What’s the RISK in Ignoring RISK?
But the question is this: How often do we consider risk in the Federal workplace?
Now if you work in the Department of Defense or the Department of Homeland Security, you think about risk a lot, BUT mainly at the mission level…because those agencies are all about dealing with the risk to our national security.
But what about the risks that exist in our week-in and week-out operations? In our day-to-day work? “Wait!” many people say. “I don’t have any risks in my day to day work.” Well, while we don’t necessarily want to go through each day worrying about each step we take, it is incumbent on us as Federal employees to be aware of the obstacles to mission accomplishment. And not just mission accomplishment, BUT effective and efficient mission accomplishment.
Most likely you yourself can think of ways your organization could do its work better: To save time or money. To reach goals faster. To do higher quality work. Many challenges to doing things better can be seen as risks: the risk that resources are being wasted – ones that could be put to better use; the risk that people don’t stay focused on the end result; the risk that people don’t know the rules (like appropriations laws and rules).
Risks like those just listed can really trip up an organization. And cause it to be seen as not efficient or even not effective. In today’s climate of further threatened budget cuts and more scrutiny by the public, organizations that are viewed as managing well are likely to fare better than those who have a poor management reputation.
The good news is that the process for annually assessing an agency’s internal control – including doing risk assessments – can help an agency identify all its risks and take steps to mitigate them. The law and OMB Circular A-123 (update pending) require agency heads to annually assess and report to the president and the Congress on the status of their internal control. Such assessments are to be done by all managers throughout an agency. To aid in that assessment, GAO publishes criteria in the form of the Internal Control Standards, one of which is about risk assessment.
To the extent that an agency follows the process, and uses the internal control standards, it will be reasonably assured that it has identified its risks and addressed them. Keep this in mind: because of the fast pace of changes in the Federal workplace, there is NO system, process, or procedure that cannot be improved. And all that change constantly presents risks to doing effective and efficient work.
All it takes is (a) being more conscious of risk, (b) some knowledge and training about how to perform a proper risk assessment; and (c) taking appropriate corrective actions to address risk.
Now, get out there and start identifying those risks where you work!