In response to the griping of activist investors voicing complaints at WTW’s recent performance, chief executive Carl Hess had this to say. “They’re looking at the business from afar. So, we’re able to have a – I think – much more granular view of what can be accomplished and when, that an outside investor is just never going to have.”
Perspective is a fascinating thing and, as articulated by Steven Furtick, can provide either a passport or a prison to the individual who exercises its potential. And Hess’s above comment is a timely reminder not just of the power of perspective but also its critical role in the assessment of just about anything and everything.
There’s great power in being an external spectator – it’s easier to see the wood for the trees and to operate from a vantage point that lends itself to a more measured, holistic overview. Inevitably, however, what you gain in breadth from that vantage point you lose in depth – and, from a distance, even the steadiest of slow progress can seem like there’s no change happening at all.
As such it is those working on the front-lines of organisations who see the first signs of strategies, initiatives, tools and advancements coming to life, long before those flickers translate into figures and charts. It is also those individuals who have the questionable privilege of absorbing each new shockwave that the constantly evolving economic and social landscape throws their way. And there’s no shortage of those right now.
Given the escalating conflict in Ukraine, the ongoing mental, physical and economic ramifications of COVID-19, and changing conversations about the future of work and the workplace – it is understandable that some companies will be battling decision fatigue. It can seem that there are too many choices that need to be made in a small window of time, at a time when it feels premature to make any major decisions before the external environment settles down even a little.
Between cyber crime, diversity and inclusion initiatives, and environmental mandates, there are a lot of great causes battling for airtime right now. But it must be recognised by the media, by the public and by every stakeholder that no matter how righteous your argument might be, the ears it is falling on may not be deaf but rather overwhelmed.
Change needs to happen on all these fronts, of course it does, but it needs to be measured and built for the long haul or it’s not worth the press result it announces itself in. Responding rapidly to external environmental changes without waiting to see what will happen when the top stops spinning, or even slows a little, is a recipe for disaster.
Under pressure from stakeholders and investors alike, insurance businesses need to change at the pace that will work out best for the organisation itself, the market it operates in and the people it protects. That’s not carte blanche to stand still or not be answerable to the very relevant questions surrounding culpability and responsibility that go hand-in-hand with discussions on sensitive and time-sensitive themes, but rather a directive to keep the momentum going in the right direction and at a sustainable pace.
As Hess outlined above, it all comes down to a matter of perspective. It’s not always easy to broaden your point of view but a key step to take is embracing the viewpoint that employees at every level of a business bring to the table. It’s the staff on the frontlines who see, better than anyone, what changes are working and which are moving in the wrong direction. It is by enlisting this expertise and sharing it with a wider audience, that businesses can go a long way to negating external criticism and inviting more open discourse with their partners.
The ground-up approach meeting the top-down approach is where the real magic happens in any insurance business, and with those voices coming together, it is so much easier for a company to showcase not just where they’ve been and where they’re going but also what the journey looks like, every step along the way.