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ARCHIVED - Integrated Risk Management Implementation Guide

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4. Ensuring Continuous Risk Management Learning

Continuous risk management learning is about leveraging and building on existing knowledge and capacity to achieve the desired cultural shift to a risk-smart workforce and operating environment.

Expected Results

  • Learning from experience is valued, lessons are shared—a supportive work environment.
  • Learning plans are built into the organization's risk management practices.
  • Results of risk management are evaluated to support innovation, capacity building, and continuous improvement at the individual, team, and organizational level.
  • Experience and best practices are shared internally and across government.

To achieve the desired cultural shift to a risk-smart workforce, organizations must embrace opportunity, innovation, and responsible risk taking, while striving to achieve corporate objectives. To do this, organizations will need to encourage learning and focus on building risk management capacity, while concentrating on increasing risk management awareness, knowledge, and skills—at the individual, team, and organizational levels—and strengthening processes (i.e. the development and use of risk management tools).

Continuous learning is fundamental to integrated risk management performance. Every day, individuals and organizations are finding new ways to manage risk effectively. Organizations need to monitor and learn from situations where risk management has become a decision-making tool.

The Fundamentals

  • Build on the existing knowledge and capacity base.
  • Create and foster a supportive work environment where individuals can learn from situations that did not go as planned.
  • Provide incentives to recognize and reinforce desired new behaviours.
  • Encourage and reward a proactive attitude to dealing with risk; learn to anticipate.
  • Value exploratory learning and experimentation, particularly where the anticipated benefits of success outweigh the cost of failure.
  • Invest in the power of knowledge; instead of fearing the unknown, find a way to make it known. Good information is critical to good decisions. Teach the basics. Promote conscious management and employee commitment to developing risk management skills and to developing, applying, and refining risk management tools (develop plans and invest in building risk management capacity at organizational and individual levels).

How to Do It

Based on the capacity assessment developed for the corporate risk profile, the next step is to establish an implementation plan for closing gaps in the capacity needed to manage both current and anticipated organizational risk. The techniques for doing this include building concepts and practices into training plans and learning programs, sharing best practices in a variety of ways, and incorporating incentives in reward systems.

For effective skills development, learning needs to be linked to strategy. Organizations can build learning plans into their risk management processes and practices and employee agreements. Departments and agencies can leverage or capitalize on learning opportunities that contribute to increasing the knowledge base and skill set of employees and the effectiveness of processes. Options to consider include training offered by CCMD, Training and Development Canada, other departments, and outside consultants; conference participation; membership in associations or institutes; processes and tools used by other departments; and employee deployments to develop skills and knowledge.

Departments and agencies may also wish to develop organization- or subject-specific in-house courses, learning venues, processes, and tools to address specific organizational needs or focus on approaches and priorities. One source of pertinent advice, tools, techniques, and related resources is the CCMD publication, A Foundation for Developing Risk Management Learning Strategies in the Public Service (2001).

In terms of sharing best practices, departments and agencies can explore mechanisms for encouraging risk management learning. For example, individuals in your organization are likely to have and be willing to share ideas about understanding and managing risk. Organizations can use existing vehicles or establish new mechanisms to communicate, share, and facilitate access to such knowledge. Effective processes and means to share best practices might include your organization's risk management working group, the intranet/Internet, learning events, information sessions, a newsletter, and publications to share specific lessons learned about risk management or integrated risk management.

Celebrating success stories and significant contributions is another way to share information and lessons learned. Organizations can encourage and reward sharing and promote risk management learning by documenting and communicating lessons learned, case studies, and best practices within the department. To extend learning beyond departmental boundaries, this knowledge can be communicated to the broader community; similarly, making time to learn from the experience of others is also an important part of continuous learning.

Management can also model desired behaviour in terms of continuous risk management learning. To demonstrate that knowledge, new ideas, new relationships, and experimentation are valued, include a range of perspectives in Decision-making, such as the views of stakeholders and citizens. Actively seeking input and feedback as a basis for further action sends a similar message.

Finally, continuous risk management learning means assessing the effectiveness of selected management actions and approaches and adjusting them as required, based on whether they are contributing to the organization's expected or desired results.

Is Your Organization a Good Example of Risk Management Learning?

  • Have you fostered an appropriate risk culture?
  • Are people accountable for managing risk for opportunity as well as danger?
  • Do you encourage calculated risks and learning from experience rather than assigning blame?
  • Do you link learning to strategy?
  • Do you promote individual and team learning?
  • Do you encourage horizontality within your organization and across to other organizations?
  • Do you share information to help everyone make sound decisions?
  • Do you broaden the decision-making process by inviting staff, stakeholders, and citizens to contribute, e.g. to the policy process?
  • Do you value diversity by nurturing different views and perspectives as essential to learning and creativity?
  • Does your organization embrace a service orientation by focussing on service and results and actively seeking input and feedback?
  • Do you take actions based on this feedback?

based on CCMD's Learning Organization Survey 2000 Highlights, March 2000

Questions to Consider

  1. Are lessons learned and best practices celebrated, documented, and communicated broadly? Are they used in planning and training exercises?
  2. Have incentives been introduced to identify, encourage, and reward risk identification, good risk management practices, innovation, and responsible risk taking?
  3. Is risk management thinking embedded in existing learning programs? Is risk management training highlighted in the organization's training program? Are opportunities for learning and the availability of risk management tools broadly known?


Departments are clearly starting to recognize the benefits of sharing practices. Mechanisms are being developed to facilitate the movement of knowledge and experience to minimize duplication of effort. The extent to which departments are creating an environment to support continuous risk management learning can be seen in learning plans, priorities for risk management training, the systematic evaluation of risk management activities, and the feedback and sharing of results for continuous improvement. Several departments promote learning throughout their organizations and share lessons learned with the broader community. For example:

  • Some departments have established risk management components on their modern comptrollership intranet sites to share risk management information.
  • One organization invited officials from several other departments to participate in its in-house integrated risk management training.
  • Some departments have made presentations to others on their implementation challenges in the spirit of promoting sharing and co-ordination.
  • A number of organizations have shared their environmental scans or risk management frameworks with others.

In addition to departmental efforts, TBS is contributing to continuous risk management learning. For example:

The TBS Risk Management Directorate (RMD) has established a Web site and an IRMF Implementation Council to facilitate the sharing of risk management information broadly across the Public Service. RMD has organized and will continue to organize and participate in learning events and venues that contribute to building risk management awareness, knowledge, and capacity.

RMD and the TBS Comptrollership Modernization Directorate (CMD) have worked collaboratively with CCMD and Training and Development Canada to develop risk management learning products (courses, workshops, e-learning, armchair sessions).

CMD has also established a Web site to facilitate sharing of departmental practices on comptrollership modernization, including risk management. In addition, as part of its social marketing initiative, CMD has published testimonials on leading practices on risk management.