Read the Conversation
EF: 2020 was the year of diagnostics, 2021 the year of vaccines; what do you think 2022 will bring?
SC: I think 2022 will be the year of understanding the consequences and implications of the post-pandemic era, a year for a holistic view of how the pandemic has affected the patients' experience, the healthcare systems, and the world. A year to understand the different stakeholders' and patients' mindsets regarding health. It is an excellent opportunity to gain knowledge and understanding to provide better values to serve society, healthcare systems, and patients.
EF: There has been a massive emphasis on communicable diseases these last two years, but how can the importance of non-communicable diseases be restored?
SC: We all talk about patient centricity, and now is when we demonstrate this with actions, we have to increase our understanding of patient needs and educate patients, so they come back to the doctors in a safe environment. As part of the healthcare system, we need to communicate with empathy Provide simple and easy digital healthcare solutions for telemedicine consultations that are practical and easy to achieve for the patient. We must educate using digital solutions -from consultations to medication supply- with more empathy for patients. Some service providers have a lot of technology, but their users cannot all adopt technology, and empathy is necessary to bridge that gap. We must understand the patient in this new era where they must use digital solutions but lack the knowledge. Simplicity linked with empathy is the answer. When we design patient support and educational programs, it's vital to bring in the patients' experience throughout the whole cycle (from diagnosis to treatment) to develop the programs for the patient so they are empowered about their disease management. Empathy and increased value are required to bring patients back into the healthcare system, and that can be achieved by a deep understanding of the patient's needs. When designing and executing strategy, we must put the patient at the centre and identify with them. It won't be the same for the patient to navigate the system post-pandemic, so we need to develop the capabilities within our team to serve the system and the end-user (the patient) better (safety, centricity, empathy, and increasing value). Within the organization, we develop skills and capabilities in all the areas to prioritize a patient-centricity mindset in our people.
EF: What were the lessons learned so far in understanding the post-pandemic era?
SC: Learning new things can be difficult. We need to be more creative and listen more to our customers without a fixed business model in our minds. The best strategy is to listen to those within and outside the organization, contact the regulators and healthcare systems, support the healthcare system's needs, and connect with stakeholders, payers, service providers, and patients to provide programs that match the requirements.
- Deploy new capabilities and be humble enough to understand that even if companies have been successful pre-pandemic, new strategies and solutions will be required post-pandemic.
- Be agile when taken by surprise -as we all were. We are looking for new digital solutions; our sales force was successful with a face-to-face interaction model for many years, but we can overcome the environment's resistance with an agile mindset.
- Not all customers are alike or react in the same way; some are worried about providing telemedicine solutions, others want to supply the product to the patient or get the patients back to care. Chronic diseases without care are suffering complications from not being treated during the pandemic, which comes with an increased cost, so we need to tailor the strategies for the different customers.
- It has been a good exercise for us as leaders; we weren't prepared to deploy strategies and navigate the change so fast, and we had to be agile to keep up with what was happening.
EF: What would be your advice to business leaders that want to create a new team, culture-shifting the mindset to a new way of doing things?
SC: We have learned that diversity is essential, genuinely diverse minds are essential when navigating change in the ecosystem, and diversity and inclusion are a must in organizations because they are enriching our conversation and strategy design. We have very creative strategies, integrity, and respect for the healthcare system, and I am proud to work in an industry that keeps positively impacting society. We rose to the challenge during the pandemic, working with the highest ethics. Culture is defined by the value generated, value for community or a healthcare system, patients, or different stakeholders. We think of culture as something that happens within organizations, but now culture underlies generating value. An agile mindset is vital in the development of leaders at all levels of the organization, so they are able to speak their opinions on different ideas or strategies when tackling challenges and always listening to all stakeholders and customers, connecting internally with our people and teams to create initiatives and culture to drive them through the pandemic. We must develop our people with new capabilities, digital systems, and processes. Our leadership expectations have changed and are now more demanding than ever, with requirements at every level of the organization. Diversity and inclusion need to be applied at all levels and team energy kept at the highest level. It has been an intense couple of years, but we must now keep the momentum and an agile mindset moving forward. We operate daily in the "Astellas Way", which means patient focus, ownership results, openness to new ideas, a diverse mindset, and integrity in everything we do. This is how we worked with a high-energy team during the pandemic and will continue to do so post-pandemic. We opened an affiliate in Mexico during the pandemic, working cross-functionally. Cross collaborating with a patient-centric approach and a very engaged team is something we promote at Astellas. After the adrenalin of the pandemic, we must remain motivated and engaged. The Latam cultural transformation team works on leadership style and expectations, building and providing value to the organization. We have an initiative called "Changing Tomorrow", where we connect with and serve society in different areas for our team to remain engaged and with high-level energy.
EF: Could you elaborate on the "Astellas Way"?
SC: The "Astellas Way" is at the root of our culture, represented by a common set of values which we expect all the employees to use in all situations on a daily basis, from the most insignificant to complex actions. With the Astellas Way, we conduct projects, receive feedback, and are open to connecting and collaborating with other people with integrity -at all company levels and in every person's actions. A significant component of the Astellas Way is navigating change, "to own it and solve it", using the organization's resources in the best possible way to provide a solution and more patient focus, partnership, engagement, and patient-centricity to the company. In terms of ownership, it is about being the best version of ourselves to own the solutions to address challenges. It is crucial to understand how it will all impact the patient.
EF: When you hire new talent, what is the skill set you look for to be part of the Astellas team?
SC: We look for skilled professionals and excellent human beings. I look for people with a robust set of values who I think will fit and be happy working for us. Happiness is vital to keep healthy and succeed in your job. There will be challenges, but if the person is happy in their job, they will make things happen. We are happy if we feel valued, appreciated, and heard. More and more, we look for people with a digital and agile mindset. Many skills can be developed, behaviour or values cannot, and we look for a set of values that are similar or will work well with the Astellas set of values. Regardless of the hierarchy or the position, we look for leaders, students that are leaders in their field, people with opinions that speak up, people who are comfortable in challenging the status quo, and able to build the future of Astellas. People that are humble enough to listen and collaborate with others. We do not look for perfection, but we have some non-negotiable conditions of integrity, work ethic, and the capacity of reflection to learn from mistakes and grow.
EF: What is the relative importance of Mexico to Astellas?
SC: Astellas strategies place Mexico as a priority market in Latin America; we aim to grow within our international markets' region, the commercial division our affiliate belongs to. Mexico plays a significant role, and Astellas is committed to better serving the Mexican healthcare system, its stakeholders, and patients. We opened a new affiliate at the end of 2020; we are building a team working cross-functionally with the different Astellas international teams to build talent, systems, and the best strategy for Mexico. So far, we have had good results, fulfilling our ambitions to be a growth driver. We are considering additional investment and talent for Mexico. Mexico is a good investment because of the value we want to generate for society, focusing on oncology. We expect to have a very solid position in the market. We are bringing the best talent and best practices of other Latin American countries, building the team's capabilities. Mexico's role will be significant in Latin America and the international and emerging markets. Health is a strategic investment for the countries to develop growth; there is value for society in health investment. There is a positive impact on the country if we all do our jobs correctly. The Mexican government is improving the access to health; as an industry, we must collaborate for changing the future of Mexican patients.
EF: What do you think you will be celebrating in 2022?
SC: We will celebrate overcoming different challenges; we will celebrate understanding the pandemic's impact on the healthcare system, the new patient dynamic, and the results from that understanding. I am planning to celebrate that good understanding, the development of capabilities of my team in the face of the new reality, the cross-functional collaboration within Astellas, and our team's growth and impact on society. All the above would be great reasons to celebrate.