Thursday, November 21, 2013

It's My Pleasure

I never really thought about just getting it done, whatever IT happens to be. That has been the driving force of my personality forever. Just get it done. Once it is done, then I don't have to worry or think about IT.

Many people seem to have some blockage towards just getting it done. There always seems to be either an excuse, or a deviation or distraction. Rather than just doing it, some need time to ruminate, think, pause, or whatever the process is.

And then it doesn't get done.

Bruce Wilkinson was the lunch time speaker at the National Workers' Compensation & Disability Conference yesterday. He's a safety guy turned public speaker and his message to us was that workers' compensation is too managed - there is very little leadership - and as a consequence IT doesn't get done.

Management presumes that someone or something requires control and direction. People have to be managed, systems have to be managed, outcomes have to be managed.

Management worries about details, is concerned with processes. The old saying that you can't manage what you don't measure is tell-tale of this mentality.

Leadership is about empowerment. Leadership is doing. An effective leader doesn't tell someone what and when to do it. An effective leader DOES it and shows that it can be done.

And if it can't be done, then a leader will take the hit, get back up, admit mistake ... and try again in a different way.

We in workers' compensation are very good at telling people what to do, when to do it, how to do it, what it will cost, when it will be paid for, etc. etc.

We manage, in other words.

No wonder there is so much failure in workers' compensation.

When we get down to the bottom line, we're all just talk and no walk.

The center of the workers' compensation universe is the injured worker. Without people getting injured at work and a system for dealing with the consequences our jobs would not exist.

But we take the wrong approach to our jobs. We have been trained deeply to make and follow rules. It is ingrained in us time after time that we must measure, compare and measure again.

We tell injured workers when they can file claims, who they can see for treatment, how long they are off work, how much indemnity they will receive and we gather all sorts of data about claims and injuries to help us...

We tell doctors what treatment they will use, how much we will pay for it, and what information we want to help us ...

We gather statistics about frequency and severity, and acquire data and apply it to determine how much an employer is going to pay, and all of this data is used to help us...

All of this to help us ... manage.

We do a great job of managing and the result is abysmal.

Wilkinson put it best when he told the audience that workers' compensation is a people business. We are in the business of dealing with human beings with thoughts, emotions, feelings, weaknesses, desires, hopes.

Emotions are a critical part of workers' compensation claims and we do a terrible job of recognizing this fact and dealing with it. Instead it is much easier to "manage" a claim rather than reach out and "lead" an injured worker and the team surrounding that person to a successful outcome.

People need and love inspiration. The human character is to look to others and see that it can be done.

When Wilkinson was speaking I was reminded of dear Mom back at her home, with her dementia, and how Dad had "managed" her for so long. It wasn't until Dad went into the hospital recently that I realized that Dad had "managed" her right into disability.

Dad put on a good show. He would ask her what she wanted for lunch, and then tell her what she was going to eat. He would ask her where she wanted to go for entertainment and then tell her that they were going to a movie. He would ask her if she wanted to go for a walk and then tell her that she was going for a walk. Mom couldn't just get up out of her chair, Dad had to be there and help her do it correctly so she wouldn't fall.

Dad lovingly managed every aspect of Mom. In his mind he was helping her.

In her mind, though, she was disabled.

When Mom was liberated from this management all of a sudden her dementia seemed less severe. It took a couple of days, but when I showed Mom how to order off the menu herself, that's what she did.

When I helped her understand how to get up out of the chair every time successfully (don't look down, look up because the body always goes where the eyes are looking) that's what she did without further assistance.

Walking and getting exercise wasn't objectionable anymore, and she started asking her care giver to take her for a walk and she began enjoying her daily exercise regimen. She's waking up earlier and with more energy.

She still has dementia - she can't remember my wife's name and repetitively asks the same question.

But the difference is that her level of functioning has increased dramatically.

Because she isn't managed.

Leadership is hard and takes much more initial effort than management. We deal with people and they need to be lead to success.

Wilkinson raised a point that touched on one of my particular peeves - the response of "no problem" when a vendor or service provider is praised or thanked.

The term "no problem" is hugely negative. First, you're telling the customer "no" right off the bat! Second, you are stating there was a "problem" when there may have never been any.

The correct response is, "my pleasure." It should be our pleasure to do our jobs competently, effectively, efficiently, and for the purpose of leading an individual to success.

Make it your pleasure too.


  1. Thank you David. You have expressed thoughts about the management of WC that absolutely need to be said.
    And consider one additional phenomenon... When you "manage" in WC, the industry, being collectively more clever than any manager, will immediately devise a "work around" for the portions of the control that they object to losing. The manager's analytics will eventually catch up and show him or her that the strategy has been outflanked. The manager's typical response is to attempt to control the work-around, initiating an new cycle of management and avoidance. Two things result - the cost of the system is driven up by all the efforts placed into controlling and avoiding control, and the manager becomes convinced that the people and organizations who are not cooperating with his or her plan are the enemy...and the reaction to that is to tighten the controls even further (because the enemy can't be trusted).
    There is another way... the intent of the workers' compensation system, the legislation, the political environment or shareholder expectations give us a mandate for what must be done... but why not collaborate with "the managed" on "how" it is accomplished... strangely, when this approach is tried, outcomes improve and costs come down...there are plenty of examples. When David says leadership is empowerment, that is part of what he's saying....

  2. First, David, thank you for sharing something of your personal life that we all will (or already have) face – the gradual disintegration of an elder loved one. It is most poignant because, until now, they were the ones looking out for our well-being. It is additionally poignant because we recognize we will be in that position as well one day. The nagging question is, ‘Will someone be there to respond to our needs?’

    That having been said, and with your kind permission, I will move on. Since I got involved in the work comp industry in 1989, I have heard one message repeated over and over, ‘The work comp is broken and it needs to be fixed.’ Even though we’ve gone through endless rounds of reform – some major and some minor – the message remains the same.

    How is it that, after more than two decades of our best efforts, we still cannot ‘fix’ work comp? Are we really that inept and clueless?

    I would submit to you – work comp doesn’t need to be ‘fixed’. Work comp works exactly as it was designed to work. It does not, however, work as it was intended to work. Work comp doesn’t need to be fixed - it needs to heal itself.

    At the most basic level, work comp is the ‘Great Covenant’ between Employers and Employees. In exchange for providing a system of benefits (medical and indemnity) to an injured worker the employer is not being sued for work place negligence. The employer gets the benefit of the work comp system being the ‘sole remedy’ for a work place injury. In exchange for access to immediate benefits (medical and indemnity) the injured worker gives up the right to sue the employer for negligence in the work place.

    I’ve been a work comp consultant since 2003. The laws, rules, and regulations in place at that time allowed me to fulfil the promise of the ‘Great Covenant’ – take care of the injured worker at the lowest cost possible to the employer. Despite two rounds of major reform legislation, and many minor ones, nothing has changed. The laws, rules, and regulations in effect today still allow me to do my job just like it did a decade ago. I can still get the same outcomes for an injured worker today that I could ten years ago.

    My advice to the employers and injured workers in the system, ‘Shut up, quit whining, and take care of business – according to the rules.’ Everyone else in the system is a ‘hanger-on’ – living off the system and drawing their livelihood from the system. It is your choice to make a meaningful contribution to the system or be a ‘bottom feeder’ – nothing more than ‘pond scum’.