competition. As traditional certainties and expectations are eroded and plans and assumptions become questionable, new uncertainties and ambiguities need to be addressed.

While the history of the human race appears to be continuously punctuated by change, the rate of change in recent times appears to have accelerated. Traditional measures of change such as the rate of adoption of technologies seem to indicate that new inventions and technologies are being adopted at an ever-increasing pace. Growing pressure to perform and deliver under turbulent conditions results in new and larger risks that must be borne by organisations. Uncertainties in traditional stock markets, global terrorism, unresolved political issues, catastrophic weather events, mass migration and a constant fight for resources further underpin a period of greater turbulence and uncertainty.

Resilience offers a promise to adjust to the inevitable shocks characterising an unpredictable world and survive, and even thrive, despite the disruption and upheaval of change. Ultimately, it implies a capability to bounce back and recover. However, in this new world, which changes faster than we are able to adjust, bouncing back offers modest advantages.

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Editor’s note: The PMWJ Advances in Project Management series includes articles by authors of program and project management books published by Gower in the UK. Each month an introduction to the current article is provided by series editor Prof Darren Dalcher, who is also the editor of the Gower Advances in Project Management series of books on new and emerging concepts in PM. Prof Dalcher’s article is an introduction to the invited paper this month in the PMWJ. Information about the Gower series can be found at http://www.gowerpublishing.com/advancesinprojectmanagement.

 


 

About the Author

 

pmwj36-Jul2015-Dalcher-PHOTODarren Dalcher, PhD

Series Editor
Director, National Centre for Project Management
University of Hertfordshire, UK

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Darren Dalcher
, Ph.D. HonFAPM, FRSA, FBCS, CITP, FCMI is Professor of Project Management at the University of Hertfordshire, and founder and Director of the National Centre for Project Management (NCPM) in the UK. He has been named by the Association for Project Management (APM) as one of the top 10 “movers and shapers” in project management in 2008 and was voted Project Magazine’s “Academic of the Year” for his contribution in “integrating and weaving academic work with practice”.

Following industrial and consultancy experience in managing IT projects, Professor Dalcher gained his PhD in Software Engineering from King’s College, University of London. Professor Dalcher has written over 150 papers and book chapters on project management and software engineering. He is Editor-in-Chief of Software Process Improvement and Practice, an international journal focusing on capability, maturity, growth and improvement.

He is the editor of the book series, Advances in Project Management, published by Gower Publishing of a new companion series Fundamentals of Project Management. Heavily involved in a variety of research projects and subjects, Professor Dalcher has built a reputation as leader and innovator in the areas of practice-based education and reflection in project management. He works with many major industrial and commercial organisations and government bodies in the UK and beyond.

He is an Honorary Fellow of the APM, a Chartered Fellow of the British Computer Society, a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute, and the Royal Society of Arts, and a Member of the Project Management Institute (PMI), the Academy of Management, the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the Association for Computing Machinery. He is a Chartered IT Practitioner. He is a Member of the PMI Advisory Board responsible for the prestigious David I. Cleland project management award and of the APM Professional Development Board.

Prof Dalcher is an academic editorial advisor for the PM World Journal. He can be contacted at [email protected].

To see other works by Prof Darren Dalcher, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/darren-dalcher/.