Aflac Group Insurance’s new COO had previously worked with Value Capture and well understood that Lean principles and tools could unlock the phenomenal bank of knowledge and abilities that employees possess. So when Dan Lebish arrived at Aflac, he asked Value Capture to help implement a Daily Management System (DMS), a breakthrough Lean approach, to unleash the problem-solving abilities of everyone, every day.
Results of the training and deployment of the customized Aflac DMS included:
- Actuarial Department: Reduction of turnaround time from 2 days to 0 days of 85% of custom underwriting offers
- Underwriting Department: Raised “delivery on time” baseline from 82% to 100%
- Custom Proposal Department: Gains made from the development of systematic quality measures allowed this department to take on a 15% increase in proposal requests.
Dan Lebish, Aflac Group Insurance’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, knew that great strides could be made if employee knowledge could be tapped into and brought to bear. In working with Value Capture in his previous role as an executive at a healthcare organization, Lebish had experienced multiple positive results from empowering employees to identify and solve problems in their work. He knew that Lean principles and a Daily Management System could lead to a dramatic increase in effective employee participation in the problem-solving process, and thereby lead to unprecedented improvements across measures from customer outcomes to employee satisfaction.
Aflac’s COO laid the groundwork for success by equipping employees with DMS training and skills-coaching.
Lebish asked Value Capture, recognized experts in advanced Lean and Daily Management System methodology, to work with and equip employees with the principles and tools of a DMS, in order to break down silos, improve productivity, and unlock their problem-solving potential.
Today, the energy and confidence that typify employees at Aflac, a leader in group insurance, are palpable.
Taking Lean to a new level
Lebish laid the groundwork for success by providing the employees with the time, training and skills-coaching necessary, empowering them to effectively problem-solve. Lebish and his team selected three departments, eager and willing to serve as pilot sites for the development of customized Daily Management Systems: Underwriting, Custom Proposal and Actuarial.
Value Capture collaborated with the department leaders and their staffs to design the DMS, to assist them in achieving their goal of engaging employees at all levels to solve problems to root cause.
Value Capture worked together with the pilot leaders, helping them learn Lean principles and behaviors, and coached the leaders to apply Lean to develop a customized management system for their teams’ work. Ultimately, the pilot teams were ready to take the entire process forward. Value Capture also worked with Aflac’s Leadership Learning & Development team, so that they could spread and implement the principles throughout other departments.
At Aflac, the impact of the DMS process was immediate and visible.
From the first, new energy and enthusiasm emerged within the pilot departments, from senior management to department leaders and to all employees. Barriers came down and fresh ideas emerged as everyone coalesced around meaningful, relatable goals.
Creating “through the roof” engagement
Together, Value Capture and the pilot leaders designed and tested management system components, such as the use of A3 thinking, the daily huddle, leader standard work, daily “status of the business,” and the use of score cards and visual boards. Value Capture coached the leaders to use these new components as a mechanism to coach their own staffs through problem-solving and process improvement.
Taken together, these approaches created a framework for performance and a focus on process—developing employees who can confidently solve problems because they are free to raise questions, posit and test possible approaches, then identify and implement the best solution.
Employees worked across departments to lift themselves and each other up and forward, unleashing the true capacity of “everyone, every day.”
With the tools and permission to identify and break down the barriers that were causing waste and impeding their work, momentum increased. The group worked across departments to lift themselves and each other up and forward—to do better work, more efficiently and effectively — and thus unleashed the true capacity of “everyone, every day” to maximize process improvement.
The Underwriting manager developed a new catch-phrase, “Let’s Fix It,” rallying her team around the new processes as she worked with them to ensure that when they needed help they spoke up, and then got the support they needed to identify and implement a solution.
As one Aflac team leader reported, “Staff engagement is through the roof, and even the quietest person on the team brings ideas to the huddle daily.”
Big results in a short period of time
In six months, Value Capture and the pilot department teams uncovered some unique opportunities and achieved some impressive outcomes.
- Actuarial Department. The actuarial team used to price 100% of the custom underwriting offers, typically needing a two-day turnaround to do so. Recognizing that a significant number of these offers could more efficiently be priced by the Underwriting Department, the team took action. Two actuaries used their pricing expertise to create a pricing rater tool, then tested the tool and trained the underwriters. This cross-departmental collaboration has resulted in the elimination of the two-day turnaround for most custom offers, because the underwriters are pricing 85% of the offers themselves.
- Underwriting Department. The underwriting team created a way to use real data to link the work of individual underwriters to outcomes such as volume of offers, close ratios, personal production and the dollar value of “underwriter influenced” production. “We have never done this before, and the team loves it,” said one team leader. They also developed a quality assessment survey to help them assess their performance on each quote. For example, one improvement was raising their “delivery on time” baseline from 82% to 100% for a period of two months.
- Custom Proposal Department. The custom proposal team pursued the opportunity to participate as a pilot department after seeing the value of the training and coaching underway in the Actuarial and Underwriting departments. This team adopted daily huddles and developed systematic quality measures to assess and rate each offer, which enabled the Custom Proposal Department to take on a 15% increase in these proposal requests.
With Value Capture’s help, Aflac now has leaders in three sales-support departments who are more effective, expert coaches of problem-solving and process management, and whose teams are energized and poised to solve problems as they occur. The LL&D team continues to spread the Aflac DMS deeper in the organization.
The “Let’s Fix It” attitude is breaking down barriers and developing effective solutions to increase productivity, eliminate waste, improve employee satisfaction and drive the company to new, sustainable levels of continuous process improvement.