Strategic Management for Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers: Positive Change for Sustained Excellence

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Continuous Improvement as Competitive Advantage

Let's talk about what's keeping you up at night.

If you could change anything about your business, would you, and what would it be?

Oh, wait. You can change anything about your business. It's your business. Political rhetoric notwithstanding, you don't need to wait for the government to do something for you. Or to you.

Think about all the things you could do differently in your business that would increase your profits.

Think about all the changes you could make to your customers' experience, resulting in more and better referrals. Would that increase your profits? Think about all the changes you could make to your teams' effectiveness, resulting in more and happier customers. Would that increase your profits?

But change is hard. Oh, it's not hard to talk about change. Think about how hard it is - how long it takes - to break a bad habit. (Forever?) Or to replace a bad habit with a good habit? (21 days, so say the behaviorist experts.) It's not hard to tell someone else to change. But think about how long you've been trying to get ____ (someone)___ to do __(something)__ differently.

The kind of change that's going to make a difference to your bottom line has to be a special kind of change. It has to be positive change that makes it easier for your customers to do business with you and easier for your team to do the right thing for the customer. When you and your team are always looking for that kind of change, that's continuous improvement, and it gives you a competitive edge.

If you can see an opportunity and be able to line up your resources or change your strategies to be on the leading edge. If you can understand a threat for what it is and take action to avoid the common pitfalls. If you can make adjustments in your operations or your organization to maximize strengths and minimize weaknesses.  Doesn't this give you a tremendous advantage in the marketplace?

Being eager and willing to make changes does come with a caveat. Change for its own sake is not a productive strategy. Making too many changes that don't work or don't "stick" will chew up resources and demoralize your staff. So to ensure the right balance of continuous improvement and consistency, do some strategic thinking before you make any major change. Make sure that any change can pass this test:

  • Is this change Strategic? Will it help you achieve one or more of your strategic goals - or at least move in the right direction?
  • Can you and your team Implement this change? You want to be able to understand clearly what it will take - who is going to do what by when - and then what will need to happen next. If you can't see your way through the implementation, you should reconsider whether you want to start. (Really can't say this strongly enough. If your team feels they are always starting never to finish, they will give up trying.)
  • Does the change Matter? Will making this change make a difference for the customer? For your team? If the outcome will be invisible, you will get no return on your investment.
  • Will the outcome be Positive? Think through the costs, the consequences and the expected outcomes. If there's no real benefit then don't do it.
  • Will the change Last? Will it "stick." Is this one of those things that people will look back on and say, "Hmmm, whatever happened with that?" If the outcome is going to become invisible, you should have saved the trouble.
  • Does everyone involved have clear Expectations for the change process and the changed outcome? Of course there will be follow up required - did everyone do their job to get the change made and maintained. If you're thinking strategically about this change, you should be able to create a vision for all those involved. What will their experience be during and after the change? How will they benefit? What will be expected of them? What should they expect?
Continuous improvement is continuous change. In this context, change is good. It's not easy. but it should be simple.

So what will you change?

If a threat or weakness is forcing you to change. If a strength or opportunity is calling you to change. If you are constantly making changes that don’t help or don’t last. If your staff has trouble adapting to change. Or if you want help in putting positive changes into strategic perspective, we can help. Call me, or send an email. No Strings. No Charge.