It's Fourth and Goal; What's Your Call?

What came first, the chicken or the egg? It is a question pondered for eons. This brings us to the 21st century version, where business leaders may ask, "What’s more important, the person or the tool?" It is an interesting proposition, and one worthy of consideration.  

As I sit in the airport, preparing to board that flight to Houston it seems that the mechanic inspecting the plane is pretty darn important. But what if he lacks the tools to fix the problem? Likewise, what if he has the tools to fix the problem but doesn’t know how to identify the issue?

In my forthcoming book, Blocking & Tackling: The Playbook For The Winning Claims Organization, there is extensive discussion on the critical foundation of any organization: people, processes, and technology. People are crucial to outcomes, but they must be the right people. Let’s face it. Not everyone is cut out to be an airplane mechanic, just as not everyone is cut out to be a claims adjuster. Even those with the greatest claims skills in the world have some limitations, which is where having the right tools can provide an organizational lift. In the world of claims, these tools come in the form of effective processes and innovative technology.  

As a young adjuster, I recall spending time in the field learning how to investigate accidents effectively. Back in the “old days” we used rudimentary tools like polaroid cameras, Dictaphones, and tape measures. Our notes were logged into a manual ledger, and according to my kids, we may as well have been calculating damages on an abacus.  

Flash forward to the present. Smartphones and iPads abound. If I want to do a scene investigation, I can do so in a virtual environment. It is as easy as the click of a mouse to determine speed and direction force. But even though the times have changed, adjusters still need tools to properly conduct and complete a thorough and accurate claims investigation. 

The Fundamentals

The key to success among industry leaders has been effectively leveraging people, processes and technology. As business leaders, irrespective of industry, outcomes are driven by having the right people in the right positions. After all, if it is fourth and goal with inches to go, 2 seconds left on the clock and your team  down by four, who gets the ball?  Conventional wisdom may dictate leveraging your greatest athlete. But won’t the defense be expecting that?   Herein lies the problem if you don’t have “A” caliber talent in every position.   

Certainly this is easier said than done, but it can be accomplished. Just as athleticism on the field varies, so too do investigative capabilities in the world of claims. This is where the right tools can be used to calibrate an organization to achieve optimal outcomes.  

From call centers and appraisers to evaluation accuracy and negotiation strategy, insurers benefit by leveraging the right tools to improve outcomes, reduce expenses, and retain policyholders. Who should be front and center? But, even a world class quarterback can’t guarantee that outcome. It will take a combination of strength and focus by the offensive line and backfield athleticism to pull this off on the field. 

In today’s competitive market, what should be done on fourth and one? As a coach, the focus isn’t only on the players but on the playbook and technology. What is the defense expecting? Probably the ball to go to my Pro Bowl wide receiver? Possibly a bootleg by my first round quarterback? Maybe a run up the gut by my world class running back? The solution is to have talent that is so remarkable, every position gives the defense reason for pause. 

As a coach, I want to win this game.  I owe it to the players, the fans and the owners to come up with the solution that will be virtually foolproof.   Technology allows me to get a read from the booth and out of the hat comes “the play." Perhaps a little ingenuity, along the lines of Mike Ditka’s usage of William “The Fridge” Perry in short yardage situations.  

The same holds true in claims organizations where accurate outcomes and fiduciary responsibilities are owed to customers, management and shareholders. People understand the responsibilities, but it is the tools that allow them to achieve goals better, faster, consistently and more economically.  

On a closing note, the play called was a play action pass with a roll to the left. The ball was caught in the corner of the end zone by a receiver left wide open as the result of the defense stacking the box with a certainty that the play would be a run up the middle.   


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