Covid-19 exposed a failure of risk management across Government. Indeed the National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies 2017 had pandemic at it its number one risk however, not enough was done to mitigate the risk.
Dedicated risk teams should be created inside Departments, tasked with developing innovative risk management tools so that policymakers and leaders better understand the real risks they face so they can take more informed decisions. Working with frontline policy areas, horizon scanning capabilities, risk tolerance metrics and data systems should be developed so Departments can think more strategically about the real emerging risks facing the country . Everything from climate change to cyber attacks, financial technology to terrorist attacks, and increasing indebtedness to social justice movements.
These risk teams should also have responsibility for working across government in building a deepened understanding of the risk profile facing the country. Imagine if we had risk teams working between the Department for Health, the NHS, HM Treasury, Public Health England, the Bank of England, Downing Street etc. This could create more nuanced, cross-disciplinary and diverse approaches to managing the new risks of the 21st century. These risk teams could also have responsibility for reaching out to learn best practice from Chief Risk Officers and their teams in private sector organisations.
There are brilliant people across the civil service, however sometimes civil servants are characterised as risk averse and slow to act. Building a culture of strategic risk management is absolutely not about making Government more risk averse. It is about building understanding and capabilities so that Departments are better able to manage the biggest risks facing us over the coming decade.