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Cadernos EBAPE.BR

versão On-line ISSN 1679-3951

Cad. EBAPE.BR vol.15 no.spe Rio de Janeiro set. 2017 


Post-bureaucratic organizations and organizational resilience: institutionalization of more substantive forms of communication in working relations

Isabella Francisca Freitas Gouveia de Vasconcelos4 

Alvaro Bruno Cyrino4 

Leonardo Araújo de Carvalho5 

Lucas Martins d´Oliveira6 

4Fundação Getulio Vargas / Escola Brasileira de Administração Pública e de Empresas, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, Brazil

5Fundação Getulio Vargas / Escola Brasileira de Administração Pública e de Empresas / Instituto de Desenvolvimento Educacional, Rio de Janeiro, RJ - Brazil

6Petrobras S.A. / Escola de Gestão e Liderança da Universidade Petrobras, Rio de Janeiro, RJ - Brazil


This article presents a debate regarding the concept of organizational resilience, a subject to which Cadernos EBAPE.BR dedicated a special issue. If the organization is resilient, it faces situations of rupture and risk successfully, innovating and learning during the process, as well as achieving superior levels of equilibrium and complexity, in a dynamic of continuous evolution”. The more resilient the organization is, the more innovative its activity, grounded in a more substantive communication - inspired by Habermas’ theories - which seeks understanding and factual knowledge. The model of post-bureaucratic organizations debates these and others issues presented in this article.

Keywords: Resilience; Dynamic equilibrium; Communicative action; innovation


The article “Organizational resilience and sustainable innovation: a study on the human resources management model at a Brazilian energy company”, by Vasconcelos; Cyrino; D’Oliveira et al. (2015), started the discussion on the theme of innovative resilient organizations, promoting the debate in this special issue of Cadernos Ebape.BR, dedicated to the theme ‘resilience’.

The concept of resilience is traditionally connected to the response of the organization to disruptive events, through positive adaptation to a new level of complexity, overcoming the disruptive situation and implementing change successfully.

The concept of radical innovation in technology, products, services and organizational forms inherently brings the idea of disruption and adaptation of the organizational group to a new level of complexity after redesigning the forms of work, business model, products and/or services and organizational processes and forms of remuneration. Moreover, regardless of radical innovations created by the organizations themselves, they need to adapt to be able to thrive in a business environment that is increasingly competitive because all the other organizations also constantly innovate. Political crises with an impact on the economy, or changes in the economy due to other economic and/or social factors, changes in legislation by the government or in regulation by international organizations can also cause disruption, requiring a redesign of the work models and/or technology. In this scenario of greater competitiveness and turbulence, as the future business scenario tends to be, the concept of resilience becomes relevant in view of the need for organizations to overcome such disruptive situations successfully, reaching new levels of performance and stability. This can be achieved by implementing technology and more complex interactions that come from the redesign of the forms of work and relationships, along with organizational structures and forms of remuneration and careers.

The concept of organizations in network (such as a network of individuals) and the business environment (such as a network of organizations of different types) are important when it comes to resilience, given that this will be a systemic organizational response involving clear and efficient communication and relationships of trust among the individuals that make up the organizational group. If the organization is always able to face situations of disruption successfully, innovating and learning with such dynamics, as well as reaching new levels of complexity and stability, the result is that, even facing many disruptions, the resilient organization learns from them, evolves and is stable (most of the time change can be implemented successfully). The organization shows to be stable, establishing increasingly complex stages, in continuous movement of evolution and learning.

It is, therefore, a systemic approach to the concept of resilience.

