Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Risks for natural resources agency

Eric Lamarre and Martin Pergler’s article on risk, “Risk: Seeing around the corners,” highlighted the need for companies to comprehensively assess risks, including indirect risks, which – though often ignored – can have significant impacts. How does this apply to government agencies? Here’s a spotlight on the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), one state agency who appears to have completed a sufficiently comprehensive risk assessment as demonstrated through the seven strategic initiatives they’ve outlined for the future.

Like all other government agencies, DFG must constantly contend its worth to the public in order to continue receipt of public funds that allow it to operate. Considered by many as solely and “environmental” organization, DFG’s challenge to prove its value to the public is made further complex with the need to prove the value of the environment and California wildlife. They also must prove to be of value to the current and potential employees of the organization, despite diminishing salaries and increasing furlough days.


DFG, like any company, is competing for high-quality employees, particularly persons with scientific backgrounds. How do they compete with private organizations that can offer higher salary, better benefits, and a pension that might still be in place when they leave the agency? DFG has been working on fostering an improved workplace environment that decreases the typical bureaucratic nature of a governmental agency, by intensively training managers in improved management and team-building skills. They have a comprehensive educational program for employees that include workshops facilitating communication among staff and managers. This effort is outlined as Initiative 6 in their strategic initiatives: to enhance organizational vitality by focusing on employees and internal systems.


The leading supplier of DFG is the government, but significant resources in the form of land grants and other gifts are also bequeathed to the agency. As more land is developed, the expectation for such gifts decrease, but DFG’s response is to also focus on the restoration of lands for beneficial uses. For example, a number of wetland projects (which help to filter pollutants out of water before recharging groundwater wells or going back into the sea) are being supported by DFG. This effort is outlined as Initiative 2 in their strategic initiatives: to develop statewide land stewardship based upon resources needs including acquisitions, enhancement and management

DFG is an excellent example of how governmental agency can strategically plan for indirect risks by integrating solutions into a long-term plan for the agency. Spelling out your goals for your customers, suppliers, distribution channels (e.g., changing values along with transitioning administrations) is an effective way to continue to plan to demonstrate the worth of your agency in the effort to continually obtain funding. But how does this apply to other agencies? How effective will a Strategic Initiative plan alone be in the face of unprecedented budgetary cuts in the State of California? Should such a risk assessment be completed from a monetary perspective, or will the potentially resulting bad news bears hinder any additional support for the agency?


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