Three lessons in risk management

Thursday - 2/16/2012, 9:45am EST

Doug Webster, former chief financial officer, Labor Department

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The tough federal budget picture is on the minds of lots of people there. Doug Webster, former chief financial officer at the Labor Department and now a partner at CSC, knows how to do that better than most government financial leaders. In 2004, he helped Iraq's new transportation ministry set up and run its billion-dollar budget.

Webster is presenting at the AGA National Leadership Conference Thursday. He shared his top three takeaways from his presentation:

  1. Tone must be set from the top.
    "If the leader doesn't set the right tone at the top, particularly from an enterprise level, it's very difficult, if not even impossible, to have effective risk management at an enterprise level," Webster said.

  2. Risk is "vastly more" than compliance and internal controls.
    The idea of risk management is not new, Webster said, but the need to incorporate risk management into the decisionmaking process is "greater than it's ever been." Managers must consider the external environment, such as budget challenges, he said.

  3. Link risks to achieving specific objectives
    Managers usually consider risk later in the process, but it should be part of the goal-setting, Webster said.

    "Without that kind of meaningful relationship to objectives and performance, risk doesn't really get a seat the table," he said.

    He pointed to the Defense Logistics Agency as an example of an agency that has implemented enterprise-wide risk management.