Derby Uni

Resilience is not just the ability to act quickly to immediate problems, it is also the strength to visualise and deliver the change that is required through a long-term lens. In this blog, Dr Koushik Das Sarma, Programme Facilitator for the Small Business Leadership Programme (SBLP) at the University of Derby (@DerbyUni, @DerbyUniPress), explores how business resilience feeds into business strategy, and draws on some of the questions and feedback he has heard from SME leaders currently on the programme.

Proactive resilience directly tackles the fundamental issues within business by predicting, anticipating and building long-term capabilities. It looks beyond the pandemic and identifies the emerging market trends in relation to the long-term business strategy, powered by innovation and driven by a strong entrepreneurial orientation. A comprehensive business strategy is an essential component in ensuring business resilience and therefore the longevity of any organisation.

“Business survival at stake, no time for a strategy exercise, need new business” – a sentiment shared by many SME leaders during some of the long conversations that have taken place during the SBLP peer group sessions over past six months or so. Then, there are some business leaders who are quite candid in disclosing that they “never worked towards developing a business strategy, rather just went with the flow”. I also often hear from many business leaders that “Covid–19 has forced me to take a pause and have a relook at things differently”.

With the pandemic wreaking havoc on the global economy, many businesses have seen their revenues wiped out overnight. When the lockdown was first introduced in March 2020, no one could foresee this would continue for so long. For many business leaders, this has been a roller-coaster ride of optimism, extreme pessimism, and a heavy emotional toll.

We now know that COVID–19 restrictions are not going to continue forever, if the latest government Road Map is anything to go by. However, the extreme disruption caused by Covid-19 is very much real and its ramifications will continue to be felt for foreseeable future. So how do we take this disruption in our stride and prepare for the future? How do we get businesses back on track to follow their intended growth trajectory? And, most importantly, how do we future–proof businesses so that any ‘short’ term disruption doesn’t impact the overall business goals?

The common question I hear is, “where do I start”?

Looking beyond Covid-19

The uncertainty surrounding the future can be both exogenous (external) and endogenous (internal) in nature. Covid-19 and Brexit are both exogenous uncertainties in the macro-environment that lead to endogenous uncertainties within the business sector as a whole and/or within the organisation. Decimation of the hospitality sector or loss of revenue for a particular business, are examples of endogenous uncertainties caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, is there anything beyond these ‘visible’ cause and effect factors? In other words, are there any ‘invisible’ cause and effect factors? Let’s look at an example. Can Covid-19 be blamed alone when an engineering subcontracting firms loses almost 70% of the business? A careful analysis reveals that this SME has been relying on a major customer in a single sector. When Covid-19 disruption hit the customer, business crumbled for the subcontractor as well. Therefore, one has to look beyond the pandemic to understand the ‘invisible’ cause and effect or the root cause for the present day business disruption.

It’s therefore imperative to look beyond the surface for understanding the root cause of any uncertainty driven business disruption. The question is how to look beyond the surface?

The power of reflection

Reflection helps with learning about oneself and the situation, by the conscious examination of past experiences, thoughts and ways of doing things. It helps in acquiring a deeper understanding of the present situation by challenging the status quo and helps us to plan better for the future. A simple yet powerful reflective cycle was developed by Graham Gibbs to give structure to learning from experiences and action planning for any future eventuality. It covers six stages:

  • Description of the experience
  • Feelings and thoughts about the experience
  • Evaluation of the experience, both good and bad
  • Analysis to make sense of the situation, is it really what it seems to be?
  • Conclusion about key learnings and what you could have done differently
  • Action plan and implementation strategy for future–proofing the business

To make the most of reflection, use it in creating and achieving goals and objectives, and through this build a reflective habit. And, most importantly, map the learning curve through this journey.

Strategy decoded – the foundation

Creating and achieving business goals and objectives are key to effective strategic planning and for it to be effective, one needs to start by asking three questions:

  • Why – the value of what we do, why we do it and why is it important (purpose)
  • What – what we want to be in the future (vision)
  • How – strategy, the path to purpose, what we do to reach our destination (mission)

Unfortunately, many organisations do not have clarity on these which creates confusion that makes it harder to achieve the set objectives and goals. After all, “the underpinning strategic clarity, not the language that we put on our homepage, is of importance” as summarised by one business leader I work with.

Strategy decoded – looking beyond the present

“My team convinced me that it’s enough to have short and medium term strategies…long-term strategy will follow automatically,” (a senior manager).

How can one charter a growth path if one doesn’t know where the ultimate destination is? But then, with so much change happening around us, does it really make sense to think so much ahead of time?

The short answer is YES! Breaking down the strategic objectives to short, medium and long-term goals is all the more important now. The long-term business goal is like the guiding star. The short-term business strategy is meant for wading through the present gush of disruptions to stay afloat. The medium-term strategy is the bridge that connects the short-term strategy to the long-term business objective.

Strategy in uncertain times – agility through dynamic capabilities

“We realised early on that with the pandemic around, we need to have a fall back strategy…we partnered with a neighbourhood brewery for the canning line and launched our e–commerce business,” (a micro-brewery owner).

What did this business do right? It activated a functional, early warning system by not falling for optimism bias, i.e. the lockdown will be over soon, and not succumbing to paralysis by analysis (too many ideas but no path forward). This was supported by integrated action planning and implementation – quick thinking on the strategic shift to Plan B (a legacy business model to e–commerce) and activating Plan B by establishing the right partnerships.

This strategic agility is a result of dynamic capabilities manifested by synchronisation of sensing (identifying and assessing opportunities), seizing (mobilising resources to capture value from those opportunities), and transforming (reconfiguring the business). During the extreme uncertainties, dynamic capabilities help businesses to realign rapidly with the changes around.

Networking, networking and networking

This should by no means a lonely journey for any business or business leader. How can one exploit the power of networking?

A recent conversation with a SME leader:

SME Leader: I have a clear plan for my business.

Me: Does anyone other than you know about it?

SME Leader: No.

Me: Can we say that the vision for your organisation is your own vision?

SME Leader: I guess so.

This is a typical example of a top-down approach, a familiar story in most of the organisations I work with. Under extreme uncertainties, how do you build a strategy that is everyone’s strategy’? Integrating both top-down and bottom-up approaches through intra-organisational networking is a key to achieving this.

Networking with businesses in the same sector, and businesses in other sectors, help SMEs with idea sharing and learning from others’ experiences. There are many examples in SBLP, where business leaders benefited from the strategy discussions during the peer group sessions. During the sessions, many realised they are facing similar challenges and together they’re devising mitigating strategies. Idea sharing among SME leaders is rather a novelty, however there can always be a beginning, after all these are not normal times!

The disruptions created by Covid-19 has provided business leaders with unprecedented opportunity for reflecting, re-calibrating and devising impactful strategies for future-proofing their businesses. A critical understanding of short, medium and long-term business strategies, in conjunction with developing agility through dynamic capabilities, is key to achieving a sustainable and resilient business strategy.


You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

Solvendis added a new event 1 hour

Effective Self Assessment & Improvement Planning (Zoom...

The self-assessment process is, further, the key way in which providers can measure the effectiveness of their provision against the EIF. Under the...

  • Thursday, 10 June 2021 10:00 AM
  • Zoom Conferencing
Solvendis added a new event 1 hour

Designated Safeguarding Lead Training (Zoom Conferencing)

A provider’s Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) plays a critical role in its approach to safeguarding its learners, training its staff, providing...

  • Monday, 19 April 2021 10:00 AM
  • Zoom Conferencing

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page