Daily Archives: April 17, 2014

America’s Claims Event 2014 Interview with Carl Van!


Interview: Carl Van, ITP, President & CEO, International Insurance Institute, Inc.

Carl Van will present “Critical Thinking – Strategic Planning.” on June 25, 2014. Carl was interviewed by the folks at America’s Claims Event. You can also view the interview on the ACE site too!  Click here to view.

ACE: Can you explain the connection between critical thinking and being a successful claims leader?

CV: The point we are going to make is that the best decision makers, whether they are claims adjusters analyzing coverage, damages and liability on a claim, or claims leaders making business decisions for their organization, are the ones who think things through. That is what it is all about. It is not about always being right, it is about considering the relevant information, avoiding the non-critical thinking pitfalls, and making the best decision possible.

ACE: Please describe a Critical Thinking approach for strategic planning within a claims operation.

CV: There are too many possible steps to list here, so I’ll just stick to the main ones.

The first and most important step is to define what you are trying to accomplish. Are you trying to introduce a new procedure, improve an existing procedure, or fix a problem?

Another important step is to list out your assumptions. What are you taking for granted that you know (or just accepting) to be true? Are you assuming that the new form you started using is causing turn around time delays? Are you assuming that by increasing adjuster authority will result in a reduction in inventory? Whatever assumptions you are starting with, list them out.

Right after that is to test those assumptions! In most cases, when big mistakes are made, it is not an error in the thought process that causes the problem. It is usually some assumption that was made (and never tested) that turned out to be false and every decision made based on that assumption would lead you astray.

Another step involves gathering the data you need to make the decision, as well as ideas to consider, using a wide net.

The goal is to make the best decision possible with the information you have, using the critical thinking process, avoiding the 10 critical thinking pitfalls.

A good strategic plan should have these characteristics:

 Steady: Strategies need to be altered as the business changes and knowledge grows; however, they cannot be overly reactive or “knee jerk.” Steady, well thought out changes are best.

 Achievable: Effective strategies draw on the particular strengths and skills of an organization. People who like change are just as important as people who don’t like change; you need them both! Strategies should include considerations of how they will be implemented. They need to include things people will actually do.

 Tangible: If your strategies are not in concert with your goals, then either your goals are unrealistic and/or unimportant, or your strategies are ineffective. You have to have something to show for your efforts.

 Understandable: Strategies that work in the claims environment are easily articulated so that they can inspire the people who will be asked to carry them out.

Evolving: Claims organizations that think strategically have alternatives and learn to consider a wide range of choices. They also build upon successes and relate those successes throughout the organization.

 True-Life: The best strategies are based on and supported by real data. File reviews, phone call monitoring, settlement times, objective system generated data, etc. Effective strategies tell believable stories.

 Focused: As a claims organization, are you saying one thing yet doing another? Are you encouraging risk, yet penalizing for making mistakes? Are you touting customer service, yet providing no training and evaluating only on claims specifics? Are you encouraging innovation, yet dictating every detail in every process? Are you asking people to be agents of change, yet overwhelming them with process?

Negotiated: Successful strategies have buy-in from all levels. The best way to do that is by getting many points of view, from both people who like change and people who don’t like change, and sharing the thinking behind the strategy as it evolves. Stop dictating.

 Determined: No organization can do everything or be all things to all people. Strategy means making choices about what you will and will not do. Your strategy should make it clear how claims activities will be prioritized, and how it will use its resources. Deciding you need training does not mean you have to develop it and deliver it all by yourself. Are you a training organization or a claims organization? Get help when needed, but do what you do best.

ACE: Please put these ideas of critical thinking and strategic planning in the context of a real life case study.

CV: We will be working on one in the presentation. We will be dealing with a claims organization that needs to improve the responses toward customer service complaints. We will take a look at the issue, decide on what we want to accomplish, list our assumptions, test those assumptions, generate ideas for improvement and discuss how to put them into place.

ACE: What is the central message that you hope to convey at the America’s Claims Event?

CV: That taking the time to think things through (8 “t” words in a row!) is worth the effort. Making good decisions takes a little discipline, a little knowledge, a little patience, a little training…and a sometimes a little luck.


Critical Thinking – Strategic Planning

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About America’s Claims Event The 18th Annual America’s Claims Event is the ONLY industry event where senior managers, practitioners & experts involved with claims operations can get the insight they need to implement effective and tactical strategies for their claims handling process. More than 400 professionals and decision‐makers from mid‐size to large Fortune 500 companies attend the event to engage in idea exchanging and peer‐to‐peer learning. Attendees gain deep insight from the experts and obtain unparalleled access to proven solutions to confront their operational challenges.

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