Now that the elections are over, it’s time for government - every South African, in fact - to consider how to help the nation recover from its past woes and once again pursue progress and development.

The answer, says Christopher Palm, Chief Risk Advisor at the Institute of Risk Management South Africa, is right in front of us.

Every system must maintain an upward trend in development to survive.

This is true whether discussing a business, national government, the electrical infrastructure, the national economy, or the global environment.

If it doesn’t, the inevitable shocks and stresses it faces in its operating environment can lead to a long-term downturn in development, ultimately resulting in the demise of the system itself.

“To protect its progress and therefore its existence, each system must acquire the resilience to repel or recover from external threats,” says Palm.

What is resilience?

Technically, resilience is the rapidity with which a system can bounce back from sudden shock or sustained stresses to resume progressing its development at its normal pace.

Practically, it means striving to create sustainable development in modern macroeconomic and microeconomic environments marked by change, risk and uncertainty.

However, research indicates that any system that effectively manages risk is likely to become more resilient.

“In fact, risk management can be considered successful only to the degree it results in resilience,” says Palm.

Building resilience

According to Palm, resilience starts with a mindset that is organised around risk management.

That mindset, he asserts, is based on the realisation that, as maintainers of a system, we can either react to each crisis individually without actually preventing it from progressively eroding development.

Or we can anticipate probable threats and implement countermeasures to minimize their impact ahead of time, and so conserve developmental gains.

“Unfortunately, sustained exposure to system shocks and stresses can cause us to accept its degraded performance as the new normal,” warns Palm.

“So we first need to foster an uncompromising mental resilience that drives us to return the system rapidly to its former best standard.”

When all system maintainers are of the same mind, adhering to accepted behaviours and values, a culture of resilience is created that ensures a high level of development progress is achieved.

But how does one nurture a resilient mindset?

The resilient risk manager

Both systemic and mental resilience are achieved by training members of the system in risk management to a professional level.

Organisations who maintain the development of a system need highly qualified people who will implement the right policies and processes.

Such qualifications will help it bolster resilience by building a robust risk management function, establishing comprehensive business continuity plans and disaster management plans, gaining the ability to correctly test the effectiveness of those plans, expanding its situational awareness through scenario planning and strategic reviews, and, finally, aligning its business processes to its risk management strategy.

In essence, qualified risk practitioners are credible advisors who have the capabilities to protect system development and influence other members to strive for that purpose.

“Once that self-organising culture is established,” says Palm, “we can not only preserve the progress of the system’s development, but also capitalize on future opportunities that would otherwise have been missed to make even faster gains.”

Palm encourages all organisations to ensure they have a well-trained risk management team who are accredited members of a professional risk management body.

The Institute of Risk Management South Africa