Lessons from La La Land

As we all now know, in the end the Best Picture Oscar did not go to the movie “La La Land”.  In case you missed it, during this years’ Oscar Awards, Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty mistakenly announced La La Land as the winner for Best Picture. The actual winner – Moonlight – was announce a few awkward minutes later. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) was the firm responsible for tabulating the results, preparing the envelopes and delivering them to the speakers – all while keeping the results confidential. That one instance of human error could have killed PwC’s reputation and cost them a lucrative long-term partnership.  But, it didn’t and probably won’t.  People will joke, but most likely, PwC will return next year.

For 80+ years the Academy has outsourced the ballot process to PwC.  The accounting firm has remained committed to a standard process of tabulating ballots and preparing envelopes.  Their staff had defined roles and conducted extensive preparation, which allowed them to quickly identify a mistake.  The communication of the mistake was somewhat delayed and has been tagged as a process improvement opportunity.  PwC accepted responsibility and publically and personally apologized to everyone at the Academy, “Moonlight” and “La La Land”.  Otherwise stellar execution will buy them some forgiveness. While consistency and communication will work to strengthen their brand and help them survive this very public ‘oops’.

I see several lessons from this scenario that insurance agencies and other organizations may want to reflect upon. These best practices help organizations ensure consistent service, reduce errors, mitigate liability or defend E&O claims.

  • Maintain Discipline to Process – Identify clear roles and responsibilities for producers and account management staff. Define processes and establish standardized procedures.
  • Create Checks & Balances – Incorporate double checks into workflows. Agents typically think of this as timely Policy Checking for P&C and Peer Review for Employee Benefits.  These are good, but they only occur after the policy is issued.  Agents need to think about investing time into quality assurance prior to policy issuance.  This could include random audits or utilizing an agent management system that is able to flag mistakes.
  • Enable Quick Troubleshooting – Have a plan on how to handle something that goes wrong. Insurance processors are frequently told what they are supposed to do, but aren’t trained to handle mistakes. Memories fade so it is important to act fast.
  • Ensure Accountability & Communication – Create a positive environment that allows people to freely admit errors or speak up. Give them the tools and training to support constructive conversations with policy holders.  Develop an escalation process for internal awareness that identifies what, who, when and how.

Whether you are doing this yourself, or outsourcing to a consultant or service provider, you need to keep in mind that this is an ongoing effort – just ask PwC. You can’t write the procedures and train your staff in a ‘one and done’. You need to maintain awareness and training to avoid complacency. The lesson from this year’s Oscar ceremony is a great reminder of this.