Archive for June, 2012

Adopting the paradigm for success

With the 2012 America’s Claims Event (ACE) less than one week away, it is time to prepare for the premier industry networking event!  This is a great chance to visit old business associates and meet new ones, while giving consideration to new and innovative ways to take your claims organization from ordinary to extraordinary.

It’s no secret that one of the best ways to gain a competitive edge is to simply understand what your competitors are doing.   Success can come in many forms, but at the end of the day it boils down to three key competencies; people, processes and technology.

While all three of critical importance, it is people who will ultimately define the success of an organization.  Having the right people enables fundamental execution of basic blocking and tackling.  They will ensure that processes are optimized while technology is appropriately used.

But why is it that people are so important to organizational success?  To begin, they become the culture of the organization.  It is the culture that ultimately defines outcomes.  To put this in perspective, think about a trip to a Disney theme park and the reception that awaits.  Friendly staffers abound, looking to do nothing more than make the experience unforgettable.   Now compare this to another unforgettable experience, such as renewing your license at the Department of Motor Vehicles.   Institutional cultures can make or break an organization.

Next consider the dynamic between good and great.   Good teams  win when they outplay their opponents.  Great teams win when they outplay and outthink their opponents.   Dynasties are formed when outplaying and outthinking results in people, processes and technology that transforms opponents.

When thinking of business dynasties a few names come to mind; Apple Computer, Walt Disney, Wal-Mart, Samsung, Facebook and Google.   These are companies that have leveraged innovation while combining the right people with the right processes.  They also consistently appear in Business Week’s annual review of the world’s most innovative companies.

Interestingly, in reviewing this list for the past several years there was one industry that was conspicuously absent; insurance.  Why is it that an industry that wields such power and economic control is so lacking in innovation?   Can you imagine if one player transformed the insurance industry in the way that, say, Southwest Airlines transformed the airline industry?

By looking across the aviation landscape Herb Kelleher recognized that there was room for not only a new player, but one that could deliver with a new type of flying experience at an affordable price.   One type of airplane quickly transferrable from crew to crew, avoidance of the costly hub and spoke design and most of all friendly people came to define Southwest.

Certainly there is room in under the innovation tent for those in the insurance industry.  The challenge is to foster such an environment so as to take your organization from ordinary to extraordinary.

At the foundation of the successful organization will be people; the right ones in the right positions.  This is easier said than done, but certainly not an insurmountable task.   Sometimes it takes a change in paradigm where traditional hiring practices are retooled to proactively identify and tap potential talent pools.

This change in paradigm was best put into words by  former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, saying, “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.”  In most simplistic terms, people are creatures of habit.   Those who create dynasties, such as Wooden, are not.  Rather, they thrive on change.

Facilitating change not only helps your organization, but can improve entire industries.   Think of what Amazon has done to the way we shop or what Southwest has done to the way we fly.  Consider the impact of Honda on the auto industry, Verizon to the telecommunications industry or Pixar to the entertainment industry.   These companies have transformed their respective industries for the betterment of all.

If you are attending the upcoming ACE Conference, give consideration to stopping by the Insatiable Curiosity on Thursday, June 28th, at 2 p.m.  In this informative session, Christopher Tidball will share anecdotal stories and proven methods for going from ordinary to extraordinary.   This  session will be followed by a book signing of Re-Adjusted at the Claims Magazine booth (#223).

At 4:30 p.m., Chris will join Disney’s Robert Wiese, Amica’s Jeff Gagnon and State Farm’s Lori Smith for a forum discussion “Competencies and the Workforce” with a focus on hiring, developing and retaining the talent to give your organization a competitive edge in the marketplace.

Christopher Tidball is an executive claims consultant and the author of multiple books including Re-Adjusted: 20 Essential Rules To Take Your Claims Organization From Ordinary To Extraordinary!  His claims career has spanned twenty years with multiple Top 10 P&C organizations in adjusting, management, quality and leadership roles. He is a Senior Director with Mitchell International, a leader in the insurance solutions industry.  To learn more, please visit www.christidball.com or email chris@christidball.com.

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June 20, 2012 at 9:11 am Leave a comment

Blocking & Tackling: How the L.A. Kings pulled off the unthinkable

By just about any account, the Los Angeles Kings had a pretty ordinary regular season, finishing third in the Pacific Division and barely making their way into the NHL playoffs as a number eight seed.   It was right about that time the 2012 version of the “Miracle on Manchester” came together when the team began to systematically dismantle their opponents while tying a league best post season record of 16-4 on their way to winning the Stanley Cup.

