Aiden and I went into the Flourish Conference with the aim to explore what we perceived as a growing organisational challenge, Business Continuity. Reported in the narrative captures we’ve ran in various organisations is of how the efforts to improve an organisation seem to be introducing a new challenge to effectiveness: eroding business continuity. The need to secure business or operational continuity in the midst of concurrent changes emerged as a key challenge. Flourish accepted our proposal to conduct a session on this topic and it therefore aimed to provide a platform for OD practitioners to interact and engage in conversations on the subject issue of ‘continuity’ within businesses. The session ignited and facilitated a dialogue amongst various practitioners with the intention of surfacing different perspectives on this particular issue. OD practitioners engaged in a conversation that lead them to identify and interpret different aspects that could be included under the subject of business continuity and also identify boundaries within which this issues revolves in our organisations. The session yielded interesting insights from the OD practitioners and this blog shares the emergent insights.

We kicked off our session by referring to the dictionary definition of continuity, which is “uninterrupted connectedness”. As a conversation surfaced and started to flow amongst the group, the sense was that the subject matter of continuity within our organisations could be perceived as one that falls under both the “soft issues” and “physical issues”. This time with what would be normally perceived as “the soft side” receiving most attention from the participants. More generally, our conversation shaped in such a manner that it explored our sense of continuity as individuals within various organisations. A common perspective formed from different experiences in the group was how the sense of continuity is broken within organisations. On its core continuity, was perceived as an issue rooted to meaning and a general feeling was that organisations have lost this sense of meaning. This means that continuity is or rather should be an internal sense of meaning to an organisation’s leadership and this should filter through and resemble on the rest of its staff. As a result, they will move away from mere “compliance” but engage in their work in such a way that breeds a culture conducive for continuity. In other words, an organisation that understands its purpose for existence will have elements advocating for continuity in its core values. Issues such as adequate succession planning, willingness to mentor, knowledge sharing and becoming a learning or adaptable organisation wouldn’t become a set back in an organisation that understands and values its reason for existence.

Our conversation matured further into this realm of meaning, with the group exploring the brokenness in a sense of continuity due to minimum connectedness amongst staff in organisations. A perspective emerged that in order for an organisation to sustain business continuity, it should avoid having two groups of people within it sharing different contexts. In our organisations, there should be a pervasive meaningful story uniting both old and new employees and forming a common ground. Familiarity with an organisation’s history is deemed crucial when preparing and planning for its future and for this reason both young and older employees should share one meaningful story. This shall then breed business continuity. In the South African context, the issue of conflict between different generations (age groups) in the workplace is common. In its roots, the audience uncovered that this is really an issue of conflict between an old way of doing things and the new way of doing things. A pervasive meaningful story of an organisation would therefore advocate for the history of an organisation and encourage wisdom continuity. This would then eradicate the issue having two diverse and conflicting perspectives of doing things because it helps the organisation as a whole to understand the difference between wisdom and intelligence. Organisational wisdom in this case is interpreted as lessons learnt from the past (history) that then equips us with a better perspective on what to do to move forward, where else “intelligence” in this context was more associated with an attitude of immediate solutions formulation. The general feeling was then that an organisation that shares one common meaningful story shares a domain of wisdom, and this breeds business continuity.

As we explored the topic further, we also identified that the excessive drive for profits by organisation is one of the hiccups for business continuity in organisations. As leaders in various organisations push to accelerate profits, they usually apply short term thinking, putting those issues that doesn’t seem as immediate on hold. And, unfortunately, most continuity related issues in our organisations are not deemed as immediate, but rather those coming after the driving of profits.

On the journey to explore more on the subject of business or operational continuity, The Narrative Lab would like to continue connecting with various practitioners sharing insights and perspectives. Please feel free to connect with us regarding feedback on our Flourish Conference session or this particular issue in general. For further updates, you can follow The Narrative Lab twitter account:@narrativelab and more specifically for wisdom continuity related updates, please follow: @WContinuity