Who’s in Control? You or Your Processes?

If you aren’t in control of your processes, your processes are controlling you. In the day to day frenzy of insurance operations, it’s easy to simply relinquish any sense of control and just do what is necessary to get the business on the books or respond to the incoming phone calls. Jump through hoops, make those hand-offs, toggle through multiple legacy systems, just keep the work queue under control and hit those service levels. It’s a jungle out there, but your business processes can be tamed and controlled. We promise.

We’ve got a list of five easy steps you can take to get a better grip on your processes.

Name your processes. In some cultures, people believe that if someone knows your name, they have power over you. With business processes, this is true. The first action we ask a group of client stakeholders to complete at the start of a business process engagement is deceptively simple. We ask each person to write down the names of their business processes. Then we compare the lists. If there are 10 stakeholders in the room, we end up with 10 different lists of processes. If you don’t know what your processes are, you can’t wrangle them into submission.

Profile your processes. A profile can reveal important information about a process. Is the process primarily distributor or owner facing? Does the process vary by product? There are a lot of characteristics that can help you manage, improve, and control your processes if you know what they are.

Own your processes. Remember the list of processes from step one? Ask the same group of people to name the person who is responsible for the success of each process on the list. When we ask groups to do this, we often receive puzzled stares. Then a lively discussion breaks out among the group about the relative merits of having process owners and who the best owners would be. The standard organization structure of a life/annuity/retirement company means that processes can fragment across teams and departments. If you have process profiles, you can use them to determine the best and most logical owners of your processes.

Document your processes. Documentation doesn’t have to mean detailed Visio flows in standard BPMn notation. Choose a format that fits your need and culture, and use it consistently across the enterprise. Documentation enables training, continuous improvement, disaster recovery, investment planning and other activities that strengthen your organization.

Measure your processes. Like documentation, measurement doesn’t have to mean extensive data capture and reporting. Choose the two or three metrics based on the process profile and overall objectives of the company. Measuring process cost is ideal, but few companies can achieve it. People naturally pay attention to what is measured, and this philosophy applies to processes as well. Your teams, your leaders, and even you will pay more attention to processes when you measure them and take actions based on those metrics.

Notice that none of these steps involves re-designing or streamlining your processes. If you don’t have a commonly understood inventory of profiled processes with designated owners, consistent documentation, and meaningful metrics, you can’t achieve continuous improvement success.