A recent report from Phillips O’Brien and podcast from War on the Rocks got me thinking about parallels between Ukraine’s military and the workers’ compensation industry.
The net is the military units that allow front-line forces to be creative, adapt, and make key decisions about tactics, weapons used and allocation of resources are much more effective than those units which must follow strict plans from distant leaders.
- In less successful organizations senior leadership tends to be hidebound, sets plans in concrete, allows subordinate units and leaders little freedom or flexibility in carrying out those plans, and measures “success” with metrics that are usually more process (we fired XX artillery rounds and killed YY enemy) than outcome (we took X hectares of land at the cost of YY munitions and casualties)
Or in work comp terms, process (we answered Y calls in Z seconds, filled out XXX forms, cut medical bills by XXX dollars…) instead of outcome (our medical cost per claim was YYY, claim duration on closed claims was AAA and our closure rate was ZZZ).
- In more successful organizations (those with better outcomes) senior leadership listens hard to front-line staff, develops back-channel as well as formal reporting processes, sets clear objectives and asks local leaders what resources they need to accomplish those objectives, and uses that information – and local leaders’ insights – to help determine which objectives will be pursued.
In workers’ comp terms, a really effective organization would provide front-line staff with intel on which providers are most effective, which are profiteering dirtbags, what hospitals have the highest clinical outcome and patient safety ratings and are most cost-efficient…educate front line staff on the importance of these metrics, and enable adjusters and case managers to figure out how to best use that information when talking with patients, providers, employers and families.
Until relatively recently Ukraine’s military was pretty much a carbon copy of Russia’s. Recall Ukraine was a Soviet client state and its military’s structure, leadership model, training, and equipment was identical to the USSR’s. The result was very much a top-down military with even platoon-level 40 soldiers) and squad-level (12 soldiers) leaders required to follow strict plans on:
- where to go,
- what path to take to the objective or when retreating,
- what weapons to use,
- when to attack and withdraw,
- how to assault or defend an objective, and myriad other details.
That’s how Russia is fighting in Vuheldar – where it is failing miserably in large part due to stupid tactics.
Some Ukrainian units have evolved to a less-dictatorial leadership model; Ukraine is by no means immune from Russian-style leadership, but it appears to suffer somewhat less from it. Bakhmut is an example; (my layperson’s guess is) leadership sees the battle as a key to the upcoming Ukrainian offensive; Russia is suffering huge and unsustainable losses in personnel and equipment due to human wave attacks and massive shelling. Ukraine is losing hundreds of soldiers as well, but it appears to be delegating authority on local tactics to local unit leaders, likely reducing casualties.
That means fewer Russian soldiers, shells, cannons and vehicles to resist Ukraine’s spring offensive, and more Ukrainian assets to attack.
Alas leaders at many workers’ comp payers – and most insurers – focus way too much on “the plan” and way too little on the planning process and figuring out how to enable local leaders to achieve objectives,
For an excellent discussions of where Russia is doing smart and dumb things due mostly to leadership click here.
What does this mean for you?
Planning and setting objectives is critical, as is delegation and enabling local leaders to figure out how best to accomplish those objectives.