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Assessing Risk Management Program Maturity

June 11, 2015 - Kestrel Management • Kestrel Food Safety

Maturity assessments are designed to tell an organization where it stands in a defined area and, correspondingly, what it needs to do in the future to improve its systems and processes to meet the organization’s needs and expectations. Maturity assessments expose the strengths and weaknesses within an organization (or a program), and provide a roadmap for ongoing improvements.

Holistic Assessments

A thorough program maturity assessment involves building on a standard gap analysis to conduct a holistic evaluation of the existing program, including data review, interviews with key staff, and functional/field observations and validation.

Based on Kestrel’s experience, evaluating program maturity is best done by measuring the program’s structure and design, as well as the program’s implementation consistency across the organization. For the most part, a program’s design remains relatively unchanging, unless internal modifications are made to the system. Because of this static nature, a “snapshot” provides a reasonable assessment of the design maturity. While the design helps to inform operational effectiveness, the implementation/operational maturity model assesses how completely and consistently the program is functioning throughout the organization (i.e., how the program is designed to work vs. how it is working in practice).

Design Maturity

A design maturity model helps to evaluate strategies and policies, practices and procedures, organization and people, information for decision making, and systems and data according to the following levels of maturity:

  • Level 1: Initial (crisis management) – Lack of alignment within the organization; undefined policies, goals, and objectives; poorly defined roles; lack of effective training; erratic program or project performance; lack of standardization in tools.
  • Level 2: Repeatable (reactive management) – Limited alignment within the organization; lagging policies and plans; seldom known business impacts of actions; inconsistent company operations across functions; culture not focused on process; ineffective risk management; few useful program or project management and controls tools.
  • Level 3: Defined (project management) – Moderate alignment across the organization; consistent plans and policies; formal change management system; somewhat defined and documented processes; moderate role clarity; proactive management for individual projects; standardized status reporting; data integrity may still be questionable.Maturity_Matrix
  • Level 4: Managed (program management) – Alignment across organization; consistent plans and policies; goals and objectives are known at all levels; process-oriented culture; formal processes with adequate documentation; strategies and forecasts inform processes; well-understood roles; metrics and controls applied to most processes; audits used for process improvements; good data integrity; programs, processes, and performance reviewed regularly.
  • Level 5: Optimized (managing excellence) – Alignment from top to bottom of organization; business forecasts and plans guide activity; company culture is evident across the organization; risk management is structured and proactive; process-centered structure; focus on continuous improvement, training, coaching, mentoring; audits for continual improvement; emphasis on “best-in-class” methods.

A gap analysis can help compare the actual program components against best practice standards, as defined by the organization. At this point, assessment questions and criteria should be specifically tuned to assess the degree to which:

  • Hazards and risks are identified, sized, and assessed
  • Existing controls are adequate and effective
  • Plans are in place to address risks not adequately covered by existing controls
  • Plans and controls are resourced and implemented
  • Controls are documented and operationalized across applicable functions and work units
  • Personnel know and understand the controls and expectations and are engaged in their design and improvement
  • Controls are being monitored with appropriate metrics and compliance assurance
  • Deficiencies are being addressed by corrective/preventive action
  • Processes, controls, and performance are being reviewed by management for continual improvement
  • Changed conditions are continually recognized and new risks identified and addressed

Implementation/Operational Maturity

The logical next step in the maturity assessment involves shifting focus from the program’s design to a maturity model that measures how well the program is operationalized, as well as the consistency of implementation across the entire organization. This is a measurement of how effectively the design (program static component) has enabled the desired, consistent practice (program dynamic component) within and across the company.

Under this model, the stage of maturity (i.e., initial, implementation in process, fully functional) is assessed in the following areas:

  • Adequacy and effectiveness: demonstration of established processes and procedures with clarity of roles and responsibilities for managing key functions, addressing significant risks, and achieving performance requirements across operations
  • Consistency: demonstration that established processes and procedures are fully applied and used across all applicable parts of the organization to achieve performance requirements
  • Sustainability: demonstration of an established and ongoing method of review of performance indicators, processes, procedures, and practices in-place for the purpose of identifying and implementing measures to achieve continuing improvement of performance

This approach relies heavily on operational validation and seeking objective evidence of implementation maturity by performing functional and field observations and interviews across a representative sample of operations, including contractors.

Cultural Component

Performance within an organization is the combined result of culture, operational systems/controls, and human performance. Culture involves leadership, shared beliefs, expectations, attitudes, and policy about the desired behavior within a specific company. To some degree, culture alone can drive performance. However, without operational systems and controls, the effects of culture are limited and ultimately will not be sustained. Similarly, operational systems/controls (e.g., management processes, systems, and procedures) can improve performance, but these effects also are limited without the reinforcement of a strong culture. A robust culture with employee engagement, an effective management system, and appropriate and consistent human performance are equally critical.

A culture assessment incorporates an assessment of culture and program implementation status by performing interviews and surveys up, down, and across a representative sample of the company’s operations. Observations of company operations (field/facility/functional) should be done to verify and validate.

A culture assessment should evaluate key attributes of successful programs, including:

  1. Leadership
  2. Vision & Values
  3. Goals, Policies & Initiatives
  4. Organization & Structure
  5. Employee Engagement, Behaviors & Communications
  6. Resource Allocation & Performance Management
  7. Systems, Standards & Processes
  8. Metrics & Reporting
  9. Continually Learning Organization
  10. Audits & Assurance

Assessment and Evaluation

Data from document review, interviews, surveys, and field observations are then aggregated, analyzed, and evaluated. Identifying program gaps and issues enables a comparison of what must be improved or developed/added to what already exists. This information is often organized into the following categories:

  • Policy and strategy refinements
  • Process and procedure improvements
  • Organizational and resource requirements
  • Information for decision making
  • Systems and data requirements
  • Culture enhancement and development

From this information, it becomes possible to identify recommendations for program improvements. These recommendations should be integrated into a strategic action plan that outlines the long-term program vision, proposed activities, project sequencing, and milestones. The highest priority actions should be identified and planned to establish a foundation for continual improvement, and allow for a more proactive means of managing risks and program performance.

Submitted by: Tom Kunes

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