Human Factors in Risk Management - Key Factors for Establishing a Risk Culture in the Public Administration.
Brüesch, Caroline; (2010). Human Factors in Risk Management - Key Factors for Establishing a Risk Culture in the Public Administration.. In: 14th IRSPM Conference. Berne/Switzerland:
Although the importance of risk management is widely accepted, organisations often underestimate the influence of organisational culture on risk management. Employees can enable and promote but also hinder or prevent the functioning of the risk management process. Cultural aspects shape perceptions and awareness as well as attitudes and actions of employees.
Senior administration officials now face the challenge of implementing risk management within the specific parameters of the public sector and identifying their role in the development of a risk culture. Although, in recent years, risk management guidelines, frameworks and standards have been established specifically for the public sector, the cultural aspects necessary for the successful implementation of risk management have been given little attention.
A first study, using structured questionnaires and qualitative interviews with senior executives, examined the key factors of a risk culture. The aim of the study was to interview senior executives from the private as well as the public sector regarding the relevance of cultural factors in risk management. The study showed that both the representatives from the private and public sector agreed that cultural aspects such as leadership, values, personnel policies and organizational learning have substantial influence on an organization?s risk management. In combination with academic research about High Reliability Organisations (HROs), the information gathered from the interviews and questionnaires was used to deduce cultural factors that are important for successful risk management. Subsequently, recommendations, directed at the senior management, were made covering the following elements: Ethics, Values and Goals; Responsibility and Liability; Strategies and Limits; Qualifications and Resources; Perceptions and Expectations; Learning; Trust and Transparency; Identification and Role Model Function.
A second study tried to verify and substantiate the findings from the previous one and to implement the recommendations in cooperation with a Swiss city and its various departments. The first part of this study included a questionnaire about the documents and tools currently used for risk management, the overall state of risk management in the departments and their perception of the importance of risk management. Generally, the participants of the questionnaire ranked the importance of risk management as high but in their own opinion their current risk management did not reflect this. In a second step, interviews were conducted with representatives from various departments to learn about their understanding as well as their expectations of risk management. In addition, a semi structured interview was conducted with the same group to explore in more detail the cultural factors that they considered as relevant for the management of risks, including opportunities, and how they can be embedded in the public context. These interviews confirmed the result of the first study. The recommendations of the first study, which were valid for risk management in both the private and public sector, are then narrowed down and adapted for the public sector.
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