How Misalignment Hurts Your Agency & How To Fix It

How Misalignment Hurts Your Agency & How To Fix It

“Every person in your company is a vector. Your progress is determined by the sum of all vectors.”

Recently, Elon Musk (founder of SpaceX and co-founder of Tesla) presented this interesting idea. In simplified terms, it means to question the formula and effectiveness of your team’s productivity and how that aids to the progress of your business. As Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz and SparkToro, summarizes, it’s a “powerful conversation about aligning people on a team as you would vectors in an equation.”

In his blog post, Rand breaks it down further:

  1. We can think of the people on any given team as vectors
  2. People vectors have both direction and magnitude
  3. When people all work in precisely the same direction, their magnitudes are added to each other (to create the sum of the vectors)
  4. When people have any degree of deviation, the varying directions subtract (at least somewhat) from the maximum amount of productivity that could be achieved

Aligning Your Vectors

Every person in your company is a vector and to ensure the outcome is both positive and prosperous, your vectors must be aligned. This makes sense, right?

Having your vectors aligned means that your entire staff is working towards the same goal. To achieve this, you have to not only state your goals clearly to yourself, but ensure they are understood by everyone in your organization. Failure to properly express your goals could result in misaligned work, and, ultimately, a lack of goal achievement. However, it’s not just goals; it also includes core values, principles, and the overall mission and vision of your agency.

Think of it as running a marathon. The goal is to cross the finish line. However, if the location of the finish line or the route isn’t clearly communicated to all participants, some may veer off the path and take the wrong route, while others may not even finish. The same happens if some aren’t even aware they’re running a marathon or that their intended goal is to finish.

This is important regardless if you have 2 employees or 2,000. Especially if you’re a part of the latter, clear, concise communication is essential to a productive and prosperous organization.

The 3 Types of Vector Sums

A vector sum is the culmination of all of your vectors’ efforts. In other words, it means how all of their productivity efforts come together and what that means for your agency. Dharmesh Shah, Founder/CTO of HubSpot, shared his views on Musk’s idea in a recent keynote speech and outlined these as the three types of vector sums your agency can have:

  1. The Null Vector Sum
  2. The Sub-Optimal Vector Sum
  3. The Aligned Vector Sum
The Null Vector Sum

The Null Vector Sum occurs when your team members are working in opposite directions. Here’s a visual inspired by Dharmesh and Rand on how this works:

The Null Vector Sum

Keep in mind: this is assuming everyone is working at the same productivity level. However, since half the team is working in one direction (towards your goal) and the other half is working in the opposite direction, the efforts of your team as a whole, or the sum of your productivity, would be null and void. Essentially, their efforts cancel each other out and you’re no further ahead than you were at the start of the day.

This is often caused by miscommunication of goals or tactics or miscommunication of roles, priorities, and tasks. These inconsistencies can be disastrous for your agency.  

Now, it’s important to note that this scenario is pretty uncommon. If your team isn’t working in tandem towards your goals, then they usually fall into the Sub-Optimal Vector Sum which we’ll discuss next. Regardless, it’s important to note this scenario and its plausibility. Just because it’s not all that common doesn’t mean it never happens.

The Sub-Optimal Vector Sum

Like I said before, the Sub-Optimal Vector Sum is much more common than the Null, but the results can be just as disastrous. Here’s a visual to better explain the Sub-Optimal Vector Sum:

The Sub-Optimal Vector Sum

This scenario is far more likely to occur in your organization because rarely do people on the same team work in completely opposite directions. Instead, it is more likely that everyone is generally working towards the same goal, but their paths are a bit skewed. This is caused by the same miscommunication of goals, tactics, roles, priorities, and tasks that result in the Null scenario.

The Sub-Optimal scenario still lowers the overall sum of your team’s productivity, but not as drastically as the Null. This is the most common makeup of business productivity.  Think of it this way: if each person (4 people in our example) is achieving 2 units of productivity, they would achieve the following in each type of vector sum:

  • Null = 0 units of productivity (since they cancel each other out)
  • Sub-Optimal = 6 units of productivity (2 from blue, 1.5 from green and teal, and 1 from orange)
  • Aligned = 8 units of productivity (best and most optimal)
The Aligned Vector Sum

The Aligned Vector Sum should always be your team’s goal for productivity. It provides maximum output and can lead to maximum success.

