In a world where compartmentalization plays a critical role in managing the full spectrum of business operations, it is paramount to understand the closely related concepts to ensure an organization’s ability to function efficiently and manage risk to withstand and recover from disruption. It is pertinent to understand the concepts of organizational resilience, business continuity management, crisis management, emergency management, and physical security management in a full spectrum of business operations. These are all interconnected concepts related to managing operations as intended and mitigating risks and disruptions within an organization to achieve desired end results. While they have distinct focuses and are often intertwined, they still share common goals in practice. Here is an overview of their relationships:

Organizational resilience refers to an organization’s ability to adapt, recover, and thrive in the face of disruptive events or challenges by using a capacity enhancement approach to ensure context-based planning for greater resilience and preparation. It encompasses the broader collective capabilities and strategies to ensure continued operations adaptively. Organizational resilience is a broad concept which integrates various management disciplines, including business continuity management, crisis management, emergency management, and physical security management.

Business continuity management is the process of planning for and dealing with potential threats and hazards to an organization’s ability to maintain business continuity. It closely aligns with emergency and crisis management since it addresses disruptive events’ planning and response aspects. Business continuity management encompasses the development of business continuity plans, risk assessments, backup systems, and recovery strategies. It is important to understand disaster recovery is a key component of business continuity management. Disaster recovery includes the activation of the recovery team to carry out the necessary actions in handling specific disruptions when an incident occurs.

Crisis management involves handling high-impact, disruptive, and unexpected events which could harm the organization or its stakeholders. Crises are typically characterized by urgency, uncertainty, and potential harm. Crisis management aims to mitigate the negative consequences of a crisis by providing effective leadership, communication, decision-making, and recovery strategies. It overlaps with emergency management in terms of response mechanisms. However, crisis management’s primary focus is to enhance an organization’s reputational and strategic operational aspects.

Emergency management deals with immediate response to urgent situations. It involves preparing for, responding to, and recovering from emergencies or disasters threatening life, property, or the environment. It focuses on safety, coordinating emergency response efforts, and minimizing the impact of emergencies. Emergency management plays a vital role in organizational resilience by establishing plans, protocols, and resources to address sudden and unexpected events in the domain of operational resilience.

Physical security management focuses on safeguarding an organization’s physical assets, facilities, and personnel against all forms of physical threats. It involves implementing security measures, access controls, surveillance systems to facilitate threat intelligence management and continuous risk monitoring, and protective measures to prevent and respond to security breaches. While physical security management is more focused on mitigating security risks, it contributes to organizational resilience by ensuring the safety and security of people and assets before and during emergencies and crises.

It is important to note there are no clear-cut segmentations or boundaries in the above management concepts, and they may change due to organizational leadership, strategic objectives, and firm-specific risk appetite. To put the above management functions in perspective, imagine an organization as a sturdy ship navigating through the unpredictable waters of the business world. While on its journey, the ship faces attacking high waves of seawater, creating turbulence, yet the crew manages to navigate, taking every possible action to continue its journey. Have we ever considered such a situation in our professional lives in the corporate environment? How do they navigate away from or through the rough seas? It does not happen by sheer luck but by organizational design. It includes a culture of awareness and readiness at all levels, knowing there is no land in sight to reach for immediate safety while absorbing every hardship and continuing the journey as intended. In this context, to ensure its safety, maintain sturdiness and success, it employs a combination of strategies as discussed below:

  • Organizational resilience: This is like the ship’s strong hull and flexible design. It is the organization’s overall ability to withstand storms (disruptions and distractions) and bounce back. Just as a well-constructed ship can handle and navigate through rough waters, a resilient organization can adapt to changes and challenges in a dynamic environment.
  • Business continuity management (BCM): Consider this as the ship’s steering mechanism, navigation, and communication systems. It ensures that even if the ship faces a storm, its essential operations continue, knowing the storm is an obstacle for a temporary period. Similarly, BCM ensures critical business functions continue during disruptions, helping the organization stay afloat.
  • Crisis management: Imagine the ship encountering unexpected obstacles or dangers. Crisis management is like the crew’s swift response to these challenges. Just as the crew handles unexpected situations to protect the crew, equipment, and ship’s reputation, an organization manages crises to safeguard the organization, stakeholders, image, and public perception.
  • Emergency management: When the ship faces an immediate threat like a sudden leak, the crew follows emergency response protocols to address the issue urgently to stabilize the situation. Similarly, emergency management in an organization involves immediate actions to handle unforeseen events, mitigate their impact, and ensure safety.
  • Physical security management: Consider the ship’s security measures, such as guards, locks, fire protection systems, and surveillance cameras. These protect it from physical threats like destruction, piracy, or theft. Similarly, physical security management safeguards an organization’s premises, assets, and personnel from physical risks.

In this analogy, the ship’s successful journey depends on harmoniously integrating these elements. Similarly, an organization’s resilience and ability to navigate disruptions hinge on effectively combining organizational resilience, business continuity management, crisis management, emergency management, and physical security management into a holistic strategy. Just as a ship’s crew collaborates to ensure a safe voyage, different departments within an organization must collaborate to create a healthy and robust integrated framework for preparedness and response.

