360-Degree Risk Management Part I

May 12, 2011

Lori Miller Ed.D., JD
Professor, Sport & Recreation Law
Wichita State University

As we begin a new academic year, it is a good time to step back and take a fresh look at your department and the policies and protocols related to the management of inherent campus recreation risks. This two-part article provides both novice and seasoned campus recreation administrators with a simple, concise, and descriptive concept, i.e., 360-degree risk management, to assist in the comprehensive design or review of their respective campus recreation risk management system.

As depicted by the icon, the 360-degree risk management concept embraces the dynamic, all-encompassing nature of campus recreation risk management systems in the 21st century. Eight characteristics embody a quality 360-degree risk management system:

  1. Comprehensive understanding of the varied risks common to a campus recreation department;
  2. Broad based, multi-functional risk management responsibilities expected of all campus recreation staff, student workers, and volunteers;
  3. Ongoing communications with central administration, supervisors, subordinates, community partners, volunteers, facility lessees, and students;
  4. Collection and analyses of internal data (e.g., participant usage, preferences, injuries, staff performance) and external data (e.g., legislation, professional standards, economic climate, demographic trends);
  5. Routine review, updating (if needed), and communication of campus recreation policies and procedures;
  6. Relevant risk management trainings and professional development opportunities;
  7. Campus recreation job descriptions and rewards that include defined risk management responsibilities and corresponding performance assessment; and
  8. Overt administrator commitment to an established quality risk management culture.

Part I of this article discusses the important risk management role associated with the first four characteristics (i.e., #1-4), and Part II of the article ,covering the latter four characteristics, will be included in the next issue of the Risk Management Newsletter. The following paragraphs describe the first four elements found within a quality 360 Degree Risk Management System.

1. Comprehensive understanding of the varied risks that permeate a Campus Recreation department
Risk management practices adopted by recreation and non-recreation entities during the mid-20th century typically focused only on the prudent management of financial risks (van der Smissen, 1990). Financial risk management practices, for example, include: (a) assessment, evaluation, and procured entity insurance (property, protection and indemnity, personal injury, etc.), (b) responsible asset investment strategies (bonds, certificates of deposit, stocks, etc.), and (c) oversight, guidance, and monitoring of all entity budgets.

Increasing recreation industry insurance and litigation expenses, competition for the participant/consumer, and customer service expectations all contributed to the recreation industry’s expansion and breadth of applied risk management strategies throughout the latter part of the 20th century. Risk management practices gradually evolved to encompass those strategies that could eliminate, transfer, or mitigate financial losses, as well as any and all other non-financial losses. For example, 21st century recreation professionals now associate risk management practices with specific strategies adopted and implemented to reduce or eliminate any type of possible loss, e.g., physical injury to participant, property damage, poorly maintained equipment, employee turnover, participant/consumer dissatisfaction, promotional misrepresentation, poorly worded contracts, inadequate personnel and program assessment.

2. Broad based, multi-functional risk management responsibilities expected of all campus recreation staff, student workers, and volunteers.
As noted above, risk management has evolved into a broadly applied organizational imperative relating directly to an organization’s ability to achieve both short and long-term success. This holistic risk management culture must permeate throughout an entire recreation program and involve all recreation personnel, regardless of one’s department or specific job assignment. Similarly, risk management practices include both seemingly ‘important’ loss prevention actions and behaviors (e.g., up-to-date policy manuals, personnel orientation trainings), as well as the seemingly ‘less important’ loss prevention actions and behaviors (e.g., picking up trash on the floor). In other words, the combined risk management actions and behaviors of every recreation entity constituency are synergistic in nature, resulting in a sustained risk management culture that contributes significantly to an organization’s ability to deliver efficient and effective recreation offerings.

The value inherent within the 3600 Risk Management notion can be exemplified by a quote from the book, 2120…The Extra Degree (Anderson, 2007):

At 211 degrees, water is hot. At 212 degrees, water boils. With boiling water comes steam. And steam can power a locomotive. It is that one extra degree, just one, that makes
the difference. And so many times, it is that one extra degree of effort in business, and in life, that separates the good from the great.

The 360-degree risk management concept embodies all efforts and initiatives to create and successfully maintain a quality risk management culture.

3. Ongoing communications with central administration, supervisors, subordinates, community partners, volunteers, facility lessees, and students.
The ability to create and maintain an exemplary 360-Degree Risk Management system is contingent upon the fluent, multi-directional, and welcomed communication among campus recreation constituencies. Communication obstructions resulting because of organizational structure or departmental competition (e.g., aquatics v. fitness), staff infighting, and supervisory ego or elitist perceptions represent communication impediments leading to the demise of internal campus recreation communication and a thwarted 360-degree risk management system. In comparison, communication that encourages and respects ongoing constituency input and feedback fosters a more harmonious environment where constituencies uniformly possess a genuine commitment to quality 360-degree risk management practices and procedures.

4. Collection and analyses of internal data and external data
Technological advancements continue to assist with and guide internal campus recreation data collection efforts. Commonly collected data, for example, includes ongoing assessment of participation per activity/event, time of day, day of the week, etc. Similarly, the number of injuries, type of injuries, injury location, and time of day reflect other routine data recorded by campus recreation staff.

In addition to the collection and evaluation of internal quantitative data, valuable internal qualitative data can be gathered for analyses, for example, by observing the cleanliness and condition of the facility, the verbal and non-verbal staff interactions, and engaging in conversation with students and other patrons regarding their perceived experiences while using campus recreation facilities, equipment, or program offerings.

Analysis of external data also provides insights contributing to the management of campus recreation risks and loss prevention efforts. External data, for example, can include consideration of national, regional, and local economic trends, proposed and amended federal and state legislation (especially related to negligence and liability issues), and being aware of criminal activity and other environmental factors which can add to existing risk exposure. Peter Drucker (1992) described the limitations associated with internal data analyses only. As stated by Drucker (p. 189), decisions based solely on internal data “… actually may lull executives into a false sense of security; it may make them believe that they have information when all they have is what their subordinates wanted them to hear.” The 360-Degree Risk Management concept reflects the thoughtful adoption and implementation of risk management strategies based on the relevant analyzes of relevant internal and external data.

The above risk management system components reflect four of the eight elements embedded within a quality 360-Degree Risk Management system. Elements 5 through 8 will be included in the Newsletter’s next published issue.
The fall 2008 academic semester presents Campus Recreation administrators and staff with a refreshing opportunity to implement or rejuvenate risk management systems to better reflect the 360-Degree Risk Management concept while realizing the resultant benefits and rewards.

Anderson, P. (2007). Great Quotes from Great Leaders, Simple Truths Publishing: Naperville, IL.

Drucker, P. F. (1992). Managing for the Future, The Penguin Group Publishers: New York, NY.

van der Smissen, B. (1990). Legal Liability and Risk Management for Public and Private Entities, Anderson Publishing Company: Cincinnati, Ohio.

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