On Agility (Leading in disruptive times, Part 2)
“Success today requires the agility and drive to constantly rethink, reinvigorate, react, and reinvent.” – Bill Gates
The textbook definition of agility is the ability to move quickly and easily, a quality much needed in crisis to survive. It has become my favorite word during this time, one that has evolved in the past few months, encompassing the many aspects of running AIA Philam Life.
In the first part of the Leading in Disruptive Times commentary, I posed the question of how to move from dwelling on our own situation to looking beyond and finding purpose to help ourselves rise from this predicament.
Times are hard, movements are restricted, and we are challenged by the environment we need to work in. It is an option to sit still and become a victim of the situation. But those who shifted their focus to what they can do are the ones who were able to recover fast. Two things that we as AIA Philam Life were well-equipped to address: first, speed up the development of digitalization projects in the pipeline to address the newly-created needs demanded by the situation; and second, focus on the things that had to be done to ensure that customer needs are met at a time when the world has become very socially restrictive and uncertain.
Digitalization projects that have long been in the pipeline were reviewed and those deemed ready for the launch were quickly finished and implemented. From our tech development perspective, agility was about doing things fast while managing risks. We launched various projects in sprints, ready but with the small chance of failing, and those that did work, we improved along the way.
One of the best examples of this is the creation of our Facebook chatbot. Inundated by product inquiries in our social media assets, we were hard pressed to create a system that will allow us to address all queries received in a timely manner. We’ve always had the chatbot in our to-do list but it wasn’t a priority—until ECQ was declared and we had to remedy the matter. The chatbot was launched in four days—not perfect at first but continually enhanced until we were satisfied with its performance.
The Enhanced Digital Selling (EDS) platform launched weeks after the declaration of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) is also another great example. The platform was not yet perfect but good enough to address the need for alternative face to face selling approved by the Insurance Commission. As we went along, improved versions were updated, until we were satisfied enough to launch Coffee Closing.
Coffee Closing Project, the upgraded version of EDS, is our digital selling platform that will forever change the way traditional insurance is sold, launched, and completed within the four months of the pandemic. The goal was to create a platform that will begin the selling process from the time a customer buys coffee, and complete the sale before the coffee gets cold. This includes the underwriting, payment, ePolicy, and ePlan set up process, which normally takes days to complete. Today, Coffee Closing has been in operation for over a month, to delighted feedback from customers, sales staff, and financial advisors alike.
COVID-19 is a bane to everyone but I can’t help but appreciate how this problem has pushed everyone to their best. John F Kennedy said it best: “When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.” Much like the experience of losing my father at a young age strengthened me and transformed me from being a helpless victim of the situation to taking control to adapt and survive. I was once again the eldest child as the CEO of AIA Philam Life, with the daunting task of leading the organization through a crisis, responsible for the safety and livelihood of my family—our staff, advisors, customers, and the community.
And amid this crisis, our Save Lives commitment became even more important and continued to drive our protection-centered goal, now at 60% of our target in terms of the number of lives saved, and 54% of basic sum assured (as of end September). We continue to rally and remain committed to meet the numbers we set for ourselves by the end of the year.
Giving birth to these projects, working hard to meet our protection commitment, are not without its labor pains. Our people have earned my respect these past few months as I saw them work, fail, get up, and try and try again until they were finally satisfied with the outcome. Working under abnormal circumstances with limitations in communication, proximity and resources, coupled with distracting work conditions at home, it was not the best time to undertake such challenging projects. But the team forged ahead with resilience, functional lines blurred and people from the frontlines to the backend spurred by the need to deliver because they knew that the benefit of having these projects launched will make a huge difference for customers, distributors, partners, and the community we served.
Today, we are stronger. By being forced to be agile, to innovate quickly, we learned that we were capable of accomplishing so much within a limited period of time. We also realized the paradox of achieving more apart, that we are capable of completing cross-functional projects even when we are unable to come together physically.
Circumstances also gave birth to a “new” AIA Philam Life, operating under the paradox of taking risks, at a time when we have higher consciousness of governance, risk and compliance. Our goal these days takes a more balanced approach, rapidly deploying innovation projects and launching in sprints, embracing some level of risk, knowing that these are within our tolerance.
The future remains uncertain at this point. The environment, the situation, and the people around us will always be in a state of flux. And yet, we are at a position of advantage. The crisis has strengthened us and showed us that our agility and resilience as an organization will allow us to triumph over challenges that come our way. I would like to commend our frontliners—those stationed at our customer service centers, our sales staff, and financial advisors, for their commitment and sacrifice to serve our customers, braving the risk of pandemic. And also our middle and back office staff who have equally stepped up to ensure full support to the needs of those in the frontlines and our customers. We are more than ready to face whatever lies ahead, knowing that our people will go above and beyond the expected to fulfill our mission of racing against risk and empowering more Filipinos to live Healthier, Longer, and Better Lives.
Follow AIA Philam Life CEO Kelvin Ang on Instagram @keepingupwithkelvin.
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