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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 comprehensive presentation of the meaning of resilience, with a focus on inter-personal resilience, relevant examples of which are: 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 (physical, such as bridges or high-speed rail programmes, and beyond); resilience of communities; cities and rural spaces, and resilience of economies, entire nations and supranational organisations (e.g. the European Union). Mention will be made of intra-personal resilience and its positioning with respect to the above. The specificity of this other half of the resilience discourse though, which focuses on aspects such as studying resilient behaviour in individuals, imposes the discussion to delve into fields such as psychology or organisational behaviour, which would hardly fit within the same 10-credit course, in any meaningful way.

The underlying assumption at the basis of the USER course is that both 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. In many ways, resilience analysis and enhancement is nothing more than an example situation 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. These techniques 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). The techniques just mentioned ultimately originate from various fields of inquiry, such as systems thinking, data and business analytics, operational research/management science, organisation science, cybernetics, and more.

In the USER course, students will learn a tested method to study and improve the resilience of human activity systems (as defined by Peter Checkland), which roughly equate to any form of organised human activity. 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 uncountably many different purposes, to the point that its true meaning might have gone, in part, lost. This course will initially take students on a brief historical journey, tracing back the development of resilience through both the sciences and humanities. 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.

In the earlier steps 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.

Further on along 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 subsequent steps, 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 steps, students will learn how to analyse and compare the selected options on the basis of their performance, factual or simulated, and to choose one to pursue and turn into an actual intervention/change to be rolled out and monitored.

Content Outline:
- Etymology of Resilience
- Resilience Attributes
- Resilience Foundations
- Resilience Landscaping
- Objective Measurement of 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 class, the afternoon class will see students working in groups on real problem situations, experiencing the different steps of the resilience analysis and enhancement process first hand, and experiencing first-hand the roles involved in such a process. As a result, the intrinsic challenges with understanding, sustaining and enhancing resilience will arise from both the problem owner and the analyst sides. Following on from this student experience in the classroom, each student will focus on their final, individual coursework, where evidence collected during the workshops will be analysed and critically thought through and read through the lenses of the relevant academic literature.
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
With its intentional hands-on approach to learning and teaching, and the focus on blending academic with real world case studies, each academic year the USER course will require slightly ad-hoc created reading lists, e.g. one short case study from literature, for students to develop a basic understanding of the method taught on the course, plus one or two documents from the world of practice (e.g. industry white papers, published standards, or sector specific policy documents) to introduce the students to the real world case study provided by a real partner organisation.

Underpinning the learning experience will be a host of foundational literature on resilience, indicative examples of which are:

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
Additional Class Delivery Information The course will be delivered on campus, as an intensive three-day course. Student presence is essential to the learning experience, given the focus of the course on working directly on case studies, one of which is likely to be provided by a real organisation (thus requiring workshops to be held in person).
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Maurizio Tomasella
Course secretaryMiss Isla Dalley
Tel: (0131 6)50 3900
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