For an organization to be resilient, the first step is to predict any disruptions that will be caused by a specific situation:

  1. Disruptions caused by economic crises (and/or policies);

  2. Disruptions caused by the organization itself through innovation and radical redesign of its products and services, which have become obsolete in view of radical technological innovations produced by the organization itself,. Forces it to rethink its business model and the forms of work and interaction (sociotechnical perspective);

  3. Disruptions caused by market situations (competition), such as the increase of competitiveness in the sector caused by competing companies that innovate radically from the technological point of view, modifying their products and/or services and making those of other organizations obsolete;

  4. Disruptions caused by new governmental regulations or those of international regulatory bodies.

The organization, through scenario planning or strategic foresight, can try to predict and respond to the various scenarios, predicting probabilities for each, measuring the impact of each item on the organization, and indicating solutions in case any of the scenarios actually occur (GODET, 2011).

In this way, planning allows recognizing the possible disruption before it occurs, predicting the different scenarios, the impact of each of them and the possible responses, in addition to redesigning organizational forms, work processes, forms of interaction, products and services, or the complete business model. The organization seeks to successfully implement such changes through organizational change management, reaching a new level of complexity. Strategic planning by scenarios or strategic foresight are part of this monitoring of the environment in order to develop a resilient attitude as soon as it is necessary or to predict possible disruptions (GODET, 2011).

Thus, the resilient organization would have a ‘crisis management group’ to deal with crisis, capable of dealing with change, learning from it and evolving.

For an organization to be resilient, new forms of work and new organizational design must be successfully implemented, at a new level of complexity. This change is not simple, but it is possible, and innovative organizations find it easier to implement changes. Managing change involves dealing with organizational paradoxes and processes of resistance to change, which involves negotiation and dialogue.

In terms of ‘bureaucratic’ concept, organization is a structure built from collective action (of a social group) that aims to offer solutions to reach the groups’ collective objectives. As Crozier and Friedberg (1987) show, in bureaucracies (such as most companies nowadays), organizational rules and structures operate indirectly and do not determine the behavior of social actors, but induce behavior and games of power. Organizations rely on material, technological resources and certain types of technical competence to achieve their formal goals. Some of these features are critical to the operation of the system. Social actors who control such resources have greater power. These resources constitute “zones of relevant uncertainty” under the control of these individuals, either because of the positions they occupy and/or the technical knowledge they possess. Organizational change redistributes the zones of relevant uncertainty and control of resources, logically provoking resistance from those deprived of resources. When one technology is radically replaced by another, an organizational change occurs and a new social system or a new system of rules, forms of remuneration, etc. is created, valuing new technical skills that are in line with the new technology - which will be fundamental for the success of the organization.

With the redesign of the forms of work and the appreciation of new technical competences, as well as the creation of new forms of interaction, some individuals will gain power in the system and others will lose. Resistance to change and refusal of cooperation may happen when the “winner” in a system (the one that possess good status, prestige, position, power, and high remuneration) does not perceive, in the new social and technical system, possibilities of maintaining their dominant position. It is therefore necessary that managers of change negotiate new forms of remuneration and work with members of the former organizational group, who will remain in the new system and will continue to play an important role, learning new ways to work and deal with new technologies (MOTTA and VASCONCELOS, 2003).

In terms of resilience, one can say that organizational change is the reinvention of a system of rules and norms that stimulates new behaviors and interactions, as well as forms of negotiation necessary to obtain the collaboration of individuals, so that new technological solutions are organized and implemented. It is not only a technical change, but the introduction of new forms of negotiation, new forms of resource control, new values, new communication strategies and new social and work practices that accompany and favor the effective implementation of a new technology - at a higher level of complexity.

Once forms of remuneration and promotion are renegotiated in the new system and individuals within the organization realize how they can fit into and succeed in the new rule system, individuals will feel more motivated to collaborate with change.

When the issues such as remuneration, recognition, promotions and new forms of work and career are resolved, individuals understand their place in the new system and perceive how to collaborate and contribute to its success. In addition, individuals are clear on how to seek continuity of their own success (even receiving training and updating in terms of knowledge), the change becomes easier to achieve:

“a basic assumption underlying this perspective is that people are reasonable and inteligente and cannot be convinced (only) by theoretical abstract models to behave differently”. (TREPO, 2002, p. 247)

Therefore, power issues must be resolved a priori to implement the new organizational system and new forms of work and interaction. This would be a realistic approach for organizations.

