It is said that if you can recognize and name your feelings in the moment, you can better manage them. After the loss of Professor Clayton Christensen earlier this year, followed by the global coronavirus pandemic, I had failed to fully capture my feelings and, consequently, had been unable to manage them as I might wish. Professor Christensen spoke of his theories as statements of causality, lenses to put on when trying to make better sense of the world, and one such theory is Jobs To Be Done. I was certain that I needed to “hire” something that would help me to make progress in my life, to retrieve joy and inspiration in these challenging times. In the course of my reflections, I came to realize that what I needed to hire was my internal compass, the one that Professor Christensen reminded me of during the time that I spent with him in Boston in 2018, as a participant in the Disruptive Innovation Exec Ed course at Harvard Business School. That July, Professor Christensen helped me to redefine my purpose and, since that time, I have committed myself to always match my intentions with the impact that they have on my surrounding world, in both my personal and professional spheres.

Serving as the Director of the Innovation Center at King Fahad Medical City, one of the largest comprehensive tertiary healthcare centers in Saudi Arabia, I feel responsible for transforming my individual experience with Professor Christensen into an institutional benefit. Like many healthcare systems around the world, ours is facing the challenge of needing to urgently shift the current model in order to provide more accessibility and a higher quality of care, while also minimizing the cost of healthcare delivery. At the KFMC Innovation Center, we have taken it upon ourselves to consider the future not only by analyzing past data and trends, but also by embracing Professor Christensen’s theories in order to better grasp what causes what, when, and why. Our team regularly assesses the system’s pain points and digs deep to unearth challenges, even if they have not yet been experienced or realized by our patients. The model of our work is: “Find a challenge, break it down, and then build it up better”. Having said that, this approach requires a great deal of strategic communication and leadership bandwidth. Professor Christensen’s theories have helped us to improve on both these things.

Culture & Role of the CEO

To implement change, one needs to first be well acquainted with the status quo. At KFMC, we began the Innovation Center’s work by conducting a campus-wide survey on KFMC employees’ concept of innovation, along with their willingness to engage in related initiatives. The survey also delved into perceptions held by employees on the importance of leadership support to promote innovations in healthcare.

Analysis of the data revealed important information that helped us to shape our communication strategy and our strategic roadmap. We found that more than 60% of participating employees were hesitant to share creative ideas due to a lack of intellectual property policies and procedures. Furthermore, nearly every participant believed that CEO and C Suite leadership support was crucial to driving innovation, but not all felt that leadership teams were effectively communicating with or supporting them.

Keeping in mind the fundamentals of Culture Theory – i.e. that an organization’s culture is the culmination of how its RPPs have developed over time – we at the Innovation Center were very keen to tune into our own resources and people, processes, and priorities. One approach involved working to improve alignment between employees and those working in the Strategic Planning Office. We wanted to better foster a culture of support and innovation.

The KFMC Innovation Stars Program

One way we looked to improve organization culture, along with defining and tackling real healthcare challenges within different layers of the system, was through the KFMC Innovation Stars Program, which is an organization-based initiative led by the Innovation Center administration. The aforementioned survey data had revealed that employees were willing to engage in innovation-focused activities if they were offered guidance and sponsorship; this program offers both.

We first brought together members of KFMC’s top management – the CEO, executive directors, directors, and chairpersons. In order to better empower employees and to foster a sense of belonging and advocacy, each of these individuals was asked to nominate two or three of their employees who would, over the course of one year, take on responsibility for actively engaging with the Innovation Team. The individuals ultimately selected as “innovation stars” were forty-eight outstanding employees, a team comprised of physicians, healthcare providers, nurses, administrators, health educators, and residents. They were instructed in design thinking, which has proven to be a powerful tool with which to co-create value with a range of stakeholders and sponsors, and also learned about the human-centric approach to healthcare delivery.

They then worked directly with us to identify challenges and, once recognized, helped us to propose creative solutions, in particular, to improve quality and efficiency while minimizing cost. Our innovation stars have been recognized by the CEO and members of the Executive Board for their commitment and passion for driving change in the organization, and they have already successfully established a tailored, design-thinking framework entirely in-house. We are excited to see what further accomplishments stem from the Innovation Stars program!

Jobs To Be Done

In line with KFMC developing a more human-centric approach to healthcare delivery, we recognize that Jobs theory can be very useful in terms of bridging the gap between what patients need and what the system currently offers. What progress are patients trying to make in their lives, and in which circumstances? Jobs To Be Done has also taken on additional relevance as we seek to serve our patients well during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Healthcare leaders are justifiably focused on the here and now of coronavirus, and at KFMC we have taken great measures to contain the spread of the virus, including the rescheduling of nearly 50,000 outpatient appointments until that time when it is safe to visit our clinics again. With these developments, in order for the delivery of needed medical services to continue, a Job has emerged for healthcare providers and patients to be able to virtually connect with each other. 

A rapid response was undertaken by our CEO and executive team, implementing a digital transformation strategy that has enabled this virtual, telemedicine connection. Furthermore, such services as virtual follow-up appointments, requests for essential blood work, and the renewal of prescriptions have been facilitated through a comprehensive system of home care visits and medication delivery to patients’ homes. Another important step taken by the leadership team to help contain the spread of the virus is to diagnose active cases through the implementation of a rapid drive-through screening facility, built and equipped to diagnose positive cases without the need for individuals to step foot in a healthcare building. 

In terms of KFMC’s employees, emerging feelings of isolation and/or anxiety that they may feel as a result of global quarantines and the massive, sudden shift to working from home has led KFMC’s leadership to address a Job of employee support during times of uncertainty. They have implemented a communications strategy that addresses the sudden changes that have lead to our new, socially-distanced reality. Groups of mental health experts were formed to take calls from those in the KFMC community needing additional support. Furthermore, a steady stream of updates and messages, communicated to employees via different social media platforms, along with informative webinars, have been developed in order to cultivate a culture of caring and support during such challenging times of change and uncertainty.

Institutional Innovation and Change

Finally, with organizational innovation comes change, and it is normal for people to sometimes resist shifts to the way that things have traditionally been done. From my personal experience as the Director of the Innovation Center, I’ve found that the key to managing resistance is to inform people of the reasons for the changes, to involve people as early as possible in the process, to show your appreciation for their contributions, and to have a defined purpose that can be internalized by different layers within the organization. Innovation is a process involving collaboration, trust, and creativity. It requires constant support from the senior leadership, acceptance of failure, a certain level of comfort with ambiguity, and the cultivation of a culture of continuous learning.

My time spent as a student of Clayton Christensen helped me not only to better understand and embrace his theories, but also to see a clearer path in terms of implementing them at KFMC’s Innovation Center, and at King Fahad Medical City more broadly. Putting on the theory lenses has sharpened my vision and, as a result, I’m able to make better sense of the world on a personal level, and also to take concrete steps towards improving healthcare accessibility and affordability for those in my community. The process of innovating is not easy, but it is certainly worth the focused time and effort.

Sufana AlMashhadi is Director of the Innovation Center at King Fahad Medical City and a 2018 participant in HBS Executive Education.