So just how is it that a seemingly ordinary team pulled off the seemingly unthinkable season?  It has to start with goalie Jonathan Quick who had a .946 save average, meaning that he gave up just over a goal per game.

The team also had a great combination of leadership, both on and off the ice.    Team Captain Dustin Brown had a unique knack for rallying his team behind his big hits and big goals.   In fact, he led the NHL in playoff hits this year while tying for league scoring.

Then there as the coaching of Darryl Sutter, who transitioned into the leadership role midseason and immediately demanded accountability.   It was through this emphasis on fundamental execution that the Kings were even able to sneak their way into the playoffs.

What the Kings demonstrated was a belief in themselves.   They recognized that their regular season performance wasn’t at the level it should have been.   By taking a step back and reflecting on the mistakes of the past, they were able to conquer the future.

This same paradigm can be utilized by business leaders looking for improvement.  The truth is, most teams, whether in sports or business, are pretty ordinary.   They have a similar mix of talent with A,B and C contributors.  It is how leadership leverages this talent that defines ultimate outcomes.

So what does this mean for your organization?  Can you become your industry’s version of the Los Angeles Kings?  By focusing on basic blocking and tackling, anything becomes possible.   The reality is that there is a tendency to take one’s eye off the ball, resulting in process aberrations and deteriorating results.

The Kings succeeded because there was a recognition that things had to change.   Just before Christmas, the team was barely over .500.   There was a tremendous lack of consistency and fluid play on the ice.   Lack of accountability, fostered by a lack of leadership, only exacerbated the problem.

Team ownership recognized the challenges and took proactive steps to solve it.   Coach Sutter provided the team with the simple vision of ending the Stanley Cup drought in the City of Angels.  Sutter immediately guided the team in the right direction by simply focusing on a back to basics approach to the game.   Simple Hockey 101, much the same as your organization might go back to simple Claims 101.   Knowing what to do, when to do it and then acting without hesitation is what defines leaders from followers.

Despite this no nonsense approach, it was still a stretch to enter the playoffs, but the reality is that nobody wanted to face the Kings.  Consistent improvement throughout the spring made this team a formidable opponent, far beyond their number eight seeding.

This team rolled through the second half of the season, into the playoffs and quickly dispatched the top seeded teams before facing off against the New Jersey Devils.   They then did the unthinkable, becoming the first number eight seed in history to win the most historic trophy in all of sports; the Stanley Cup.

Throughout life, sports teaches us many lessons.  Perhaps the most important is to never give up, never lose faith and to never stop believing in you.  The Kings demonstrated remarkable grace under pressure, despite wearing the Cinderella gown.   The faithful in the Southland stood by their team, despite a lifelong history of disappointment on Manchester.

For the rest of us, the takeaways are that we can always do better.   No matter how well one may think they are performing, there is always room for improvement.  By thinking outside the box, looking to business partners with unique expertise and learning from the best of breed across the business landscape, organizations can instantaneously poise themselves for tremendous success.

As a closing note, if you happen to be attending America’s Claims Event, June 27-29, 2012 in Las Vegas, please plan on attending my seminar “The Insatiable Curiosity” on Thursday, June 28th at 2:30 p.m., followed by a book signing at the Claims Magazine Booth (#223).   We will then wrap up the day with a forum on “Competencies in the Workforce”, where I will join leaders from Disney, Amica and State Farm, focusing on hiring, training and retaining future talent in your organization.

Christopher Tidball is a claims consultant and the author of multiple books, including Re-Adjusted: 20 Essential Rules To Take You Claims Organization From Ordinary To Extraordinary! His career has spanned twenty plus years in line and leadership roles at multiple Top 10 P&C insurance carriers.  He currently is a Senior Director for Mitchell International, providing world class technology solutions to the insurance industry.  To learn more, please visit www.christidball.com or e-mail chris.tidball@mitchell.com.   

 

June 14, 2012 at 6:08 am Leave a comment

Hire for success, train for skills, develop for leadership

Why is it that so many organizations struggle with basic blocking and tackling?  From small mom and pop shops to multibillion dollar global conglomerates, it seems that fundamental execution ranks at the top of just about every executives wish list.  Why it is that consistency is so hard to come by.

Perhaps it begins with the simple premise that no two people are alike.  With different skill sets and personalities, motivators vary from person to person.   While one employee may require very strict organization, that type of management style may completely turn off another employee.

At the upcoming ACE Conference, I will be both leading a session on achieving the consistent execution of basic claims skills and taking part in a panel discussion entitled “Competencies in the workforce”, where we will focus on hiring, training and retaining key talent.

