NASA Glenn's Facilities Division's System for Tracking Risks

NASA Glenn's Facilities Division's System for Tracking Risks

3-minute read
Risk Tracking

As NASA continues to face tightened budgets, the agency must consider carefully how to best use the available funds to update and repair its infrastructure.

“The fiscal health of the agency is forcing us to be smarter investors, calling for more strategic decision making and making us better stewards of our facilities and infrastructure,” explained NASA Safety Center Operational Safety Technical Discipline Team Lead Jerry Piasecki. “There simply is no room for excess.”

As a result, NASA centers must be actively engaged and aware of where they have the highest risk exposure so that they can use effectively the limited resources. NASA’s Glenn Research Center’s Facilities Division has a process for tracking risks to ensure funds are directed towards the right areas.

“All of NASA’s facilities divisions walk the talk in this regard,” continued Piasecki. “The agency’s systems for risk identification and tracking are top notch.”

Glenn’s Facilities Division tracks risks to ensure its parent directorate — the Facilities, Test and Manufacturing Directorate — and the center are well aware of facility risks and how they may impact safety of personnel and facility assets.

The directorate, which consists of six divisions, has developed and implemented a risk-management process. The six divisions are

  • Aircraft Operations Office
  • Planning and Integration Office
  • Energy and Environmental Management Office
  • Facilities Division
  • Manufacturing Division
  • Testing Division

The directorate and each division have a risk coordinator that monitors the risks for that division. Risk coordinators and the division chiefs are trained and responsible for identifying, documenting, tracking and managing their risks. Training includes Glenn’s Risk Identification Workshop where participants have the ability to identify and assess their division’s risks in a team environment. At the conclusion of training, participants have compiled a preliminary risk list specific to their organization that can be further developed into risk management implementation.

“They’ve had risk identification training, which defines what a risk is and what it isn’t as well,” said Colman Zsiros, Facilities, Test and Manufacturing Directorate risk coordinator and Facilities Division safety and risk manager. “The training gets folks thinking about what they do and how unwanted occurrences can adversely impact their objectives.”

Each division manages its respective risks, with the risk coordinators from each division coordinating the integration and sharing of any risks. Risks for each division are then escalated to the Facilities, Test and Manufacturing Directorate Risk Board, which meets quarterly.

“The biggest benefit to tracking and reporting risks is that our division managers have the opportunity to brief the directorate on what keeps them up at night and express their concerns,” said Zsiros. “It is also beneficial to understand the risk mitigation strategies employed within the directorate and realize how each division implements or supports mitigation plans.”

Risk Matrix

Risk Matrix

Risks that are escalated to the risk board may be newly identified risks, past risks or transferred risks from other organizations. Risks that fall into the “red” category on the risk matrix have both a significant consequence and a high or moderate likelihood of occurring. All red risks are escalated and reviewed by the board.  The division, directorate and center aim to mitigate these risks at all times. In addition, any risk can be escalated by a division and briefed to the board to 1) increase awareness or visibility, 2) request additional resources, 3) potentially transfer a risk to another organization, or 4) be coordinated with and integrated into other organizations.

"Green” risks (mild consequences and low likelihood) and “yellow” risks (the middle-ground of consequences and likelihood) are managed at lower levels within the divisions but may be reviewed by the Risk Board at the division management’s discretion.

Board members review escalated risks, provide mitigation recommendations and determine if any should be escalated further, to the center level. Risks that are escalated by the board are then reported by the Facilities, Test and Materials Directorate risk coordinator to the center risk manager. The center risk manager collects information from all directorates and organizations center-wide and reports them to senior management for consideration. The purpose of reporting to the board and beyond is to communicate up the chain of command to ensure everyone is aware of the risks facing the center and that decisions to commit resources to mitigating risks are understood and accepted.

“Facility System Safety is a systems engineering approach to strategic decision making for NASA’s facilities and infrastructure,” said Piasecki. “When you implement this process you cannot help but make better decisions regarding infrastructure investments and you’ll see a return on that investment in both capital and hazard reduction. The Facilities, Test and Manufacturing Directorate’s efforts at Glenn are a testament to that fact.”