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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Business School : Common Courses (Management School)

Postgraduate Course: Understanding, Sustaining and Enhancing Resilience (CMSE11461)

Course Outline
SchoolBusiness School CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryStudents will approach the course with varying degrees of own understanding of the word 'resilience'. Many of them may have held or still hold professional positions which include 'resilience' in their title. In most cases, students are likely to have approached or experienced resilience from a single perspective; for instance, they may be working in an engineering role, or again in a risk management role, or in business continuity planning and management, or else.

The USER course will provide a broad view of resilience, moving on from the intra-personal resilience dimension of 'resilient individuals' that is typical of fields such as clinical psychology, all the way up a sequence of more and more complex settings revolving around inter-personal resilience. These include, to cite the most commonly mentioned: resilience of teams and organisations, resilience of supply chains and industrial networks, or of other complex networks such as intermodal transport networks, resilience of complex systems and major infrastructure (e.g. major bridges, high-speed rail projects), resilience of communities, cities and rural spaces, and resilience of economies, entire nations and supranational organisations (e.g. the European Union). In many respects, major programmes fall under several of these categories/groupings for which resilience constitutes a relevant aspect, e.g. a major programme undoubtedly has also a clear dimension as an organisation (see e.g. Crossrail, or HS2).

The underlying assumption at the basis of the USER course is that the analysis and the subsequent enhancement of the resilience of any of the above example settings is per se a complex, problematic, poorly understood (to start with) problem situation, the understanding of which is unlikely to take place solely on the basis of (hard) data available at hand. Resilience analysis and enhancement, in fact, is not the only case of a situation that is dominated by complexity, conflicting interests and views by various stakeholder groups, uncertainty of the related parameters, and potential turbulent, unpredictable behavioural patterns of evolution over time. Situations of this kind are often called 'messes' or 'wicked problems', and a number of techniques have been developed in the past half a century to deal with them, to support end-to-end journeys that go from the development of a deep understanding of any such problem situation, its structuring in a form that starts to be amenable to meaningful analysis, and finally to the testing and choice of potential enhanced alternative settings that improve the problem situation (e.g. the overall resilience of an organisation, or its resilience against specific disruptive events and crises).

In the USER course, students will learn a tested method to study and improve the resilience of anything they may be concerned with. The method is agnostic to the application sector, the type of industry or problem considered, and promotes the integration of qualitative and quantitative analysis around resilience-related problem situations.
Course description Over the last decade, the term 'resilience' has been widely adopted in a multitude of different contexts and for virtually uncountably many different purposes, to the point that its true meaning might have gone, in part, lost. One of the reasons for that, may be the prompt adoption of the word by fields such as risk management, business continuity management, etc., largely for re-branding purposes. This course will initially take students on a brief historical journey, tracing back the development of resilience through both the sciences and humanities, but also touching upon the legal and political spheres. By the end of this journey, the commonalities and differences in the interpretations of the term 'resilience' from the different fields of adoption will be highlighted and, with them, the multi-faceted nature of resilience as such.
The course will then accompany the student on a step-by-step process of resilience analysis and enhancement, working on real problem situations that will include the students' own projects, equipped with which they joined their programme (LMP, or other UEBS programmes) or pathway at EFI. The method presented in the course takes its roots from a number of partly related fields such as Operational Research/Management Science, Systems Thinking, Cybernetics, Problem Structuring Methods and Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis.

In the first step of the process, students will learn how to involve and guide the 'most relevant' group of people in a sequence of facilitated workshops, through which resilience-related issues from the given problem situation will be raised.

During the second step of the process, students will get to know potential recipes for resilience enhancement, something that in the literature goes by the name of 'resilience attributes'.

In the third step, students will learn how to devise a discrete subset of the list of resilience attributes that most likely enhances the resilience of the problem situation. More precisely, students will learn how to derive a (short) list of strategic options to be considered in the redesign of the problem situation, together with the related systems, processes, organisational structures, etc.

In the final step, students will learn how to analyse and compare the strategic options on the basis of their performance, and to choose one to pursue and turn into an actual intervention/change to be rolled out. Students will first learn how to devise the important subset of multiple criteria of performance that apply to the problem situation being studied. Some of these criteria will be specifically related to resilience performance; these include time-based resilience indices as well as cross-sectional resilience synthetic indicators. Example quantitative techniques to be used to collect data, compute the specific performance metrics and ultimately choose the 'best' candidate strategic option will also be discussed.

Outline Content
-Etymology of Resilience
-Resilience Attributes
-Resilience Design Principles
-The Resilience Landscape and Process
-Time-based Resilience Indices
-Cross-sectional Synthetic Indicators for Resilience

Student Learning Experience
The course blends a strong theoretical and methodological (inter-disciplinary) background, with a strong practical emphasis. Attendance is compulsory because, building on from the morning lectures, the afternoon workshops will see students working in groups on real problem situations, experiencing the different steps of the resilience analysis and enhancement process first hand, and exchanging roles with one another in each step, so that the different challenges arising from both the problem owner and the analyst sides can be understood. Following on from this student experience in the classroom, each student will be able to focus efforts on their final, individual coursework, and demonstrate, through it, that they are by then equipped with the resilience analysis and enhancement toolkit.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Discuss the many different meanings of the term ┐resilience┐ in different contexts, application sectors, and related overlaps between or complementarity of views.
  2. Make sense of a problem situation of their choice, from a resilience perspective.
  3. Appraise the results of a resilience assessment and enhancement process, and the related learnings from its running.
Reading List
Indicative Reading List:

Alexander, D. E. (2013). Resilience and disaster risk reduction: an etymological journey. Natural hazards and earth system sciences, 13(11), 2707-2716.

Sheffi, Y., & Rice Jr, J. B. (2005). A supply chain view of the resilient enterprise. MIT Sloan management review, 47(1), 41.

Pidd, M. (2009). Tools for thinking┐Modelling in management science. Wiley, 3rd Ed.

Rosenhead, J. & Mingers, J., Eds. (2001). Rational Analysis for a Problematic World Revisited, Wiley, 2nd Ed.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Problem Solving
Knowledge integration and application
Analytical, critical and creative thinking
Numeracy and Big Data
Written communication
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Maurizio Tomasella
Course secretary
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