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Risk Insider: Zachary Gifford

13 Rules for Risk Management Success

By: | October 15, 2014 • 2 min read
Zachary Gifford is Director, Systemwide Risk Management with the California State University – Office of the Chancellor. He also is active in risk management organizations such as PARMA, PRIMA and RIMS. He can be reached at [email protected]

Over my 24-plus years in the insurance, general liability claims and risk management professions, I have learned that the following practices or attributes are critical for success.

With this opportunity, I would like to share with the  readers of Risk & Insurance® the practices and attributes that lead to success when working in a high energy, heavy work-volume environment in our respective organizations.

“Risk management is about people, not money. Money is why we have risk managers; however people are why we strive for excellence. One needs to be cognizant of the uninsurable costs of risk.”

The modern conventional wisdom is that folks need to “do more with less”. Let’s face it, our organizations are either beholden to stockholders, owners or the tax paying citizens of our great country. More than ever the pressures for producing high quality, high volume and cost-effective work product is expected.

The following are some proverbial words-of-wisdom from someone who is the boots on the ground….

  • Be the “get to yes” folks and not the “little dark rain cloud”. Risk management is in the position to assist stakeholders in making informed and sound decisions. Rarely should risk management provide an absolute “no” and if so, then the successful risk manager assists in providing alternative methods to assist in reaching the goal in question. In other words, provide the organization’s stake-holders information enough for them to make an informed decision.
  • Check your ego at the door when you enter the office. It is not about “you”, it is about “us” and “them”.
  • Risk management is about people, not money. Money is why we have risk managers; however people are why we strive for excellence. One needs to be cognizant of the uninsurable costs of risk.
  • Having a positive mental attitude is critical.
  • What would Woodrow Wilson Do? Woodrow Wilson said essentially; “In times of crises a thousand hasty counsels is worth one cool judgment. The goal is to provide light and not heat.”
  • Change is going to happen, embrace it.
  • Be forthright, honest, respectful of others and diplomatic.
  • Use your internal and external resources. Governmental entities do not have to worry about trade secrets or competition and generally public entity risk professionals like to share in their successes and “lessons learned.”
  • Do not reinvent the wheel. In all likelihood someone with institutional knowledge has “been there and done that.”
  • Communicate with stakeholders. They do not like surprises and do not wait to be asked to provide a report or information. Let stakeholders know of your successes and simultaneously help identify where organization success can be maximized or where failure can be mitigated.
  • Be timely and ready to address issues as they occur without losing focus of the horizon.
  • Communicate and collaborate with organizational personnel in developing and supporting a culture of risk management and safety.
  • Battleships turn slowly and sink fast…do not rest on your laurels.

Though the cynic may conclude much of the above is cliché’, it has been my experience that incorporating the above points into how one conducts their risk management endeavors benefits the organization, fosters a positive work environment and provides the foundation for building and/or maintaining a quality risk management enterprise.

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]