Canadian Federal Government Risk Management


/ September 12th, 2011/ Posted in Public Sector ERM / No Comments »

canadian-federal-government-risk-managementConference showcases progress in ERM

During the past three years, I have presented at the Public Sector Risk Management conference put on by Infonex in Ottawa. The topics of my presentation were:

January 2011 – “Risk Assessment Best Practices: Examples from Provincial Government”
February 2010 – “How Risk Management Can Lead Innovation”
February 2009 – “Principles-based Enterprise Risk Management” (keynote address).

The original 2009 session set the stage for subsequent years:

Treasury Board Secretariat representatives Greg Kenney (now Senior Director, Investment Planning and Project Management) and Nisa Tummon (now Director, Risk Management) explained the refreshed and revitalized role of TBS Center of Excellence on Risk Management. They support all Canadian Federal Government departments in training and developing best practices in Integrated Risk Management, or Enterprise Risk Management (both terms are actually used).

Liane Sauer, Director with Canada Revenue Agency, explained the history of ERM implementation in that organization. Interestingly, as employees advanced in their appreciation of risk methods, the quality of their risk information markedly improved. Risk statements evolved from the familiar concerns (people always seem to identify “not enough resources”) to more strategic.

Natural Resources Canada Representative Colin Nicholson (now A/Chief of Staff, GSC) explained the importance of presenting and proving the value proposition of risk methods to employees. He described that his role as an internal resource was to transfer skills and build capacity, not dependency.

Principles-based Enterprise Risk Management

In my own talk, the message was: investigate and validate the assumptions that underpin your environmental scan and your risk assessments.

John Lark, now in private practice with Stratos, was formerly with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. He was chair of the event and continues to host Infonex events. John picked up on the notion of principles-based risk management in his own presentation: ISO 31000 Global Risk Management Standard. The new standard defines risk concisely as “effect of uncertainty upon objectives”. The new ISO 31000 and the Canadian supporting document CAN/CSA-ISO 31000-10 recognize that risk is assessed in the context of the organization and its objectives.

Many government excursions into ERM, and the evolving standards themselves, are converging on like principles for successful implementation; notably, an adaptive and incremental approach, and a focus on value. Still challenging parts of government is a culture often reluctance to discuss risk. The mere adoption of risk methods and language facilitates the discussion of risk, and success in cultural shift is evident in the examples above.

[Revised. Originally published 26 Feb 2009.]

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