From impossible to possible

Every organization exists to serve a distinct purpose. When that existence is jeopardized by unexpected events, the organization is required to bounce back to an acceptable state of normality and learn from the crisis. In this context, several scholars have emphasized the crucial role of resilience in public service organizations. The literature elucidates attributes of resilient organizations and general principles of resilience, but tangible techniques used to test the service resilience are difficult to find.

This qualitative case study aims to help public sector managers understand service resilience and its accompanying breaking points by proposing a scenario planning model that tests resilience by applying possible-worlds thinking to public services. The proposed scenario planning model is based on empirical evidence showing how service design incorporated assumptions that became inaccurate in the pandemic, and how these inaccurate assumptions created pressures for change in the service design and production. The model we propose can help public managers apply such stress tests in practice.