10/28/2015

Questions for a Successful End-of-Year Assessment

How team leaders can prepare for a pain-free examination of their departments.

By Donna J. Popow

Each year, claims managers and claims team leaders must examine how their departments are doing in preparation for an end-of-year assessment. In his article “Five End-of-Year Questions for Remote Managers,” Wayne Turmel provides a framework that can be adopted by any manager or team leader regardless of when their fiscal year ends. In essence, ask for answers to some basic questions: Where are we in relation to the organization’s goals and objectives? How did we get to this position? How will we change things in the future?

In order to make the end-of-year assessment a worthwhile and pain-free exercise, you first must have a process in place that keeps you apprised of how your team is doing when it comes to meeting milestones and achieving goals and objectives. The monthly reports you receive have valuable data hidden in them that will keep your department on track to meet the organization’s business objectives. The problem is that you have to look at them monthly and you have to take the time to digest the data that they provide. With time always in short supply, it is best that you set aside specific blocks to review these reports shortly after you receive them. Trying to slog your way through three months’ worth in one sitting is almost impossible and will not bring you closer to assessing effectively how well you and your department are doing.

Data gleaned from these reports should allow you to see how your team is progressing relative to the organization’s goals and objectives. Look for trends that show those areas where the department is performing well, and then ask yourself “Why is that the case?” Analyze areas where your department is not meeting projected goals and, again, ask yourself “Why?” Can you capitalize on those successful areas to obtain better results in the areas that are underperforming?

If you keep up with the monthly reports, it also will be easier to see trends in the data. Coming up with an answer to the “why?” question can be more difficult. This is where your team can assist you. Who better to ask why something is going well than the folks who are actually making it happen? They should be able to tell you why one area is more successful than another area.

Once you have answered that question, ask yourself if there is anything you can do to create more opportunities for success. Is it possible to refocus your team’s activities or retask personnel for better results?

Evaluate your team’s performance. Are there team members who are struggling? Are there team members who are disengaged? Try to discern what the difference is between the top and bottom performers. Is additional training needed to help some be more successful? Is there an attitude of disengagement that needs to be addressed? A disengaged performer can be more disruptive to a team than a performer who needs more training.

Oftentimes the tools we are given to accomplish our objectives do not work as well as expected. So part of the year-end assessment should include a look at the tools you have and how well the team is using them. Do the tools provide the desired results? Are people using workarounds to get objectives accomplished because a tool does not work effectively? If this is the case, are upgrades available that can correct the problem, or is there a better tool for the job?

The next assessment question requires thinking at two different levels. Ask yourself, as a manager, “What is the best thing I did this year to help the organization meet its goals and objectives?” Why did it work out so well? Reframe these same questions and see how your team did. What is the best outcome the team had this year, and why was it effective in forwarding the organization’s business objectives? Now think about how you can help the team repeat its successes.

If you really take the time to answer these questions, you will have a road map as to what needs to be accomplished in the upcoming year. Take what you have learned and turn this information into action.

Finally, ask yourself “What one thing would I change to help the organization achieve its business objectives?” Ignore budget, staffing, and other external factors; just come up with one thing. Ask your team to do this same exercise. Have them do it anonymously so you will get honest responses. Put all the responses together and see if there is anything on the list that falls within your area of responsibility. If so, can you find a way to implement a small change that may help the organization reach its objectives and at the same time ease the burden on your team? Small changes can have much larger implications for the organization when they make work easier rather than harder.   



Donna J. Popow, JD, CPCU, AIC, is president of Donna J. Popow LLC, and has more than 25 years of experience in the property and casualty insurance industry. She has been a CLM Fellow since 2007 and can be reached at (215) 630-0829.

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