Risk-based planning is a familiar concept for most companies. Many business leaders realize that the right operational risk management (ORM) system helps to lower operating and auditing costs, reduce operating loss, increase customer and staff satisfaction, optimize insurance coverage and premiums, and promote compliance with regulatory requirements. Also, the operational discipline cultivated as part of an effective ORM system allows leaders to maintain consistency and reliability while maximizing efficiencies throughout their manufacturing and production processes.

But recognizing the importance of risk management doesn’t always translate to having an effective strategy or system in place. Adopting a strategic approach to ORM can ensure the optimization of resources while maximizing risk reduction. Not all ORM strategies are the same, nor should they be. Organizations must develop a strategy that complements their business model and operations. This requires a solid understanding of the specific risks they face, as well as the people they employ, and then fully integrating the system into the company’s day-to-day operations.

Risk Is Not Universally Defined

Risk is assessed by evaluating the potential for incidents along with the degree of impact they could have on an organization should they occur. That means enterprises face a wide spectrum of potential risks, ranging from high frequency/low severity risks to low frequency/high severity risks, and everything in between. The range of risks may vary between one company and another depending upon several factors, such as physical location, prevailing culture, competency and operating discipline. Given the wide range of potential risks and a limit on the resources that a company can devote to risk management, it makes sense to adopt a strategy that assigns appropriate effort to potential risks. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to mitigating the risks a company faces, and it is simply not practical to address all risks with the same level of intensity.

Companies have had success adopting what DuPont Sustainable Solutions (DSS) refers to as a “differentiated risk” approach. This strategy ensures that appropriate effort and resources are expended based on the specific risk profile of the industry and business in which a company operates. This results not only in optimal risk management for an organization, but also ensuring value for the investment, giving companies a competitive advantage in their business sector (see Figure 1). Successful ORM lies in identifying, evaluating and controlling losses and differentially managing associated risks.

Understanding the Human Element to Risk

Despite the well-intentioned efforts around risk management systems and organizational work processes, incidents can still happen. That’s because people design, operate and maintain an organization’s assets, fleets, and equipment -- and people aren’t perfect. DuPont’s research shows that 82% of incidents within the workplace can be attributed to poor decision-making. One way to reduce incidents is to understand what influences employees’ decision making.

Companies can enhance safety performance in particular by understanding the behavioral characteristics of their workers. Employees make decisions based on what they think and feel. There is also a social context that factors into decision making, which includes the social norms and unwritten rules that influence an individual’s or team’s behavior. Understanding mindsets and behaviors can help companies create a performance culture that can achieve superior results. Often, the impact these behavioral contexts has on outcomes is significantly undervalued.

Integration is Essential

When managing operational risks, it is tempting to assign only technical solutions to problems or risks that arise. However, an exclusive focus on worker and process safety elements is inadequate. And while companies that actually consider behavioral impacts on incidents and focus on managing and reducing risk rather than simply driving compliance to systems or procedures are the most effective, neither technical solutions nor behavioral solutions alone are sufficient to fully address operational risks.

What is optimal is an integrated approach (see Figure 2) that addresses all the elements of a successful ORM system:

Managing Processes defines the vision, sets the strategy and tactics, translates this into key performance indicators at all levels of the organization, monitors performance and sets up the organizational structure to support the processes.

• A sound Technical Model defines hazards and losses, assesses the associated risks and provides standards and procedures for mitigating risk.

Capabilities Engine seeks to educate and provide employees, not only with the technical knowledge, but also with the ideal values, attitudes and beliefs that will engage and motivate them. It requires clearly communicating expectations and accountability, and encouraging teamwork and collaboration.

Mindsets & Behaviors ensure a company’s commitment to reducing risk is driven and reinforced by active participation of corporate leadership through coaching, motivation and ownership of results. Leaders must understand how individual employees behave, think and feel, and how that drives their decisions. This leadership style is cascaded from executive leadership to the critical level of first-line leadership. Tapping into the entire organization’s motivation and problem-solving capabilities results in an approach supported throughout the company.

This integrated approach allows companies to protect their people, their assets and ultimately, their bottom line.

The Goal – Cultural Maturity

For an organization to perform at the highest levels in the context of risk management, each and every employee, from the C-suite to the shift worker, must possess a commitment to operations that go beyond merely reacting to incidents to actively preventing them. Achieving this cultural maturity is the true measure of the strength and effectiveness of a company’s integrated management system.

When DuPont experienced a plateau in corporate safety performance in the early 1990s, then-Chairman and CEO Ed Woolard commissioned a study that found the maturity of the safety culture at DuPont had a direct impact on safety performance (as measured by total recordable injuries). This relationship came to be illustrated in the DuPont Bradley Value Curve™.

In the last two years, our experience with clients has shown that companies that have evolved toward a more mature risk culture of interdependence reap the dual benefits of reduced incidents and improved productivity. They are able to mitigate risks while maximizing opportunities for sustainable value creation. They also are able to allocate appropriate time, attention and resources to deliver improved performance.

 Based on these findings, we’ve developed the DuPont Bradley Value Curve™ that adds the Dimension of operational excellence and provides a more holistic picture of the impact cultural maturity can have on productivity (see Figure 3).