Reflections on resilience for mindful managers


Advances in Project Management


By Prof Darren Dalcher

Director, National Centre for Project Management
Lancaster University Management School

United Kingdom



The notion of resilience is habitually invoked in difficult and trying times. The idea of resilience appears in many domains and conversations, often relating to the ability of something to recover quickly following shock, turbulence or another unpleasant occurrence (see, Dalcher, 2015 for a more comprehensive discussion). Whilst resilience has traditionally been used to describe the ability of materials or systems to respond to sudden changes in their external environment, it is increasingly also applied to describe the capacity of organisations, society and individuals to bounce back from adversity. Not surprisingly, as we attempt to recover from the Coronavirus pandemic, resilience is often mentioned as an important coping and recovery strategy.

Where are we now?

Global events challenge individuals and societies. The changes unleashed by the recent pandemic and the efforts to bring it under control have resulted in economic uncertainty, political turmoil and social unrest. Locked in at home, frozen out of normal routines and well-established habits, often struggling to cope with the sudden change and loss of predictability, many individuals have struggled to cope with feelings of loss, sorrow, trauma, tragedy, adversity, stress, anxiety – and the inevitable change to life as we know it.

Young and old alike have found an undermined period of enforced lockdowns with an added measure of restrictions both difficult and detrimental to their well-being. Indeed, uncertainty often proves to be a very uncomfortable and distressing state. Yet, some people seem to bounce back from adversity, almost recharged by their experience, whilst others appear to be knocked down and deflated by the very same conditions.

Coutu (2002) maintains that resilience can help survive and recover from the most brutal experiences and can be cultivated using three essential practices (re-paraphrased below):

Face down reality: Adopt a pragmatic stance recognising the reality of your situation, instead of slipping into denial to cope with hardship.

Search for meaning: Devise constructs about your suffering to create meaning for yourself and others, and resist the temptation to label yourself as victim.

Continually improvise: Be inventive and make the most of what you have by putting available resources to use in creative ways and imagining new possibilities.

People often come out of big crisis damaged, so the proposed practices endeavour to develop a coping attitude that seeks to embrace the new conditions, make the present manageable rather than overwhelming, believe and continually seek improvements. Seligman (2011) similarly concludes from his extensive research on resilience that those who survive upheaval tend towards optimism, interpreting setbacks as temporary, local and changeable. Using more contemporary change management thinking, Coutu’s practices can therefore be repositioned as a speedy recipe for a new change cycle designed specifically for coming to terms with urgent and unwelcome change and adversity through the creation of a positive and sustainable narrative.


To read entire article, click here

Editor’s note: The PMWJ Advances in Project Management series includes articles by authors of program and project management books published by Routledge publishers.  Each month an introduction to the current article is provided by series editor Prof Darren Dalcher, who is also the editor of the Routledge Advances in Project Management series of books on new and emerging concepts in PM.  Prof Dalcher’s article is an introduction to the invited paper this month in the PMWJ. 

How to cite this paper: Dalcher, D. (2020). Reflections on resilience for mindful managers, Advances in Project Management Series, PM World Journal, Volume IX, Issue X, October. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/pmwj98-Oct2020-Dalcher-resilience-for-mindful-managers.pdf



About the Author

Darren Dalcher, PhD

Author, Professor, Series Editor
Director, National Centre for Project Managemen
Lancaster University Management School, UK


Darren Dalcher, Ph.D., HonFAPM, FRSA, FBCS, CITP, FCMI, SMIEEE, SFHEA is Professor in Strategic Project Management at Lancaster University, and founder and Director of the National Centre for Project Management (NCPM) in the UK.  He has been named by the Association for Project Management (APM) as one of the top 10 “movers and shapers” in project management and was voted Project Magazine’s “Academic of the Year” for his contribution in “integrating and weaving academic work with practice”. Following industrial and consultancy experience in managing IT projects, Professor Dalcher gained his PhD in Software Engineering from King’s College, University of London.

Professor Dalcher has written over 200 papers and book chapters on project management and software engineering. He is Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Software: Evolution and Process, a leading international software engineering journal. He is the editor of the book series, Advances in Project Management, published by Routledge and of the companion series Fundamentals of Project Management.  Heavily involved in a variety of research projects and subjects, Professor Dalcher has built a reputation as leader and innovator in the areas of practice-based education and reflection in project management. He works with many major industrial and commercial organisations and government bodies.

Darren is an Honorary Fellow of the APM, a Chartered Fellow of the British Computer Society, a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute, and the Royal Society of Arts, A Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a Member of the Project Management Institute (PMI) and the British Academy of Management. He is a Chartered IT Practitioner. He sits on numerous senior research and professional boards, including The PMI Academic Member Advisory Group, the APM Research Advisory Group, the CMI Academic Council and the APM Group Ethics and Standards Governance Board.  He is the Academic Advisor and Consulting Editor for the next APM Body of Knowledge. Prof Dalcher is an academic advisor for the PM World Journal.  He is the academic advisor and consulting editor for the forthcoming edition of the APM Body of Knowledge. He can be contacted at d.dalcher@lancaster.ac.uk.

To view other works by Prof Darren Dalcher, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/darren-dalcher/.