INSEAD Participant Interview
Gain the confidence to change the status quo
Network General Manager
Unjani Clinics NPC
"In order to change the status quo, you have to step out and ask how you can change the experience for all those involved."
Can you please start by introducing yourself?
I am Network General Manager for Unjani Clinics NPC in South Africa. We empower professional nurses to open their own private clinic to offer primary health care services at an affordable price to under-served communities in South Africa.
My background is in HR and operations and I have been working for Unjani for five and a half years.
My core focus is operations management. I am responsible for the recruitment and selection of the nurses and the application process. I oversee the site selection and construction of the clinic site prior to occupation. I also facilitate the training and development of the nurses before they take ownership of their clinic. In that respect, I help with the coaching, mentoring and compliance - compliance because the nurses are on a five year contract and need to meet government legislation, as well as the expectations of the donors who fund the clinics.
What are some of the challenges you encounter in your role?
There are two main ones.
Firstly, we have over 300 nurses in our database so we have the capacity to open more clinics. Seeing as we are a funded model, the challenge is finding local and international funders who can help assist with funding in order for Unjani Clinics to open more facilities.
The second big challenge we have is securing land from private owners and the municipalities for the clinics.
What were the reasons for enrolling?
I heard about the programme through our partner, Johnson & Johnson. They are one of our primary funders and introduced me to the programme in 2016 and encouraged me to apply.
I was not certain at time if going to the UAE was practical. However, when I looked at the length, it was exactly what I was looking for. I am operationally focused, so committing six months to a year to a training course is not practical. It would mean taking too much time out of work.
In addition, the content appealed a lot. It talked to who I am and what I enjoy doing.
So, six days of high impact and intense content was one of the key reasons for enrolling - to go in and get the info I needed.
Short and intense learning experiences are the best, for me. What made the programme impactful was that I was not at home, caught up in the day-to-day duties that normally hinder the learning process. Being somewhat isolated from home and work, I came away with so much value and information.
What were your key programme takeaways?
There were a number:
- Firstly, ahead of the programme I was looking forward to Nathan Furr’s content on innovation. Having read what he was doing in the innovation space was a draw card. If I could come away with a new mindset that was not so so operationally focused and which would allow me to sit down and think strategically and make improvements in my projects, then it would be a win. Nathan emphasised the importance of iteration and that was a key takeaway. I came home with so many tools. I’ve been able to add them into our training offerings and empower other members of my team.
- Secondly, the importance of partnerships with other industry leaders. We have networked with, and sought funding from, local organisations, but they have become resistant due the current financial status of the country. The STICH allowed me to come away and see there was a bigger platform into which I could tap. We needed to go to industry leaders like Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. They are on a different level and could potentially see the long-term impact of what we are doing at the Unjani Clinics.
- The personality assessment on the programme was one of the best parts of the programme. I understood my strengths and weaknesses, and what areas I needed to develop. One area highlighted was my networking ability, something that is very important when going out and looking for partnerships.
As we went through the six days, I made notes of what I’d like to do after the programme. I talked to others in class and started to think about what we could implement on both a small- and large-scale. I came back and made a wish-list of things I wanted to achieve over the next three years. One of big things was to implement was a patient management system and we are going live with it now. It’s something I’d thought about in most of last year. I wanted to develop my own system. After the Strategic Innovation for Community Health (STICH) programme, I decided that there was no need to reinvent the wheel. We found a Doctor who already had a tool in place. The STICH made me realise that we can look to partners for inspiration. There is no need to start from scratch each time.
Did you come away with new tools and ideas?
Definitely. Besides implementation, I further understood the importance of spending time going through change management and understanding how to carry out process change.
You need to first find a system and then convince the nurses that we need to move. It’s about changing mindsets and getting them to see the benefits. Then we can implement the system.
A cultural change is needed. Understand the why. Why do you want to do that? You have to think out of the box constantly. Selling the WHY is more impactful then selling the technical benefits.
Did the programme help you see the bigger picture?
Most definitely. From the UAE countries that are ahead of us in the game, I was able to see and understand the journey they had already been on. I was able to learn from this and think about what we should do. Learn from something that has been tried and tested.
Similarly, I looked at our journey and thought about how we help others in areas of business. A couple of our partners in South Africa are the North Star Alliance and HIV SA. Based on our experience, how can we enhance their business? How can we help them reach their targets? In the process, we create an awareness of our clinic in the area.