Often departments and teams that have not worked together for many years after the negotiation phase, even if they want to cooperate and receive training, they need the help of communication specialists and change facilitators to integrate and participate in new joint projects, to obtain good results.

Argyris (1992) discusses on cognitive blocks that may exist in learning new social roles and techniques. The author also discusses the forms of interactions, which are redesigned, even if individuals want to change and cooperate with the new system.

Organizational paradoxes can be considered an example of cognitive blocks and make change difficult. Paradox is the cognitive representation, by the individual or group, of their experience, feelings, beliefs and interactions through two apparently inconsistent states, two opposing and irreconcilable realities. The individual perceives reality through a proposition “A, and not A”. The paradox is characterized when the individual or group feels that such opposing dimensions are mutually exclusive and cannot be reconciled (EISENHARDT, 2000). In organizations, dualities such as autonomy and conformity, new and old, learning and mechanization of work, freedom and vigilance, centralization and decentralization, are described and perceived as paradoxes.

In change management, change facilitators (often external consultants) can assist in the process by working to undo paradoxes and reestablish dialogue and integration between departments and groups that did not communicate because of cognitive blocks created after issues such as power and negotiation of new forms of work were solved. When it comes to implementing new forms of work and technology, direct and frank communication between these groups is crucial to overcome deadlocks and to allow change to occur. This type of communication is from Habermas. A psychodynamic model of consulting can promote dialogue and facilitate change based on frank and honest communication between groups.

As Brown and Starkey (2000, p. 108) suggest:

A psychodynamic perspective suggests that once one embraces the identity of a learning organization, the organization actors must accept that identity formation is never closed and that the organization will develop a series of identities through time that reflect the organization´s and its members evolving self-concepts.

For Vasconcelos and Vasconcelos (2002, p. 78):

From a consulting perspective, It is important to blend psychoanalytic approaches with a careful diagnosis of the social tensions inside and outside the organization.

This process of facilitating learning and change goes beyond negotiation processes on remuneration, career or power issues. When these aspects are resolved, those who will stay in the organizational system and want to develop new forms of interaction around the new technology and/or business model need to learn to work together and develop new forms of interaction. To this end, frank dialogue (as proposed according to Habermas’ definitions) must be established to allow such learning and overcoming cognitive blocks and organizational paradoxes, albeit with the help of consultants and facilitators of change in a psychodynamic perspective of intervention.

Another example of fundamental communication and dialogue in the organization that goes beyond negotiation and strategic action is the communication between innovative teams, mainly those focused on research and development. In this particular group, the process of high level scientific and/or technological innovation presents many elements of the so-called Habermasian communicative action.

As observed above, once the issues of remuneration, forms of work and interactions, career plans and promotions in the new system have been resolved, individuals who will remain are concerned with learning and carrying out new forms of work, collaborating with change.

Thus, individuals need to believe in the value of their work and have ideals to continue in an organization. Often they are interested in discovering a new solution or technology, as well as in innovating for the pleasure of discovery and for the innovation itself, because this adds more knowledge to them and to society. Once issues such as permanence in work, remuneration, promotions, etc., are solved, individuals, in the execution of their own work, seek fulfillment, realization of ideals and knowledge - and much of their communication is sincere. As Habermas explains, there are three criteria of true communication, seeking to understand and go beyond strategic action (PESQUEUX and VASCONCELOS, 2017):

  1. The world in analysis is objective (the world of existing things), and can lead to a shared knowledge, where you must justify the truth of facts. For example, teams working together in a process of technological innovation and scientific discovery, sharing knowledge with sincerity and competence to discover the truth of facts and come up with real innovation.