The Aligned Vector Sum

It means everyone is working in ideal alignment towards the same goals and outcome.

Achieving Alignment

To achieve The Aligned Vector Sum, you need a few things:

  • Clear and concise company goals
  • Impeccable inter-office communication
  • 100% employee buy-in
Clear and concise company goals

We talk about goal setting often and for good reason. If you have no direction and no way to track progress towards it, then you have no idea if what you’re currently doing is working. To set a direction for your company, you must sit down and understand where you’re at currently. Then, how you want to and can grow from that into the future.

An easy way to understand the current health and well-being of your organization is by using in-depth data analysis to get an up-close-and-personal look at the state of your business. If you’re new to data analysis, check out our blog The What, Why, & How of Data Analysis for Insurance Agencies. This post will give you a high-level overview of what data analysis is, why you need it, and how to use it/integrate it into your current process.

Many insurance agencies rely on insurance-specific software such as an agency management system (AMS) to access these analytics. Just ensure, prior to purchasing, that the system has the capability to perform data analysis and provide you a variety of insight from overview to granular.

In AgencyBloc, we use a combination of Custom Reporting and Dashboard Analytics. Dashboard Analytics provide more generalized information in visually-appealing graphs and charts. They give a brief, high-level view into your business providing you a snapshot into the current health of your organization and prompting you to dig in further to learn more.

For a granular analysis of your data, you can use Custom Reporting to get into the thick of things. These reports allow you to set the parameters you need so you receive exactly the data you’re looking for. Check out our eBook The 13 Performance Metrics Insurance Agencies Should Track, Monitor, & Analyze to learn more about the stats and KPIs (key performance indicators) you should be tracking.

No matter what system you have, data analysis is a crucial tool every agency owner (and employee) should have in their arsenal. Having this information at your fingertips allows you to make more informed business decisions and aids you in goal setting. Every agency is different and unique; therefore, following the path blazed by another won’t always benefit you.

To learn more about how to set meaningful and smart goals for your agency, check out these resources:

Impeccable inter-office communication

If you want everyone to work towards the same goal, then you need to make sure everyone is on the same page. This doesn’t just mean communicating all the time; it means transparency in your agency. Ineffective communication, or lack thereof, can derail over 80% of your workplace projects and make your day-to-day processes more difficult.

To achieve The Aligned Vector Sum, each and every employee on your team must fully grasp and understand your company’s purpose and goals. Additionally, it requires streamlined communication throughout your organization to ensure everyone always knows what’s going on and what they’re contributing.

Use the information you glean from your data analysis to help convey your goals to your team. Share the graphs and numbers to help better communicate your vision, and then use these analytics to track your progress.

To learn more about how to improve the communication in your agency, check out these resources:

100% employee buy-in

Having your employees show up every day to just sit at a desk and leave at 5 p.m. will never lead to optimal productivity. Give them the reason, help them connect, and they’ll understand the why.

Rand points out that he’s noticed a trend of two distinct types of people:

  • Those for whom a commitment to shared values could trump disagreements (they disagree on the what, but share the why)
  • Those for whom goals alignment outweigh values (they disagree socially/politically/ethically, but agree on the plan)

You may need to present your goals in a variety of ways to help achieve employee buy-in. Utilize an “open door policy” so people can come in and discuss what they need in order to understand.  It may be helpful to appoint team leads to help you communicate to the various teams. As you grow, it can become more difficult to know each employee on a deeper personal level, so rely on the help of others to avoid losing touch.

No matter what, you must have employee buy-in to reach your goals. Regardless of the type of people that populate your team, maintaining unity is key.

Here at AgencyBloc, our core values keep us united:

  • We make the convoluted, straightforward
  • We specialize in verticals
  • We transform organizations
  • We put the power of customization into the hands of our users

Everyone on our team understands and adopts these values into our every day activities as well as our more strategic initiatives. We then promote those values outwardly. We use those values going forward and apply them when making business decisions to ensure those values, our goals, and daily processes are always in alignment.

We frequently bring up our core values and principles amongst our team to make sure everyone understands why we do what we do and what we want to achieve. Through this, we’ve been able to cultivate a culture and a group of people who understand the vision and work toward that every day, together.

Using Technology to Achieve Alignment

“You can make more progress with the amazing people you already have simply by better aligning vectors.”