What other impact did the programme have?
After the STICH I was able to take the learning and spend some time reflecting in December. It was all fresh in my head. I took my new perspectives and thought about how we could do things differently right from day one, the handover to nurses. I looked at all the internal processes and spent time streamlining some of them. For example, our ordering process, our documentation, internal policies and our SOPs.
I also realised I should not have everything on my plate. I needed to start delegating. By doing this, I would empower my teams and get them to take ownership and grow.
The operational impact the strategy and changes made in December has positively impacted the roll out of clinics. Previously it would take us four days to set up a clinic, as a team this has been reduced to two days and we now have a buffer day should there be any supplier days. So, in terms of personal development and the empowerment of my teams, STICH was very important.
What content did you enjoy most on the programme?
I really enjoyed the sessions on leading change and innovation. Also the content on customer perspective. This is important when we reflect on how to improve the business. Having the day on the customer experience was important for me. Finally, all the content on generating new ideas and design thinking.
These were the days where I left with information which I can look to for inspiration today.
Was there anything that surprised you about the programme?
The course content and delivery. It was impactful. Each facilitator knew they had to deliver information in a short period of time. No one waffled and they came in guns blazing. The delivery really stood out.
How much knowledge and experience did the faculty bring onto the programme?
They had the right balance of educational and industry experience. This helped when addressing the issues holistically.
What did you think of the participant mix?
I was able to learn quite a lot from the others. I found myself networking more from people from Africa as I could relate more to them. Our health issues are more similar when compared to other parts of the world.
Do you think you came away with greater confidence?
When I networked with others on the programme, particularly those from Africa, I found affirmation in what I was doing. They helped me realise the impact I’m making. When we compare ourselves to the developed world, we think we have so far to go. However, the mix of participants on the programme helped me realise that I am doing an amazing job with the resources we have available. We are getting things done despite the challenges. This is reflected in the number of patients we treat and the number of clinics we are able to open. We open between one and two clinics every month, whereas in other countries, there is an 18 month wait for funding.
So, my confidence grew as a result of this and also almost unconsciously as I developed my skills. For example, before joining the programme I was reluctant to speak in conferences etc… about the Unjani Clinics. However, on the programme we took our personality tests and looked at our profiles. As a result of this, I understood what, and where, I was lacking and what I needed to do to fix the shortcomings and do a better job. Three weeks ago I stood at a conference in Copenhagen in which I presented to an audience of 50. You don’t realise how far you have come until you sit back and reflect.
Overall, the programme gave me the confidence to say ‘I can do this.’ I may not get things right the first time, but if I don’t try, then I’ll never know. A quote by Richard Branson which is my personal mantra is “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!”
The innovators DNA is all about putting yourself out there. You may get positive and negative feedback, but no one is going to shoot you down completely.
I also took away that I am responsible for affecting change. I need to take responsibility and do what I need to. At some point after the programme I became more confident in challenging the status quo. Yes it has been like this for five years, but why was the process put in place in the first place and why can’t we change it?
How important is lifelong learning?
It’s extremely important. I am so focused on the day-to-day, operational side of the business that I don’t have time to focus on innovation etc. The programme was 6 days of reflection, with no distractions.
How important is it to be a healthcare innovator?
Given the current health crisis in South Africa it is vital to be a healthcare innovator. We have people in the field who will address medical and operational issues. However, they don’t have the luxury of having someone who can tell them how to innovate the health system.
It’s not just about patient care. We also have to think about the holistic experience, for both the nurses and the patients. How do we add value for our funders and in our communities? In order to change the status quo, you have to step out and ask how you can change the experience for all those involved.
Interested in INSEAD's Strategic Innovation for Community Health programme? Have a look at the Strategic Innovation for Community Health web page.
Strategic Innovation for Community Health is the result of the Trust’s longstanding partnership with INSEAD to provide management education for healthcare professionals. INSEAD is a Flagship Partner within the Trust’s 2020 strategy and a key component of the Trust’s goal to advance knowledge and innovation in seeking to transform health care systems. The Trust works across the Europe, Middle East and Africa region in making a difference in human health through multiple social impact interventions. Currently within the Trust’s partnership portfolio there are over 70 active programmes run with partner organisations. For more information about the Trust and its activities, please visit www.jjcct.org