Presented by Plethy Recupe

Simple Ideas for a Complex System

Napoleon's Corporal

Napoleon's Corporal

by Bill Zachry, SCIF Board Member

Napoleon knew how important it was to have an enlisted soldier in the planning process. During every battle plan briefing Napoleon would have a Corporal shine his boots knowing that the Corporal was listening. Once the General Staff finished the brief, Napoleon would ask the Corporal if he understood the plan. If the Corporal answered, “Yes Sir!” Napoleon would have the generals execute the plan. If the Corporal answered, “No Sir!” Napoleon would have the generals simplify the plan, with the knowledge that if the front-line soldiers could not understand the battle plan, they had no chance of executing it.

In today’s world, many of the policies and procedures are designed and implemented by leadership (or by systems “experts”) with minimal or no input from those who will be doing the actual work. This is a recipe for failure.

One of the best claims managers I ever knew always involved the claims assistants and examiners in her planning process. Whenever there was a change in the laws, rules, or regulations, when installing anew claims system she would interview the people who would be directly impacted by the changes and then involve them in the development of the new policies and procedures.

This effort had three effects. The first was that the procedures were simple, easy to understand, and easy to follow. The second was that with skin in the game, the front-line people who had been involved in the planning worked diligently to make sure that the implementation was successful. The third was that with the heightened engagement of the employees, there was a much lower turnover of staff than our competitors.

The claims managers’ approach was to spend the necessary time with the front-line staff, the examiners, claims assistants, and supervisors to do the work properly. She selected the staff to participate in the process by looking for those who were engaged, and who cared about the company as well as about their own results.

She started the process by first determining if the employees knew what they were currently doing and why they were doing it. She then carefully explained the new rule law or regulation and how this was a change. Importantly, she then allowed the staff the necessary time to mull over the changes and the specific impact that the new requirements would have on their job. As a part of Napoleon’s Corporal process, she also encouraged the staff to offer insight and suggestions on maximizing efficiencies even if their job was not directly impacted by the system changes. The staff always knew that under no circumstances would they be fired or “eliminated” for creating efficiencies and improving processes.

Her style was always very deliberative. Before she implemented the new procedures, she tested the changes in a small, controlled environment, and as usual, she always encouraged objective feedback from all parties during the testing process. Before the final full launch, she would spend a few days mulling over any potential unintended consequences as well as the impact that the changes would have on the mix of her people and their personalities.

As a result, she always had the best claims results (high return to work rates, low cost of claims, low litigation rate) , the lowest employee turnover rate in the company and had the best customer satisfaction scores in the company.

You too can get these results. All it takes is to make sure that you have a corporal polishing your boots while the generals are explaining the battle plan.

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