While it is certainly a monumental task to identify the right talent, it is equally as difficult to ensure that there is routine compliance and proper execution on a consistent basis.   Complicating matters is the bad economy where there are seemingly more potential candidates, yet fewer who seem to possess the skills inherently required to succeed in claims.

As discussed in Re-Adjusted: 20 Essential Rules To Take Your Claims Organization From Ordinary To Extraordinary, claims is not for everyone.   Rather, it takes a unique combination of drive and desire, combined with an insatiable curiosity to properly investigate, negotiate and resolve claims timely and accurately.

That said, it is not an insurmountable task to build the successful claims organization.   In many successful organizations, both inside and outside of the insurance industry,  leaders have found that success becomes cultural in nature.   It is not something that you wave a magic wand at, but rather something that is built from the ground up.

When an organization starts with a foundation of excellence, it becomes cross generational.   As employees grow within the organization to become leaders, they tend to hire others with a work ethic and desire much like their own.  This behavior becomes contagious, and the success spreads.

The challenge is that most organizations aren’t picture perfect.  Most do not have this type of cultural breeding, creating a challenge for those striving for excellence.   Rather, there are varying levels of execution, with differing definitions of what constitutes success.

Herein lays the need for organizational calibration.   By level setting the organization and spelling out what is to be done in varying situations, management and line employees alike can then be measured based upon basic blocking and tackling.

Much as a football coach guides his team with the assistance of a playbook, so to can claims organizations with the guidance of their own playbook, or procedure manual.   One the gridiron, there is a time to run, pass or punt.   The same holds true in claims organizations, where various situations call for differing actions.   The key to success is to ensure compliance, while eliminating deviation.

The following are five key rules that can assist in putting together the team that will become the foundation for organizational success:

 

1)      Getting it right the first time around

Far too often, organizations will simply try to fill seats.   How frequently have you been given approval for new headcount only to have the headcount taken away after a specified period of time.  After all, if you really needed help that badly, you would have filled the vacancy.   This is a far too common phenomenon that leads managers to make rash decisions that often end up costing in terms of training, management oversight and turnover.   By taking the time to find the optimal candidate, organizations will benefit from improved claims handling, better outcomes, higher level of customer satisfaction and increased policyholder retention.

2)      Experience doesn’t guarantee success

There is no guarantee that a person with twenty years of experience will be successful in your organization.   Not to say that experience isn’t beneficial; it can be.  But it isn’t a guarantee.   Rather, focus on the needs of your organization and understand just how critical the experience is to achieving your ultimate goals.

3)      Hiring For attitude

There is nothing worse for an organization than bad attitudes.  They spread like a plague and will ultimately undermine initiatives.  Perpetually bad attitudes can spread to other employees, bringing down their level of performance as well.  An attitude is a little thing that makes the single biggest difference in any organization!

4)      Train for skills

Claims is not rocket science.  Rather, it is a skill that in large part can be trained.   Certainly, the ideal candidate will possess certain skills, such as an insatiable curiosity.  But in large part, learning how to write estimates, take statements, conduct investigations and negotiate, can be taught.  Hiring for attitude and training for skills is a universal formula for success.

5)      Develop for leadership

As you build your organization for long term success, future leaders will emerge.  These are the very people needed for the cross generational transfer of wealth and corporate culture.  Great organizations seize up these opportunities and understand the value of having proven individuals fill the leadership voids that eventually emerge.

If you are going to be at America’s Claims Event, please stop by and hear Christopher Tidball speak on “The Insatiable Curiosity” at 2:30 pm on June 28th, followed by a book signing of Re-Adjusted at 3:30 in the Claims Magazine Booth (#223), and wrapping up with the panel discussion “Competencies in the Workforce” at 4:30.

Christopher Tidball is an executive claims consultant and the author of multiple books.  He is an industry veteran, having held adjusting, management and executive roles in multiple property and casualty organizations.  To learn more, please visit www.christidball.com or e-mail chris@christidball.com

 

 

June 4, 2012 at 7:50 am Leave a comment

Red Flag Warning: Digging Deeper in Claims Investigations

Auto give ups, stolen vehicles, arson, padded injuries, inflated medical bills, drug diversions, disability exaggeration are just a few of the scams played out in the insurance arena daily.   According to the Insurance Research Council, one in three Americans believe it is acceptable to inflate a claim to pad their deductible.  One in four believe it is acceptable to do this to recoup previously paid premiums.

The reality is that each and every day insurers are faced with situations that are outright fraud, or contain elements of fraud.  In fact, it is estimated that 21 to 36 percent of insurance claims contain an element of fraud.  Complicating matters is the continuing poor economic conditions, creating a financial motive for many, who in good times would never consider such drastic action.