Nevertheless, there are several challenges organizations may encounter when dealing with the interrelatedness between organizational resilience, business continuity management, crisis management, emergency management, and physical security management, as enumerated below:

  • Complexity and integration: Coordinating these elements requires a comprehensive understanding and integration of strategies. Balancing the needs of each area while ensuring a cohesive approach can be complex and challenging.
  • Resource allocation: Adequate resources are essential for implementing and maintaining these strategies. Organizations may need to rethink allocating budgets, personnel, and technology to each area.
  • Cultural shift: Adopting a culture of preparedness and collaboration across departments can be challenging. Different teams might have different priorities and mindsets, making it hard to work together seamlessly.
  • Change management: Implementing changes to existing processes can face resistance. Employees may need help to adapt to new protocols and strategies for effective implementation and to avoid delay.
  • Communication and coordination: Effective communication and coordination are crucial during disruptions. Miscommunication or lack of alignment between teams can hinder response efforts and exacerbate challenges.
  • Lack of testing and training: Strategies can become obsolete without regular testing and training. Organizations may need help to keep their teams skilled and prepared for various scenarios.
  • Technology dependencies: Reliance on technology for operations can lead to vulnerabilities. Cyberattacks or long-term technical failures could disrupt the operations.
  • Risk assessment and prioritization: Identifying potential risks and prioritizing them is vital. Organizations may need help determining which risks are most likely to occur and which would have the most significant impact.
  • Global events and external factors: Organizations can face challenges beyond their control, such as global events, regulatory changes, and cultural or economic shifts. These external factors can complicate preparedness efforts.
  • Resistance to investment: Some organizations might need more time to invest in preparedness measures due to perceived costs. However, not investing can lead to more significant costs in the long run during a disruption.
  • Siloed information: Managing information flow and freely communicating with different departments is challenging when there are barriers between different groups. It can hinder an organization’s ability to respond effectively in a holistic manner. Centralized information management is crucial for a coordinated response.

Overcoming the challenges associated with interrelationships requires a holistic approach, including stringent planning with executive willingness to adapt to changing circumstances. Organizations that navigate these challenges are better positioned to build resilience, respond effectively to disruptions, and emerge stronger. Organizations can take the following steps as desired:

  • Leadership commitment: Gain support from top leadership to prioritize and invest in strategically important areas. Their commitment helps set the tone for the organization’s overall preparedness efforts to improve the resilient culture.
  • Holistic strategy: Develop an integrated strategy which considers all these aspects together. This strategy should outline decision-making authorities, roles and responsibilities of individuals and departments, timelines in responses and expected results, and communication protocols during disruptions.
  • Cross-functional collaboration: Encourage collaboration among different departments. Regular meetings, joint exercises, and shared information channels promote a unified approach.
  • Clear communication: Establish clear lines of communication during normal operations and disruptions. Ensure everyone knows their roles and responsibilities in different scenarios and when and where to seek assistance.
  • Regular training and drills: Conduct regular training sessions and simulation exercises for various disruptions. Regular training and drills keep teams well-prepared and familiar with response protocols.
  • Risk assessment and prioritization: Regularly assess potential risks and prioritize them based on their likelihood and impact in a dynamic environment. Identifying firm-specific risks determines allocating resources effectively in time and space to find the perfect balance of risk and reward.
  • Invest in technology: Implement robust technology solutions for data security, communication, and monitoring. Keep these technologies up to date to address emerging threats.
  • Change management: Involve employees early in the process, address their concerns, and document them for future reference. Identify the areas which can be improved, communicate the benefits of the changes, and provide training to ease the transition.
  • Centralized information dashboard: Use technology to centralize information related to disruptions, response plans, and recovery processes. This facilitates quick access and sharing of critical information while enhancing much-needed visualization.
  • Scenario planning: Develop realistic scenarios which encompass various disruptions. Evaluate the organization’s strategies in each scenario and make necessary adjustments.
  • Regular review and update: Review and update strategies, considering lessons learned from past incidents. Adapt to changes and understand evolving threats and emerging risks in the business environment.
  • Third-party relationships: Strengthen relationships with suppliers, partners, and external stakeholders. Identify bottlenecks, vulnerabilities related to resilience, and risks in compliance and fulfillment. Collaboration with these entities can enhance overall resilience.
  • Flexibility and adaptability: Recognize no plan is foolproof and avoid a single point of failure. Today, multinational companies operate in different time zones and geographies. Foster a culture of adaptability and quick decision-making to address unforeseen challenges with sound contingency plans.
  • Investment in resilience: Understand investments in preparedness and resilience pay off in the long run by reducing disruptions’ impact, strengthening operational efficiency, and strategizing organizational lines of defense.
  • Learning from experience: Conduct thorough, unbiased post-incident analyses and reviews after incidents. Identify areas for improvement and implement changes based on lessons learned.

By embracing these opportunities and adopting an integrated approach, organizations can enhance their ability to manage risks, rapidly respond to disruptions, protect their assets, and ensure the continuity of critical operations. This positions organizations better to navigate uncertainties in fast-evolving situations, safeguard their reputation, and thrive in a rapidly changing environment. Finally, organizational resilience serves as the overarching framework which integrates business continuity, crisis, emergency, and physical security management. These management disciplines work together to enhance an organization’s ability to sense, anticipate, prevent, respond to, and recover from disruptive events, ensuring the continuity of critical operations and minimizing negative impacts.


Suminda Jayasundera

Suminda Jayasundera is a retired military officer in the rank of lieutenant colonel. During his illustrious military career, have held many important appointments including a tour of duty in the United Nations. After his retirement, he entered the corporate sector, where he excelled in crisis management, global security management, and business continuity management. He holds a master’s degree in defense management and a graduate of Army Command & General Staff College, Ft. Leavenworth, Kan. He acquired further education from New Jersey Institute of Technology in emergency management, business continuity, and Federal Emergency Management Agency. Jayasundera holds certifications in business continuity management, cybersecurity, and risk, and compliance management.

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