During my junior year I was enrolled in the Healthcare Industry Cluster at the Fisher College of Business. As part of this program I was assigned to a group that would work on a semester long project with Abbott Nutrition. Our project scope was very broad. We were tasked with finding the best tools and practices in the healthcare industry for identifying, mitigating and communicating operational risk. My teammates, Alex and John, and I had very limited exposure to risk management. Alex was taking a Risk Management class during that semester, John was the risk officer for his fraternity, and I had done projects in sovereign risk management in a previous internship. We felt pretty under-qualified for the task at hand.
From the very beginning of this program our instructor told us that the network each of us had developed at Ohio State would be of value to the companies we worked with. With this in mind, we decided to begin our research at The Risk Institute at OSU. Our approach was simple, Abbott wanted us to find the best software that other companies were using to assess risk. So we would meet with The Risk Institute, ask them for some software recommendations and walk out with a list of tools to show our Abbott project leaders. We were surprised to find that conversations about culture would shape our research and project much more than conversations about technical tools. Phil and Denita, of The Risk Institute, shared with us the results of their annual survey and it was evident that integrated Risk Management had become a necessary tool for growth, not just a reactionary strategy. It was through our conversations with The Risk Institute that we first learned that an advanced risk software is ineffective if the inputs are flawed or shaped by a culture that doesn’t value risk management.
The expertise and vast amount of research housed within The Risk Institute allowed us to learn from other cases of poor and effective risk management cultures. It also validated our arguments when we went back to the Abbott team and told them that we should be focusing more on risk culture. It’s difficult to quantify cultural risk and easy to dismiss it as just “buzz words” so it was important to us that we had The Risk Institute’s research to back us up.
In the end of the semester we were able to offer Abbott a recommendation for a software that we thought would meet their desire for an automated, streamlined tool to analyze risk. We also focused on tools and strategies that would allow them to take a deeper look into aspects of their culture that were perhaps enabling risky behavior to go without mitigation. The Risk Institute directed us towards a group called the Barrett Values Centre who sells a product called the Cultural Values Assessment. This tool identifies gaps between employees’ personal values, their perceived company values, and their optimal company values. We recommend this to the Abbott team and they agreed that it seemed like a great tool to quantify their cultural risk. Driven by what we learned with The Risk Institute, we also encouraged them to engage in more cross-functional benchmarking across Abbott. Our project was within the Quality team at Abbott. At one of our presentations there was an employee from a different department. We were discussing a specific risk analysis tool that our team in Quality thought was brand new. However, according to that outsider who attended the meeting, that tool was already being used elsewhere in the company. Through this experience, we identified that Abbott has a somewhat “silo’ed” structured and could really benefit from more cross functional integration. We are confident that our partnership with The Risk Institute throughout that semester enabled us to elevate the discourse on cultural risk to the forefront of risk discussions at Abbott Nutrition.