Canadian Underwriter

Message From the President

November 3, 2017   by Heather Matthews, President, Canadian Independent Adjusters’ Association

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The industry is abuzz about change. You hear such tag lines as “leverage the disruption for growth”, “humans represent the why of change”, and, most recently, I heard the phrase “lean into the grey” which essentially means to get comfortable with the uncertainty and get involved in the change, lean into it. All of these phrases are challenging us to accept, manage and lead through the change that surrounds us daily.

I have always found it interesting that people are accepting change in almost everything but their jobs. You buy the latest phone and flat screen TV, remodel or change your home entirely, change your hairstyle—thank goodness those 80s styles are gone!—buy the latest fashions, and even change our family situations.

But when technology or client preferences demand that your job changes, that is when most people become resistant and express their opinions strongly about that change.

Heather Matthews, President, Canadian Independent Adjusters’ Association

A “light bulb” moment for me surrounding change management and preparedness came many years ago while attending a week-long leadership development course. It was an intense course with participants from all over the globe.

The exercise was simple; I was to lead a group to build a bridge out of Popsicle sticks. We were provided supplies and staff and in one hour we were to design and build a bridge that would hold a 20-pound weight.

My team included an engineer. I was thrilled. He was the key to our success. But 20 minutes into the exercise the facilitator entered the room and removed him. We were devastated, but more importantly, blind-sided. We were not prepared to lose staff and in particular key staff integral to this project.

Did we learn our lesson and start to prepare? No. A few minutes later that same facilitator once again entered the room and removed half of our supplies. Apparently we now had a supply chain issue! Once again we did not see it coming.

This exercise, as simplistic as it seems, resonated with me and shone a light on the fact that we were not prepared for change or disruptors. Many years later I still think of that exercise. I think through what can go wrong: what if I don’t have specific staff? What if I have to do this with half of the resources? What if my budget is cut? What if my client doesn’t want what I am selling? What are plans B, C and D?

The lesson? Start planning early and continually. Adopt creative thinking around resources and assignments. Be mindful of your stakeholders and partners and engage them in the process early on. Recognize that it takes time to reorganize and redesign organizational structures and working relationships.

One of the biggest challenges is that many people think things are fine and that you don’t need to change. Change breeds fear and it is fear that you must help them overcome. Remember where you are in the thought process, and that in most cases you will need to bring your colleagues and clients along to catch up to those ideas. Help them through that journey.

Let’s embrace change and be leaders of change—not victims of it—in the insurance industry, and more specifically, in claims.

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