  2. The criterion in analysis is social (set of interpersonal relations legitimately established with the social group) and the criterion of validity is that of justice. People management policies are linked to the search for greater meritocracy in the organization. For example, these policies favor learning and performance of new social roles in the new organizational system with frank communication, since there is a sense of justice in the system.

  3. The communication world in analysis is subjective and personal, and the criterion to validate is sincerity.

As soon as a debate unfolds, the parties implicitly recognize the existence of these values as the truth of the facts, the justice of the acts and the sincerity of the judgments. When these values ​​are recognized and truly inspire communication - the case of a dialogue inspired in Habermas - where the concern goes far beyond strategy and refers to seeking understanding, mutual comprehension around certain fundamental issues such as, for example, the production of scientific knowledge and innovation, and promotes the establishment of the company on a new level of complexity and stability with success (resilient organization).

The processes of technological innovation and knowledge are produced through communication of this kind, which seeks understanding and a scientific and/or social truth, going beyond mere strategic interest.

Heckscher and Donnellon (1994) propose a collaborative or post-bureaucratic enterprise, where the dialogue between teams aims more at understanding fundamental issues and favors the exchange of knowledge and innovation (therefore, it is a work based on a type of Habermasian communication), besides seeking to overcome the limits of bureaucratic organization:

The linchpin of the collaborative enterprise, the base of its increased power, is that it enables people to use their knowledge and capability to advance the common mission. Where subordinates know more than their bosses about certain problems, where they are working on multiple teams which give them different perspectives, where they understand in depth the changing needs of customers, it is essential for the success of the system that they feel able to challenge their bosses, to propose new ideas, to criticize and argue when necessary. It is a kind of open dialogue (HECKSCHER e DONNELLON, 1994, p. 11).

Heckscher (2007) also calls this type of post-bureaucratic organization an “interactive organization”:

The master concept is an organization in which everyone takes responsibility for the success of the whole. If that happens, then the basic notion of regulating relations among people by separating them into specific, predefined functions must be abandoned. The problem is to create a system in which people can enter into relations that are determined by problems rather than predetermined by the structure. Thus, organization control must center not on the management of tasks but the management of relationships; in effect, “politics” must be brought into the open.

This suggests a positive name to replace post-bureaucratic: Because of the crucial role of back-and-forth dialogue rather than one-way communication or command, I will call it the interactive type. They are essentially structures that develop informed consensus rather than relying on hierarchy and authority. Examples of such mechanisms in industry include all kinds of consensus-based committees: task forces, product development teams, and problem-solving groups. These involve all those concerned with a given issue in discussion, gathering of information, and development of agreement. In order to accomplish this basic shift, we can derive—both from theory and from the admittedly incomplete examples—the following conceptual description: In bureaucracies, consensus of a kind is created through acquiescence to authority, rules, or traditions. In the post-bureaucratic form it is created through institutionalized dialogue.

Dialogue is defined by the use of influence rather than power: That is, people affect decisions based on their ability to persuade rather than their ability to command.The ability to persuade is based on a number of factors, including knowledge of the issue, commitment to shared goals, and proven past effectiveness.

In this type of organization, people must be able to communicate with each other, sharing valid information, intentions, and sharing knowledge in order to reach an understanding that will lead to innovation and to a production of knowledge of scientific and social interest.

Thus, a post-bureaucratic organization relies more heavily on Habermas-type communication, which seeks real understanding of issues and reaches out to better solutions to the organizational group than strategic action that only targets power relations based on bureaucratic rules.

Another example of communication that aims at understanding reality and the possibilities for a more direct and frank discussion is observed in the phase of scenario planning. In strategic foresight - anticipating scenarios - the discussions should focus on understanding the real scenarios that may occur and the debate aimed at understanding and pursuing the truth of the facts (to be shared with the group) as well as the best solutions. The communication must seek the real understanding of the likely scenarios.

