Analysis: Is Your Agency Doing All The Wrong Things Right?


How are you reducing the risk of risk?

Put another way: How is your organization leveraging clarity of purpose, internal processes and employees to reduce and manage the risks it encounters or will encounter? If the answer is “not very well” or “I don’t know,” your brand is in serious jeopardy.

Gone are the days when businesses thought of risk management only in terms of how much insurance coverage they needed. Today, risk is defined as the universe of uncertainties that affect an organization. It has five dimensions: strategy, operations, capital structure, human capital and brand.

To quote Harvard Business School strategy experts Robert S. Kaplan and Dr. David P. Norton: “We must elevate the topic of risk management to a level of visibility more in alignment with the dynamic nature of the ever-changing marketplace.” 

The public sector faces many of the same risks as private industry in terms of needing clear strategies for deploying scarce resources when budgets are shrinking and the demand for accountability and transparency is increasing. Add in the challenges associated with unfunded pension liabilities and the loss of institutional knowledge through attrition, and recruitment and retention strategies become important components of risk management.

What are you doing to address these areas?  How are you questioning the status quo? “If you aren’t green and growing, you are ripe and rotting,” says Chip Webster, former Florida chair at the executive advisory company Vistage. These questions illustrate the importance of committing to continuous personal and organizational learning and growth.

Start with an assessment of your situation to better understand your agency’s risk profile and awareness beyond the traditional insurance areas. Distractions from daily routines, crisis management and organizational growth can cause an organization to drift. In the press of these distractions the notion of “why we exist” may no longer be as clear. Whether we are doing the right things poorly or the wrongs things well are questions we fail to ask anymore. Asking them represents real and immediate opportunities for your organization.

In managing risk, agency leaders and managers might consider adding PESTEL to their toolbox. Traditionally used to analyze trends in new or emerging markets, PESTEL addresses six dimensions of the macro environment in which organizations operate: political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal. Using this old tool in a new way provides an excellent framework for identifying a range of external risks and opportunities with potentially broad implications for your organization. PESTEL can elevate the visibility of risk beyond its insurance roots so it can be addressed strategically.

So what’s in your toolbox that you haven’t used in a while? How are you defining and dealing with the new paradigms of risk? What other old tools can position your agency to withstand the risks coming at you at ever increasing speed?

John P. Foster, managing member of the management consulting firm Pathfinder Group, has built several businesses and helps executives meet their goals by developing strategies to manage risk.

(Image via corgarashu/

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.