In Conversation With Andrew Pateman, Canadian Blood Services
Business success starts with strong leadership and the Canadian Blood Services is a great example of an organization that has recognized that its future success is directly linked to the strength and quality of its leaders. Andrew Pateman, Vice President of Talent Acquisition at the Canadian Blood Services talked with Knightsbridge about the critical role leadership will play in shaping the future of the organization and facilitating the effective implementation of a new business strategy.
Knightsbridge: Canadian Blood Services recently convened a leadership summit for 100 of its senior leaders. What was the catalyst for this event?
Andrew Pateman: It’s not an uncommon best practice for organizations to bring together in person, once or twice a year the key leaders of the organization. It had been four or five years since the Canadian Blood Services (CBS) had done this and in an organization that is experiencing the kind of change that we are it made sense to bring our leaders together to reinforce that they are part of a broader leadership community. The ROI of an event like this is that the leaders feel that they’re part of a community; part of a shared enterprise and a shared purpose; and they leave with specific knowledge about what they need to do the Monday morning they’re back in the office. It’s something that you can’t achieve otherwise. You can’t build a high-functioning, high-performing organization via email or webinars.
The second reason for the leadership summit was to share our refreshed corporate strategy, which contained some significant changes that needed to be communicated to the organization. The leaders needed to engage with the new strategy. They needed to understand what it meant, they needed to ask us questions about it, and they needed to have a role in shaping it. So the summit was really the kickoff for our updated corporate priorities and an investment in the development of our leaders.
KB: At the summit, your CEO issued a challenge to think, act, and behave differently. How is the CBS going to inspire that kind of change?
AP: That’s the $64,000 question. We used the summit as the platform to say clearly and definitively for the first time that what made us successful up to this point is not necessarily what will make us successful going forward. The CBS has been able to do some terrific things inside Canadian health care. We’ve been able to restore safety, trust, and sufficiency of supply in the blood system. That has been a Herculean effort and we’ve been able to pull that off. Now we’re migrating into a more complicated health care organization that is also involved in cord blood, stem cells, organ donation & transplantation, and tissue donation & transplantation. So to lead in that environment there are certain things we have to think and believe differently about the organization.
KB: Why is a change in mentality necessary at the CBS right now?
AP: At the CBS there are three unique areas of distinction. The first is safety. Safety means that the product that leaves our facilities is unambiguously safe - that the blood was collected in a safe manner, manufactured in a safe manner, and delivered in a safe manner. That remains an ongoing, vigilant activity. We’ve invested enormous time, energy, and effort in safety. And we’ve delivered that. And we continue to be hyper-vigilant around safety.
The second area is sufficiency of supply, meaning that when CBS was created, there were parts of the country that had shortages of critical blood products. That has gone away. We now treat our inventory of blood and blood-related products as a national inventory and we move it around the country to meet demand.
The third and last area, which is where the leadership change stems from, is around the blood system as a system that is managed using best practices around quality and process excellence. In short, we need to start thinking of ourselves as a biologics manufacturer. There is still some inefficiency in our current system. We still discard more units than we would like, for example. This doesn’t affect sufficiency or safety, but it does affect our productivity and our efficiency so we need to start thinking differently in order to improve those inefficiencies. Our leaders will play a critical role in driving that new way of thinking across the organization.
KB: Do you have other internal programs that reinforce the type of leadership culture you want at CBS?
AP: We’re working on that right now. At the leadership summit we unveiled what we refer to as the leadership contract, which consists of six leadership commitments that all of our leaders will live by. Those six commitments will be part of our individual performance and we will be required to communicate to our teams that this is the kind of leadership they can expect from us. It’s important our people really understand what the meaning of each of these commitments is. The next thing we need to do is begin a much more consistent form of communicating the six leadership principles across the organization.
The other piece we launched is a process to develop future leaders at CBS. At the moment there’s no formal structure to develop our leaders. People will go to a course here or there, but there is no clear leadership development path. This is an organization that has its own culture and a unique business; other than Hema Quebec, there is no other business like ours in Canada and so we want to have a leadership culture to reflect this. We want to build a leadership development program that allows people to really understand what it means to be a leader at CBS. That path is being developed now and we’re going to begin rolling it out over the next several months.
AP: Leadership capacity is an explicit component of our strategy. We as leaders need to understand that on the one hand we can’t be parochial and say, “I’m just a leader in the blood system so that’s all I want to know about and think about.” We’re asking leaders to lead with the big picture in mind. So you need to step back from your day-to-day work, which might be in the blood system and say “I’m part of a pan-Canadian health care organization that’s involved in things other than blood.”