In research and development and innovation actions by a team of new products and/or technology development, communications that lead to success are also of this type.

An example of strategic foresight was provided by Toffler (1970, p. 47), who anticipated many organizational changes of this type:

Aujourd hui, bien que les subdivisions conventionnelles continuent d´exister, des équipes de projet, des groups d´intervention et des strutures analogues surgissent en leur sein, puis disparaissent. Et les gens, au lieu d´occuper une case fixe dans un cadre d´ensemble, vont et viennent à une vitesse accélérée. Ils continuent la plupart du temps à appartenir à leur “division mère”, mais ils sont detachés à tout bout de champ dans des equipes temporaires.(...) L´essor de l´adcrocatie est une consequence directe de l´acceleration de l´evolution de la société dans son ensemble.1

Thus, the author predicts that adhocracies as described by Henry Mintzberg, and companies of the type described by Charles Heckscher will increasingly occupy the scene. This future predicted by Toffler (1970) has materialized in several aspects, as corroborated by recent research. The author finalized his book talking about strategic and social foresight. Currently, these issues are addressed in relation to organizational resilience in studies developed in study centers in the United States and Europe, such as the Conservatoire National d’Arts et Metiers (CNAM).

When it comes to organizational forms, authors such as Henry Mintzberg have long considered the predominance of adhocracy organizational forms.

As Mintzberg (1994, p. 283) says:

{In adhocracy,} there is a highly organic structure, with little formalization of behavior; the specialization of work is highly horizontal, based on formal training, tendency to group specialists from functional units for organizational purposes, divided into small, temporary, per project, market-based, teams focusing on the operation of a specific job; relies on interconnection tools to encourage mutual adjustment, which is a key mechanism for internal coordination and coordination between teams; and adopts selective decentralization of teams located at various parts of the organization, involving several groups formed by line managers, operational specialists and advisors. Innovation means breaking established standards. Therefore, the innovative organization cannot rely on standardization for coordination and should avoid all pitfalls of the bureaucratic structure. {Translated version}

Mintzberg (1994) shows that in adhocracy the incentive comes from the support for collaboration (and innovation) in decision-making, for coordination by mutual adjustment, and thus for structuring the organization as an adhocracy. Heckscher (2007) also discusses these types of changes.

These organizations would be more resilient and able to innovate better and face situations of change and disruption with greater success, establishing themselves in a new level of stability and complexity. When facing change more easily, these organizations are stable in a dynamic way, as they quickly reach new levels of stability, continuously learning from change over time.

Questioning, inquisitive and critical reasoning, and frank communication focused on a better understanding of issues (Habermasian type of communication) are characteristics of these resilient organizational systems.

In the next section, a historical review of the concept of resilience is presented in order to clarify these arguments.

Historical review of resilience: definitions and concepts

The concept of resilience is observed in the literature of many fields, ranging from engineering, ecological sciences, and psychology to organizational research.

In the field of ecology, resilience is defined as “the ability of an ecosystem to recover from a disturbance while maintaining diversity, integrity and ecological processes” (FOLKE et al., 2004) {Free translation}

On the other hand, studies on this subject in physics and engineering have turned to the peculiar elastic characteristic that some materials present, of recovering their original form, once external pressure has been imposed on them, without altering their nature (BRANDÃO, MAHFOUD and GIANORDOLI-NASCIMENTO, 2011; BARLACH, LIMONGI-FRANÇA and MALVEZZI, 2008; YUNES, 2003).

The human sciences have borrowed this image of elasticity to try to explain the behavior of some individuals in situations of stress. The parallel has been established because some people, systems or organizations are able to restore their original balance after being exposed to situations of tension or external change.

Etymologically, looking at the Latin origin of the word, ‘resilience’ is related to the ability to return to a previous condition and to shirk, characteristics that are recognized in elastic bodies. In English, the meaning of the word is similar, but it incorporates the time dimension, since normally this return to the initial stage occurs quickly, observing not only physical objects experiencing external pressures, but also people who recovering quickly from health and emotional problems.

