Alan Yates, Ad-Interim General Manager, southern Africa (South Africa and SADC) at Roche Diagnostics

Alan Yates, Ad-Interim General Manager, southern Africa (South Africa and SADC) at Roche Diagnostics, discusses the importance of moving with the times, making agility a priority in the “new look” workplace. 

“Management across different regions – in my context, that would currently be South Africa and various SADC countries – means coherently bringing together strategy, best practices, regional and global targets, and of course, people. COVID has opened up several new layers of communication and networking tools that facilitate inter-regional collaboration. But in an ever-changing business landscape, agility is our greatest tool. And that requires a different business mindset altogether.

“A report from BMJ Global Health states, ‘The health systems in Africa were inadequately prepared for the pandemic, and its impact was substantial. Responses were slow and did not match the magnitude of the problem. Interventions that will improve and strengthen health system resilience and financing through local, national and global engagement should be prioritised’.

Nobody works in a vacuum, and we can – and should – learn from the past. Very few people anticipated the pandemic, and the healthcare industry had to mobilise with no warning to deal with its far-reaching effects.

“In this instance, we had to be agile to deal with unpredictability. And this was very much a learning experience. Now that we have the context that COVID gave us, we should be focusing on doing now what patients need next – looking beyond our immediate surroundings with an eye on the future. Referring back to the shortcomings we identified in African healthcare (as mentioned in the BMJ Report), what do we do next? We should be discussing how we improve and strengthen African healthcare. But perhaps the solutions we need are beyond our shores.

“Every region in Africa – and the world – has its own context. And in order for us to maintain our agility, networking, sharing best practices and collaborating helps us create global solutions. The mindset of change begins at home – but it extends through the looking glass and into other markets.

“We may not be able to precisely anticipate the next pandemic. But we can pool our knowledge and understanding to predict what is to come, or at least be prepared when or if it arrives, rather than being caught off guard. COVID forced us to embrace change. But going forward, if we are agile, we won’t have to be forced. We will be ready.

“Even working from a distance, different regions in the same areas of expertise can work together to solve global problems. By observing disease areas in regions other than our immediate areas of responsibility, for example, we can potentially offer insight into innovative ways of managing disease areas outside of our scope, and they can do the same for our business.

“Using the new communication mindset – that we can work from anywhere – we can be more agile in creating healthcare solutions for Africa from a holistic point of view as one team, rather than expecting regional leadership to work in relative isolation. The teamwork could begin with something as simple as monthly business reviews or forums in which cross-cultural teams ‘brainstorm’ regional challenges together.

“Openness and discussion are the keys to more agile solutions. We have all experienced the forced change mindset brought about by COVID. But we can keep the mindset of change going, so we are able to adapt quickly, understand trends and share ideas that we simply may not have thought of in our own contexts.

“We have truly become a global community. We should be leveraging this as our ‘crystal ball’ into pre-emptive healthcare and business solutions for the greater good. Motivational speaker and author, Tony Dovale coined the term ‘Adaptagility’ when he said, ‘Adaptagility is the foundation of ALL success’. COVID taught us how to be ‘adaptagile’. Perhaps we should stay the course of adaptagility and tackle the future together.”