How Will You Know When You’ve Truly Transformed?

by Phil Kalin

Transformation is more than just a current business buzzword. It’s an imperative for nearly every industry, whether product- or service-based. My company, like every single other insurance company, is no exception. Yet we have been challenged by that transformation, and I’ll wager that that, too, is universal. “Transformation” is not incremental. It’s about making major leaps in ways we bring value to our customers – think 10X improvements in how we do business. Yet it’s enormously difficult for an established company to transform itself, including its enterprise-wide systems, while simultaneously conducting day-to-day business. The impulse toward incrementalism is almost inescapable.

As we’ve been working with consultants from Virtasant on our own digital transformation journey, they (and especially one of their team members, Barry O'Reilly) have helped concretize issues we intuited – the kind of advice that makes you slap your forehead and say “Of course!” Because these issues are so common, I think it’s useful to share some of their insights.

Perhaps the biggest stumbling block for us (and, again, I expect for others) is taking a project-driven approach to our transformation. That’s a very output-focused approach. And because output-focused measures like deadlines, budget and scope are tangible and readily reportable, they are in our comfort zone and can give executives and our boards a sense of momentum. But do they really demonstrate progress? Again, they contribute to incrementalism, rather than real transformation.

Shifting to real outcomes-based thinking can be a challenge, but a rewarding one. A key question the Virtasant team has asked is “How will you know when you’ve digitally transformed?” Broad outcome descriptions – “increase revenue and market share” – are lagging indicators, and don’t demonstrate you’ve transformed. The road to real transformation requires us to think of problems to be solved, and set outcome goals related to those. It doesn’t mean you lose sight of trying to grow revenue and market share, of course; those goals remain. But as you think about how to do that – through new products, better customer stickiness, getting customers to use multiple products or features – that generates creative ideas about measurable outcomes that can act as leading indicators, showing you if you’re on the right path.

Then, put just one of those outcomes-based measures on your corporate reporting dashboard. That will generate buzz, and hopefully excitement.

Transformation requires new mindsets. These are some of the ways to jumpstart that.

Phil Kalin

Phil Kalin joined Pinnacol Assurance as CEO in 2013. He has served as the chief executive of both public and privately-backed companies, including large hospital systems, as well as organizations focused on health care data, technology and education.

Related Articles

  • Leadership
Nov 3, 2021
by Phil Kalin

Last month, I announced I will be retiring as President and CEO of Pinnacol Assurance at the end of March. I love my job and my company, and this wasn’t a decision that came easily. Making such a decision has prompted a lot of reflection on what I’ve done and accomplished over nearly 50 years of…

  • Leadership
Oct 5, 2021
by Phil Kalin

At Pinnacol Assurance, the verdict is in: we will retain our current flexible working model for the foreseeable future. We came to this conclusion after extensive research and discussion with our teams. The process and findings were so rich, I think it’s valuable to share them. Beginning in June,…

  • Leadership
Sep 9, 2021
by Phil Kalin

It’s time for Colorado CEOs to lead the state’s way out of COVID.  I drafted this column in mid-August, before the FDA gave official approval (not just emergency authorization) to the Pfizer vaccine. I hope that by the time you read this, more of you will be requiring your staff and, in some cases…