For Klein (1965), the fear of death and “depressive anxiety” is something inherent in every human being. Some individuals would have greater capacity and emotional structure to overcome adversity, a characteristic obtained in their primary socialization, remaining stable even when they are subjected to situations of emotional stress. This aroused the curiosity of psychology, initially leading to research in children who had positive behaviors, even though they experienced situations considered traumatic, giving the impression of being unshakable individuals (YUNES, 2003). This initial view of emotional immunity suggests that it is a dynamic process of learning, growth and adaptation, taking advantage of the traumatic experience itself to develop positively. It was at this point that the term “resilience” began to be used in psychology.

The process of adapting and overcoming adversities has come to be interpreted as something dynamic and evolving in the face of different situations, which become stronger as a result of a continuous individual effort, in the search for solutions to obstacles.

Contrary to the view of adaptation as conformism, Barlach (2005) points out that in the process of adaptation there is internal (of each individual) and external management, distinguishing the risks of opportunities, showing the individual is capable of elaborating a personal life project, interpreting and acting on their own subjectivity. This is the concept of identity.

It is important to emphasized that people, in general, develop protection factors, which are important in this process of growth to face adversities. The mechanisms of protection can contribute in several aspects, such as minimizing the impacts of risks, maintaining or increasing self-esteem and self-efficacy, reducing possible negative reactions and elaborating new protection factors (RUTTER, 1987). It is also observed that deflagration usually occurs in situations of risk and not in everyday situations (RUTTER, 1987).

It should be stressed that in this process the resilient individual can not only recover and return to their previous level of equilibrium before being subjected to some sort of adversity, but can also go beyond, reinforcing and elevating their emotional structure to a higher level through an internal learning process, capable of facing even greater challenges (BARLACH, 2005).

Resilience gains a dimension of continuous growth, causing the individual to fortify themselves with their own experience and overcome adverse situations, becoming more resilient to each problem supplanted. However, Goldschmidt (2015, p.116) points out that one must not lose sight of the equilibrium in this process:

The process of adapting, changing and become resilient, implies in recovering the equilibrium when facing adversities and the (eventual) stress caused by adversities.

In this context, there is another concept related to a more strategic and cognitive side of individuals challenged by damaging events: ‘coping’. It is a conscious process of an individual, beginning with the identification of a potential risk, followed by analysis and search for the best way to deal with the adverse situation and, finally, the adoption of what was considered the best behavioral strategy.

There is, however, no consensus on how resilience occurs in individuals. This is because exposure to situations that bring new elements and trigger some kind of emotional stress, may generate different reactions in individuals. Each individual attributes particular meaning to situations, and may perceive them in several ways from ‘threats’ to ‘stimuli to overcome challenges’ (WALLER, 2001). Additional discussions sought to analyze whether resilience is tied to a singular feature or personality trait - or whether it would have a broader, multidimensional character, being the result of several factors acting simultaneously, through a dynamic interaction between the individual and their environment, which could occur in any person (WALLER, 2001). It has also been realized that resilient individuals in certain scenarios may not exhibit the same behavior under other circumstances.

Gradually, the use of the word evolved and took some distance from the initial concept of resilience, borrowed from the physics and related to resistance of materials (where materials return to their original state after being submitted to external forces, without suffering plastic deformations, characterizing for perfect elasticity). In fact, resilience occurs in individuals through internal reconfiguration as a result of personal effort, as Barlach (2005: 94) says:

In other words, resilience as studied in Human Sciences does not address the phenomenon as a return to the starting point. It refers to growth or transformation resulting from confrontation, because human beings, unlike materials, may want to react, to be a protagonist in their own life; they can invigorate or create new personal resources.

