“Shoeless George.” It’s a murder mystery
set in Cleveland, London and Greece, but
is about a Lloyd’s marine insurance claim.
My detective is a professor at a small Ohio
college, and his nosiness almost gets him
killed. When I read the proofs I was surprised how up-to-date it was, even though
it is set in 1961, but one should never brag
about his own work. Old “Murphy” is
Setting goals for the New Year
Forty years ago, some business schools
invented a process called MBO — Management by Objective. Some corporations may still adhere to the basics, but
it all boiled down to the boss setting the
primary objectives and everyone else setting theirs to meet the boss’s. It all had to
be formulated on paper, and each sub-objective approved. Objectives and goals
are fine, but business guru Tom Peters
said of MBO that he’d rather see companies practice MBWA — Management by
Wandering Around, asking employees for
their suggestions, asking customers what
they really wanted, and seeing what the
competitor was doing. MBO plans never
worked because they failed to take into
consideration Murphy’s Law. It is hard to
meet any objective when unplanned bad
events intervene. Business bubbles always
look good until the bubble bursts.
Readers, set some goals for yourselves
for 2017. Take some Insurance Institute
or CPCU courses, get a new designation
from some national claims organization,
become an essential asset to your employer. Sure, there will be problems along the
way; “Murphy” will guarantee that, but fix
it, clean it up, replace it and move on.
Ken Brownlee, CPCU, is a former adjuster
and risk manager based in Atlanta, Ga.
He now authors and edits claims-adjusting
textbooks. Opinions expressed in this
article are the author’s own.
The Iconoclast’s Corollaries
to ‘Murphy’s Law’
One doesn’t hear often about the famous “Murphy” whose law gives employment to folks like insurance adjusters. It said,
“Anything that can go wrong will go wrong,
and at the most inconvenient moment.” I
once described my risk management job
as “food services,” dealing with pickles and
jams. Any and every type of calamity that
can strike a corporation will, at some point.
My favorite corollary is: “The more ex-
pensive the tie, the sooner you’ll get spa-
ghetti on it.” There are others: “If it’s new,
expect something to break before long,
but after the warranty has expired.”
Murphy’s Law is a reality check for opti-
mists like your Iconoclast. He just bought
his wife a new car. It’s one of those with ev-
ery possible safety device, and even parks
itself. Not being in control is scary — do
I really trust all those alarms and flashing
lights to tell me when another car is beside
me, or when backing out of a blind park-
ing space? It is like they tell airplane pilots:
trust your instruments, not your senses.
I believe that 2016 will go down as a
most interesting year. What lies ahead
in the weather department remains to be
seen — hurricane season just ended —
but one can expect a continuation of both
drought and floods, as discussed in an
earlier column. The election is over and
we are wondering what changes our new
president will bring. Hopefully they will
be good things, but there is always Mur-
phy’s Law lingering in the background.
Mark Twain said that the only one who
likes change is a baby with a wet diaper.
Change is fraught with Murphy’s Law, for
everything new … well, you get the pic-
ture. Each winter this Iconoclast and his
wife spend a few months in Florida.
This year he hopes to teach a couple of
classes at Eckerd College in January and
February. Teaching is fun, and generally
the teacher learns along with the students,
if the job is done right. Writing insurance
textbooks is, I suppose, a form of teaching,
if anyone will take the time to read them.
Basically, they’re reference books: three
many-thousand-page volumes in Casu-
alty Insurance Claims 4th (updated twice a
year) that cover every conceivable aspect
of insurance claims. (The two-volume text,
Excess Liability, is only updated annually
and Checklists only every four years.) But
with five new novels about to be published,
your Iconoclast is optimistic about 2017.
One of those novels (in a collection
called The Cuyahoga Stories) is called