Position Papers

3Rs™ – Robustness, Resilience, Response

3Rs™ – Robustness, Resilience, Response

by Dr Sebastian Schwark

Uncertainty is the new normal. Executives need to learn how to better withstand crises, respond to the unexpected and thrive despite ambiguity.

We cannot forecast events but we can foresee them. Our capacity to peer into the future determines our robustness, resilience and response. The 3Rs™ offers leaders and future leaders the opportunity to enhance their strategic foresight skills, for their own benefit in managing their work and their careers, and for the benefit of the organisations they serve.

Purpose and Impact of 3Rs™
3Rs™ is designed to empower professionals and executives, from mid-career to CEO level, to manage the unexpected successfully and seize the opportunities that uncertainty entails, for their own benefit and for the benefit of their organisations. Going beyond the well-known techniques of crisis management, 3Rs™ introduces a three-tiered approach – robustness, resilience and response – that refines professionals’ management skills by providing tools and techniques to enhance their situational awareness and decision making in times of ambiguity, elevating their effectiveness within their organizations and beyond.

In large organisations, 3Rs™ also provides an enhanced standard of crisis preparedness and crisis management that serves as reinsurance and common reference point for the entire organisation by becoming a shared experience of executives, thereby safeguarding the value and reputation of the organisation.

Process of a 3Rs™ Program
3Rs™ can be designed for an individual CEO or other executive, or for groups of professionals. Especially when provided as seminars for select groups—including by Zoom or other videoconferencing services—3Rs™ is divided into three movements.

First Movement: Understanding robustness and resilience
Developing the concepts and context for the entire program, this movement provides the foundation for the practical techniques in the second movement.

Second Movement: Managing the unexpected
This movement has two parts: robustness, or the art of withstanding the unexpected; and resilience, or the science of demonstrating agency while facing the unexpected.

Third Movement: Thriving in uncertainty
This final movement focuses on how resilience and robustness are built into strategy; and how this will help to bounce back from the unexpected and shape the future.

Every 3Rs™ assignment is structured to suit each client, whether in three, six, or nine sessions or as an ongoing advisory relationship.

First movement: Understanding robustness and resilience

  • What do we mean by robustness?
  • What do we mean by resilience?
  • Characteristics of crisis and uncertainty
  • Benefits and characteristics of robustness and resilience
  • Robustness and resilience as personal skills
  • The relevance of information
  • The primacy of communications
  • The importance of coordination
  • Robustness and resilience as elements of strategy
  • Case study: Eyjafjallajökullx

Second movement: Managing the unexpected

  • Objectives and limitations of crisis management
  • Developing personal robustness: skills and techniques
  • How to prioritise information
  • How to make decisions under uncertainty
  • How to develop messaging under time pressure
  • Public speaking while lacking information and preparation
  • The art of coordination
  • Part two: resilience
  • Strategic foresight vs. forecasting
  • The art of scenario planning
  • Gaining situational awareness
  • Explaining the facts
  • Developing an explanatory model
  • Strategic notice
  • Developing resilience

Third movement: Thriving in uncertainty

  • Building resilience and robustness into strategy: transparency, process, communications
  • Strategic review: assessing information, identifying new directions, implementing change
  • Bouncing back from the unexpected
  • Navigating conflicting interests
  • Red teaming for future shocks
  • Overcoming obstacles
  • Shaping your future

The topics in 3R™ are covered through a Socratic approach. CogitoPraxis poses a scenario, or mini-case study, or problem. Contained within these questions—and therefore within the answers to the questions and within the subsequent discussion—are the topics of influence and leadership embedded in that module. Every 3R™ assignment is bespoke to suit each client.


  • Tamara Carleton, William Cockayne and Antti-Jussi Tahavaninen: Playbook for strategic foresight and innovation, 2013;
  • Jared Diamond: Upheaval. Turning Points for Nations in Crisis, New York: Little, Brown
    and Company 2019;
  • Bernice Lee and Felix Preston, with Gemma Green: Preparing for High-impact, Low-probability Events. Lessons from Eyjafjallajökull, London: Chatham House 2012;
  • Machiavelli: The Prince;
  • OECD: A systemic resilience approach to dealing with Covid-19 and future shocks, 2020;
  • David Omand: How Spies Think. Ten Lessons in Intelligence, London: Viking. 2020;
  • Nassim Nicholas Taleb: The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, New York, Random House 2010 [1 st edition 2007];
  • Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner: Superforecasting. The Art and Science of Prediction, New York: Crown 2015.

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