In this learning process individuals learn to cope with adversity and the simultaneous action of several internal human resources can be perceived at the conscious and unconscious level. This makes it difficult to fully understanding how all factors combine in an appropriate way. This finding indicates that the concept of resilience is still under construction (BARLACH, 2005).

The evolution of the organizational resilience concept

The business environment has undergone constant changes, driven by several aspects, such as: shortening product lifecycles, the emergence of new technologies at any given moment, the growing influence of consumers and their power in the business environment and external regulatory interferences and the effects of globalization, among others.

Initially, at the time of formation and growth of industry and in a context of a product demanding market, it was possible to observe a more reactive movement of the organizations, as a way of correcting and adapting to a new external or internal situation. However, the more dynamic and competitive environment requires from companies a more proactive behavior, anticipating problems and opportunities and acting creatively and innovatively.

Organizational resilience can be understood as an ability of the organization to develop situational responses to disruption in the environment that represent potential threats to its survival. After being affected by some sort of adversity, companies, through established and strategically-driven mechanisms, are re-established, re-gaining their previous level (LENGNICK-HALL, BECK and LENGNICK-HALL, 2011).

According to Sanchis and Poler (2013, p. 700):

Enterprise resilience is the capacity to be ready and prepared to face up to disruptions. If a disruption impacts on an enterprise, it will have to adapt to the new situation and try to recover as soon as possible to the normal state of operations.

Organizational resilience can come from both individual responses from leaders and those who are led, as well as from the organizational system itself (structure, procedures, and resources) (DENHARDT and DENHARDT, 2010). The rebuilding and positive adaptation of companies, including their flexibility, is then perceived as a necessary skill to be learned and developed by leaders to structure resilient organizational behavior (LENGNICK-HALL, BECK and LENGNICK-HALL, 2011).

Organizations may face obstacles or setbacks along the way, as well as achieve success, evolution and growth, broadening their original challenges. In addition to the re-establishment of the previous level, organizations can, through the learning process experienced in the course of analysis and positive action in response to adverse and risk situations, absorb, create and incorporate new skills that will form a new repository of acquired knowledge. This makes the organization more flexible and able to deal with possible and future challenges that stand in its way. Thus, resilience shows itself as a capacity for learning and growth, in the sense of improving by overcoming each disruption. On the other hand, this movement requires an ability to reorganize and restructure the resources and processes in such a way that the company remains effective in the face of external and internal changes that occur (BEUNZA and STARK, 2004).

Cyrino (2004), in his doctoral thesis, shows, among other issues, how main Brazilian banks have developed skills over a long period to overcome situations of economic crisis, demonstrating organizational resilience.

Rapid response to external or internal adversities and to drastic changes in the organizational and external environment, using flexible initiatives and adaptations, are characteristic of resilient organizations (MINOLLI, 2005). According to Gallopín (2006), organizational resilience is a capacity of the company to adapt and overcome a disruption quickly, reaching a higher level without resulting in losses.

For a company to be resilient, it is crucial to present the capacity to be aware of signs of change, and identify possible threats and opportunities to the business in a complex and extremely dynamic context of an interconnected world, as shown in the first part of this article. This state of awareness can be compared to risk management, in which companies elaborate possible scenarios to later analyze and identify similar cases experienced and previous responses effectively adopted. It is a capacity of the organization to observe and understand what is going on in all its internal and external environment, and how variations can interfere positively or negatively in the organization. (MCMANUS, SEVILLE, VARGO et al., 2008; SANCHIS and POLER, 2013). In this sense, organizational resilience is understood as the ability of the company to minimize risks and their effects, whether threatening situations are previously known or not, transforming and responding quickly as threats and opportunities are perceived, which McManus, Seville, Vargo et al. (2008) called ‘resilience management’. In another study, Burnard and Bhamra (2011) propose a conceptual model focused on the dynamics of organizational resilience, capable of generating risk detection mechanisms and threat signals, triggering organizational responses to identified adversities, giving a strategic character to resilience management.

