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Alice, the Cheshire Cat, and the Importance of Strategic Direction

October 31, 2018 | Tashi Singal

There’s a wonderful scene in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that has much to teach us about the importance of establishing clear objectives and setting directions:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where—” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

That may seem like an odd source of instruction or inspiration for an insurance consulting firm. But it’s not. In fact, it’s quite pointedly valuable. And it’s related to the fallacy of best practices — about which we published an earlier post — and the importance of adaptable target operating models.

Vive la Difference!

There are many differentiating aspects between insurance organizations. But perhaps the single most differentiating and defining aspect is brand, the perception of its vision and objectives. (That, too, may seem like an odd statement to be coming from a consulting firm focused on improving insurance operations.) The two most important considerations of the differentiating aspect of brand are these:

  1. Since a brand’s personality derives from the personalities of the people who serve it, insurer A will never be insurer B unless all the same people work at, and do exactly the same things in, both companies.
  2. The truth of #1 remains undiminished even if insurer B mimics every step, process, product, service, mission, and aspiration of insurer A.

That’s why establishing direction-determining objectives is the most important step in any strategic undertaking. If you’re insurer B, you won’t get where you want to go by following insurer A. As with best practices, when it comes to objectives, one size does not fit all. Therefore, it’s important to identify your organization’s vision and define your strategic plans in line with your vision. Then, set clear objectives in line with your strategic plan.

Balance Is the Key

No plan will help you get you from objective A to objective Z without adaptability and course-correction. Plan anyway. Just make sure you balance certainty with flexibility. For any long-term plan to be successful, it is important to set smaller achievable, immediate targets and communicate those to your team. As you proceed from objective A, stop. Breathe. Look around. Think. If the road to objective B looks exactly as you planned it would — and if you are meeting the goals — by all means, move ahead. If it doesn’t, allow for the change, amend the plan, then move on to objective B. Repeat the process until you reach your target operating model. Then leave room for continuing adaptability.

It’s not magic. It’s logic. If the Cheshire Cat could articulate the reasoning, so can your insurance organization.

Learn more about how Xceedance helps insurers with strategic planning and operational excellence.

Tashi Singal is a senior consultant at Xceedance, with a focus on helping re/insurers achieve business and technology transformation.

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