Change is still the topic of the day in corporate America-in the insurance industry as much as anywhere. Faced with new and increasing competition, insurers that don't ride the waves of change may find themselves dead in the water.

Presenting the challenges and rewards of change from a hospitality industry perspective, Tami Gilbert, director of quality and training at The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage, spent a morning with Lynette Owens Insurance Advisory Board in January. Using anecdotes that gave the board insight into The Ritz-Carlton's own quest to control the quality of its "product," Gilbert touched on hiring quality people, designing quality measurements, and getting through the inevitable resistance that every company faces during a major change. "To get commitment from people, let them invent the change," she said.

Held at the Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage, sited on 27 acres atop a plateau in the foothills of Southern California's Santa Rosa Mountains, the Advisory Board meeting included discussions of industry issues, two afternoons of golf, plus a taste of the resort's theme-party capabilities.

With its own destination services department, an 8,400-square-foot ballroom, and Ritz Ranch, a new western-themed outdoor venue (one of five outdoor function areas), the resort can create a host of theme parties-many of which you can view in its unique "showroom." In addition to photo albums of theme parties in action, the showroom contains tables set in several themes plus samples of room gifts and special amenities.

The 3,000-square-foot Ritz-Carlton Spa, opened last April, offers a menu of 30 revitalizing treatments plus a full-service beauty salon. But the biggest news at the 239-room resort is the recent approval it won to build an 18-hole championship golf course, expected to be completed by November 1998.