by Jen Feldman

Challenge

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is a world leader in research to prevent, detect and treat cancer and other life-threatening diseases. In light of a changing business environment, anticipated funding constraints and a large number of strategic initiatives, its COO engaged Point B to help better understand the organization’s risk profile. Equally important to our client, we brought the external perspective and best practices to elevate its risk management focus beyond the tactical level to play an integral role in shaping the organization’s strategy.

Addressing unmitigated risk

Working closely with Fred Hutch’s Risk Committee and internal auditor, we interviewed leadership across the organization and collected data from nine operational departments. We also analyzed a wealth of external data to create a risk profile that gave our client a global picture of risk probabilities, magnitude and priorities.

In this case one of the greatest unmitigated risks was related to risk management itself. While our risk analysis validated that the organization had a handle on its biggest risks and how to mitigate them, we found gaps in internal bandwidth, succession planning, and the ability to scale a response if a significant risk were to arise. Leadership’s bandwidth was already strained in managing the current risk portfolio. And despite best intentions, risk management practices were not always consistently applied across the growing organization. We shared our perspective on this internal risk exposure and made specific recommendations to address it.

Right-sizing risk management

Once we identified the risk-related issues, we created a risk management framework to help our client right-size its risk management program.

We recommended a shift in emphasis:  Rather than investing heavily in a high-cost risk management tool that was under consideration, we suggested putting more rigor into risk management processes and proactively embedding risk management in the organization’s strategic initiatives. We also provided a framework for selecting risk management tools within this more strategic approach to risk management.

Getting strategic

Through our Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) approach, we set the stage to elevate the role of risk management from tactical to strategic. The approach we proposed enables our client to foresee potential risks early on in the planning stages of strategic initiatives. It includes a repeatable framework for analyzing internal and external game-changers, a governance structure to address them, and a strategic approach to risk management that embeds it in the way they do business.

In short, Fred Hutch has new resources to ensure that nothing disrupts or distracts from its mission: The elimination of cancer and related diseases as causes of human suffering and death.