So how can insurers, charged with accurately resolving claims in a timely manner, discern the good from the bad?  How can adjusters, often doing more work with fewer resources, take the time to properly identify and investigate claims with red flags?

On the surface, this may seem like an insurmountable task but fortunately there are steps that can be taken.  First, and foremost, don’t go it alone.  Long gone are the days when we got into our company cars and hit the streets to look for clues to unravel the mystery behind the claim.  While this may have been the optimal way to handle claims a generation ago, these investigations can be done more expeditiously by leveraging available technology.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have feet on the street, either.   Having the ability to canvass for witnesses, inspect sometimes non-existent clinics, measure vehicular damage and take claimant statements in the presence of their attorney can provide invaluable insight into an investigation.   This approach, used in conjunction with modern technology, such as link analysis and indexing information, can often make or break a case.

While digging for dirt is imperative, digging deeper is what sets the great adjuster, manager and executive apart from the typical.   In my experience, I have witnessed the entire spectrum from failure to mediocrity to greatness and at the latter, there are common bonds of confidence, determination and an insatiable curiosity to dig deep and find answers.

Great adjusters become great because they ask a lot of questions throughout the claims process.  They ask questions of not only parties to a claim but to management.  Often, it is these very people who become great managers and eventually executives, because they ask the difficult questions.

But what exactly sets the great apart from the mediocre?  Often it is intuition, such as that of Barton Keyes, a claims investigator in the thriller Double Indemnity.  In that movie, Keyes talked of an internal knack, or hunch, referred to as his little man.  It was through these hunches that he was able to separate the good claims from the bad, and in the movie solve a murder for insurance plot.

We should follow our gut, as it rarely is wrong.  If something doesn’t seem right with a claim, it very well may not be.   The key is to differentiate between the objective and subjective, a differentiator between the ordinary and extraordinary.

As discussed in Re-Adjusted: 20 Essential Rules To Take Your Claims Organization From Ordinary To Extraordinary, great adjusters take the time to dig deeper.  They will not only ask questions from the parties to the claim, but they will look for discrepancies.   They will inquire about not only the claimant’s medical treatment, but get physical descriptions of their clinics and providers.  They will ask for directions from home to the chiropractor’s office.  They will measure the damages and look for metal striations and paint transfers.  The list of what the great adjuster will do goes on and on and at the end of the day may show that this ordinary claim was actually a staged accident.

They will then leverage available technology to search for prior claims, analyze associations between the claimant’s, medical providers and attorneys, looking for key patterns or connections, which in turn can lead to larger, more organized activity.

While many organizations are scaling back on manpower, for a variety of reasons, it is important to recognize that this increased demand on productivity can take a toll on investigative capacity.  By leveraging credible and experienced external business partners, insurers can maintain a competitive advantage.   There are a wide variety of such partners that can provide investigative resources, forensics, accident reconstruction and demographic information that adjusters can utilize throughout the course of their various claims investigations.

There are also a number of free resources available to computer savvy adjusters who want to dig a little deeper on their own.  The following is a list of websites that provide a wealth of information which can be used in conjunction with state and county specific websites to verify such things as personal information, property ownership and professional licensure of medical and legal providers:

Skip Tracing Websites and Resources

www.spokeo.com

http://www.411.com

http://www.pipl.com

http://www.anywho.com

 

Social Networking Sites

www.facebook.com

http://www.myspace.com

http://www.linkedincom

http://www.plaxo.com

 

Real Property, Asset and Liens

Earth.google.com

http://www.salary.com

http://www.zillow.com

 

Government Resources

www.cms.gov

http://www.dol.gov

http://www.noaa.gov

http://www.nhtsa.gov

 

The first duty of man is the seeking after and the investigation of truth

Cicero

Christopher Tidball is an author and claims consultant.  His career spanned more than two decades in various adjusting, management and executive roles for multiple top 10 property and casualty insurers.  To learn more, please visit www.christidball.com or e-mail chris@christidball.com.   Chris will be a featured speaker at the upcoming America’s Claims Event, June 27-29 in Las Vegas.   Claims Magazine will be hosting a book signing for his most recent self help guide,  Re-Adjusted: 20 Essential Rules To Take Your Claims Organization From Ordinary To Extraordinary in their display booth at 3:30 p.m. on June 28th.

June 1, 2012 at 6:43 am Leave a comment


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Chris Tidball is a claims and revenue management consultant and author of the "20 Essential Rules" series of self and organizational improvement books. You can ask him a question at chris@christidball.com

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