Another aspect that should be observed is that collaboration and cooperative behavior between individuals and organizations (HECKSCHER, 2007) work positively in building response to adversities, especially when external complexity increases the daily challenges for organizations (ALLEN, 2012 ).

Some authors bring examples mapped within public administration in the United States and the internal practices of governmental organizations, where collaboration with other external stakeholders has proven to be an important factor in overcoming adversities, stimulating organizational resilience (QUICK and FELDMAN, 2014).

Likewise, situations of growth in demand impact negatively in resilience and organizational responsiveness when suppliers are more reluctant to be flexible and cooperate, as pointed out by Scavarda, Ceryno, Pires et al. (2015) in a case study of the Brazilian auto industry.

Some authors have highlighted features of organizations that would favor resilience, such as tolerance to error, quality of life of employees, incentive for flexibility and confidence (DENHARDT and DENHARDT, 2010).

Managers and leaders living in these environments and being at the forefront of teams mobilizing people, encouraging innovation and proposing changes, must present resilient behavior and build an atmosphere of overcoming in the organization.

According to the concepts portrayed by the authors presented in this article, the future would lead to more resilient organizational forms, in which more substantive communication among organizational groups would be increasingly present.

Conclusion: innovative and resilient organization

Therefore, a post-bureaucratic organization is based much more on habermasian communication - which seeks real understanding of the issues and gets to the best factual solutions for the organizational group - than on strategic action that concentrates exclusively on power relations grounded on bureaucratic rules.

In this type of organization, people must be capable of communicating and sharing valid information, intentions and knowledge that will lead to innovation and production of scientific and social knowledge, going beyond strategic negotiation. Strategic action is a phase of the actions that involves organizational change. The innovative and resilient organization, however, focuses its daily activities more on knowledge production from substantive communication, and this is the prevalent form of communication in the system. This type of organization, according to research, must be the predominant model in the future, even if not in the short term.

The main ideas and concepts discussed in this article are represented in Chart 1.

Source: Elaborated by the authors

Chart 1 Organizational Resilience 


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5{Translated version} Note: All quotes in English translated by this article’s translator.

10Translated citation: Today while functional divisions continue to exist, more and more project teams, task forces and similar organizational structures spring up in their midst, then disappear. And people, instead of filling fixed slots in the functional organization, move back and forth at a high rate of speed. They often retain their functional “home base” but are detached repeatedly to serve as temporary team members. (…) the rise of ad hoc organization is a direct effect of the speed-up of change in society as a whole.

Received: October 21, 2016; Accepted: August 02, 2017

PhD. Isabella Francisca Freitas Gouveia de Vasconcelos - Doctorat es Sciences de Gestion / HEC - Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales, France (2000); PhD in Human Resource Administration from FGV EAESP (1997), Brazil; Post-Doctorate from Rutgers, The New Jersey State University, USA; Adjunct Professor and Editor-in-chief at FGV EBAPE, Brazil; Researcher at CNAM-Conservatoire National D´Arts et Metiers, France. E-mail:

PhD. Alvaro Bruno Cyrino - PhD in Company Policy and Strategy from HEC - Ecole de Hautes Etudes Commerciales, France; Vice-director and Assistant Professor at FGV EBAPE. Rio de Janeiro, RJ - Brazil. E-mail:

MSc. Leonardo Araújo de Carvalho - Master in Administration from FGV EBAPE. Professor-tutor and research assistant at FGV EBAPE; Executive Professor at FGV IDE. Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil. E-mail:

MSc. Lucas Martins D´Oliveira - Master in Administration from FGV EBAPE; Professor and researcher of the School of Management and Leadership at the Petrobras University; Associate researcher at the French-Brazilian Center of Advanced Studies in Organizations, Innovation and Sustainability. Rio de Janeiro, RJ - Brazil. E-mail:

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