Achieving perfect alignment can be easier than you think. It’s formulating your idea, communicating the idea, and sticking to that idea. This doesn’t just mean communication between your employees; it means communication between their roles. Technology plays a major factor in this alignment.

For many agencies, technology is currently or is becoming the way they manage their business. In this modern age, technology is essential to the success of many businesses. Therefore, using the right software is crucial for your insurance agency.

Continuity

Using a streamlined system like an AMS puts your whole team on the same playing field. Working within the same system, following the same guidelines (think format and style), and working off of the most up-to-date and correct data makes a difference. Your team will be able to consistently press forward instead of having to double back and update all of the time. Plus, it makes analytics more intuitive since they’re pulling from the right information instead of messy, incorrect, or incomplete data.

An AMS can aid in making communication seamless. There is communication is enhanced when using an AMS because it helps you stay transparent. Nothing is “hidden” or forgotten because your entire library of data is accessible at your fingertips. It reduces the amount of confusing emails and instant messages sent back and forth trying to locate certain files or obtain certain information. Thus, it increases productivity because everyone is able to stay focused and put more of their efforts toward that task instead of having to stop every so often to ask questions.

A key piece to look for in your AMS is a workflow automation component. Automation can help simplify communication further so everyone is always aware of what’s going on. This can include automated emails and/or task assignments that alert agents to new leads that need to be worked, follow-ups or other tasks that are waiting to be completed, policy submissions that weren’t approved, expiration dates that are approaching for policies or licensures, and more.

Automation allows everyone to stay on-top of their workloads and helps ensure everything gets done. This is simplified further when the information is displayed in a “to-do” list or a “task” list within the system to remind them of all their necessary tasks. In AgencyBloc, this task list is a part of your main dashboard so you start every single morning knowing exactly what needs to be done that day.

Activity List in AgencyBloc

Activity List in AgencyBloc

Team Work

What happens when someone in your office is out for a week or two due to illness or vacation? What happens when someone is out on maternity or paternity leave for an extended time? Using a streamlined system like an AMS can help you pick up the pieces when they’re gone.

This is especially helpful when their absence is unexpected and extended. You can dive right in, see where they are, and immediately understand what to do next. (This is enhanced with that list of tasks or to-dos we just discussed.) Doing so helps keep productivity and alignment at its most optimal level and makes sure no one and nothing falls between the cracks.

Additionally, there are features that promote collaboration to help you all work more efficiently. Once one person creates a report or performs a search, those parameters and fields can be saved and then shared with whomever needs access. It helps to reduce efforts so you don’t have to recreate the wheel each time you need to see a certain report or run a specific search.

The same can be applied to commissions with splits and revenue types. Set it up once, then every policy you set up can have those certain parameters applied to save you time and reduce possible entry errors. Later on, you can use this information to help you uncover missed commissions from carriers!

Onboarding

Streamlined solutions can make onboarding easier. It’s more attractive to new hires and simplifies their onboarding experience because all that they need is in one cohesive, centralized system. An AMS simplifies onboarding because the new hires only have to learn one industry-specific system that doesn’t require constant customizations or workarounds to fit their needs.

A streamlined and cohesive AMS closes loopholes and boosts understanding throughout your office so everyone is on the same page. A lack of technology like this can ultimately cause difficulties and snares along the road.

Insurance is Business; Run Your Agency Like One

Your agency, is a business. It’s important to question the effectiveness of your staff’s efforts in order to determine if the formula, direction, and understanding are all working cohesively. Look at your current process and your team. Is what you’re doing achieving The Aligned Vector Sum?

If not, where are some of the places you’re straying? Is it a goal setting, communication, or employee buy-in problem? Sit down and do an analysis sooner rather than later. This can help you improve productivity during the busy season because you’ll have a chance to implement some changes and improve your Vector Sum before Open Enrollment and Annual Election Period get here.
 

What is AgencyBloc?

AgencyBloc is an agency management system (AMS) that helps life and health insurance agencies grow their business with an industry-specific CRM, commissions processing, and integrated business and marketing automation.

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Allison Babberl

By Allison Babberl on March 20, 2018 in Productivity

Allison is the Marketing Content Specialist at AgencyBloc. She creates educational content and designs videos to promote AgencyBloc's resources to help you organize, automate, and grow your insurance agency. Favorite quote: “Conversation is the bedrock of relationships. Without it, our relationships are devoid of substance.” -Maribeth Kuzmeski  More articles

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