Lessons Learned from Implementing Risk Management

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Lessons Learned from Implementing Risk Management

Following the 2016 publication of the AASHTO Guide for Enterprise Risk Management, TRB initiated an NCHRP project to pilot the framework introduced in the Guide. Pilot case studies were conducted by the Tennessee, Utah, and Washington State DOTs; a peer exchange was conducted; and a national community of practice (COP) was formed to provide support for the implementation of risk management and to advocate for further research in this area. Several risk management tools were developed through the research that are documented in the NCRHP report.

A variety of different types of risks were considered during the pilot studies. The Tennessee DOT focused primarily on three types of risks:

  • Those associated with inconsistencies in quick-clearance processes associated with crashes and other highway incidents.
  • Those associated with roadway plans that could affect the quality, cost, and schedule for delivering projects.
  • Those caused when incomplete project plans are submitted for bids.

Several tools were developed to better manage these risks, including checklists, plan submittal delay forms, and a Memorandum of Understanding with the Tennessee Department of Safety to clarify roles and responsibilities for quick clearances.

The Utah DOT pilot addressed four initiatives:

  • Reduce risks to Utah DOT objectives by improving hiring practices and retention.
  • Reduce risks of poor performance by enhancing the employee evaluating process and strengthening leadership skills.
  • Reduce risks of poor performance through a knowledge management process.
  • Develop a repeatable and scalable process to assess corridor risks caused by natural disasters.

The study improved leadership access to information for hiring and leading employees, provided a training toolkit for supervisors, and resulted in a process to integrate and incorporate risk and resilience assessments into existing decision-making processes.

Washington State DOT used the pilot to support the full integration of its enterprise risk management practices. The agency also elected to address cultural sensitivity and inclusion in workforce development activities. These efforts resulted in new workforce development and outreach materials.

The pilot studies helped expose the participating agencies to strategies for managing risk. They demonstrated the importance of promoting enterprise risk management concepts among agency leaders to mainstream the concepts into common agency practices. This increases the likelihood that enterprise risk management practices endure beyond changes in agency leadership.

The participants also recognized important links between risk management and both performance and asset management programs. Several agencies recognized the importance of risk management to improving the resilience of a highway network to unexpected events such as flooding or erosion. The pilot studies demonstrated that the ability to use risks to inform planning and investment decisions can be beneficial.