About TORC

The TORC project develops an innovative and comprehensive training concept that enable organizations to appreciate, nurture and improve their inherent resilient and adaptive capacities, while being under the imperative of predominantly compliance-oriented safety regulations and standards. Hence, the founding TORC concept is "resilience in the context of compliance", in which "compliance" signifies a dominant preoccupation with the absence of the sources of error and failure and "resilience" signifies a complementary preoccupation with the conditions for presence of adaptive capabilities, drawing on resilience engineering principles.

Resilience in safety and security management

The notion of "resilience" is widely used to address and characterise systems that exist in complex environments, dealing with variability, disruptions and surprise. Etymologically, the term has a long history, and it is applied in many contexts, from materials to societies. Key properties range from absorbing, to recovering and even returning stronger from unanticipated or abnormal stress and disruption. In addition, the aspects to which resilient performance is attributed varies largely, from material and technical properties to organizational performance and human behaviour.

In a safety and security management context, a more meaningful point of reference is however Aaron Wildavsky's (1988) influential forwarding of the resilience concept as an intellectual and instrumental counterweight to an "obsession with prediction", addressing the prevalent risk management practices of the time.

A similar stance is found in Weick and Sutcliffe's (2015) renowned work on "managing the unexpected", focusing on people and organizations. They strongly argue that anticipation and (commitment) to resilience are two different mindsets, and that "the ability to cope with the unexpected requires a different mindset than to anticipate its occurrence".

Alongside, the discipline of resilience engineering (RE) has evolved, motivated by the increasing presence of complex sociotechnical systems. The maybe most widespread articulation related to RE is Hollnagel's definition of resilience as "the intrinsic ability to adapt before, during and after disturbance". Woods (2019) offer a more focused definition of this ability through the concept of "graceful extensibility" which directs attention to the adaptive capacity rather than the actual adaptations. Nevertheless, according to RE, resilience is seen as an integral part of normal operation, thus not confined to the recovery phase. The distinct sociotechnical focus of RE reinforces Wildavsky's original argument; systems are drifting with respect to the way they work, and the most important driver is success, not failure. Accordingly, as also deviances are normalized over time, systems may be "robust, yet fragile" (Woods 2019), and may "drift into failure", as labelled by Dekker (2011). The ability to cope with disturbance thus cannot rest on prior anticipations about its occurrence.

The Training for Operational Resilience Capabilities (TORC) approach

The foundational operational dimension of resilience as a practice is the motivation for the TORC approach to initially focus on operational processes dealing with disturbance, exceptions, and surprise. TORC is a training-by-gaming approach, effectively a platform for revealing, reconstructing, nurturing, and developing the rudimentary resilience embedded in operational practices. Put differently, it is a device for sensitizing the organization to its inherent and potential resilient repertoire, as well as its limits.

Although operational training is at centre stage, managerial training is also enabled and encouraged on the same platform. There are four different motivations for this.

First, the resilience concept is an invitation to fallible practice; there are no inherent "stop criteria" for novel adaptations, although conceptual descriptions of adaptive traps (Branlat and Woods) are proposed. Anyhow, there is a need for elevating the accountability for possible failed attempts of resilient performance, with the possibility of making bad things worse, to an organizational and managerial level. TORC facilitates this by distinguishing between operational training to explore the necessary space of manoeuvre, management training to articulate the legitimate mandate of manoeuvre, and integrated training to ensure that the organization is aligned ("on the same page") with respect to space and mandate.

Second, a key premise for adapting the RE stance is seeing resilience as part of normal operation. This implies a sensitivity to context. Generally speaking, for the safety/security management contexts, normal operation is impregnated with the expectation that safety/security is a result of compliance with rules. This is often depicted as a contest between "Safety-I" and "Safety-II", the latter corresponding to resilience a la RE. For TORC, the common denominator is that training on resilience must be arranged with a set of standard operating procedures (SOP) as the point of departure. SOPs are the responsibility of management. By this way, management may take part in how and why SOPs are challenged, modified and even broken, and the actual adaptations can be jointly evaluated and provide basis for revisions of SOPs or new SOPs. Ultimately, by jointly revealing the adaptations, the rudiments of resilience may be identified, and the underlying adaptive capacity may be gradually encircled and improved.

Third, the ultimate objective of TORC is to transform rudimentary resilience into an organizational capability. This is from the outset very challenging, as it attempts to overcome and bridge the (mind-) gap already pointed out. All other challenges put aside, it will at least require active and open-minded management engagement, and TORC can facilitate this by providing a collaborative space in which encounters between "work as imagined (WAI) and "work as done" (WAD) can be staged, focussing on problematic issues related to the boundary conditions for the whole organization/system, including those that are hidden and emerging. Ultimately, it is also a managerial responsibility to stay clear of the obvious trap of ending up with a "capability" that has collapsed into a recipe, seemingly capable, but without the actual (operational) adaptive capacity within.

Bridging operational resilience with risk management

The above three possible achievements enable a fourth motivation for management utilization of TORC. In parallel with the understanding of the operational nature of resilience, resilience as a concept is also increasingly sought integrated into risk management processes, which attempts to extend its scope to include a recovery process. This leads to a notion of resilience as an "umbrella" concept, essentially connecting dots between risk management, emergency preparedness and business continuity.

This is basically and inevitably the "other" mindset addressed by Wildavsky, but TORC can bridge the two through the operational and management training. Experience shows that TORC can be used to assess the feasibility of risk mitigation measures in relation to situations anticipated. From an operational perspective, these assumptions can be conduced through SOPs, which in turn can be contested and stress-tested from an operational perspective by use of TORC. The insight and solutions emerging from this, can be fed back to the risk management process, inspiring new SOPs. However, beware that this must be a continuous, dialectical process, not a process of alignment and closure.


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