The value of culture in a crisis
One participant suggested that this ongoing uncertainty has required companies not only to be agile and nimble but also to keep the focus tight on long-term growth drivers. Narrowing the focus has been the key to success and to identifying where a company’s core value lies. The participant urged that while companies plan for all eventualities, they should also be focusing on just a few core specifics and making sure that this focus permeates through the organization, giving people a clear sense of “why are we here.”
This question of purpose speaks to the broader issue of company culture. Participants acknowledged that it’s a difficult time to be the sort of leader who controls all aspects of a company’s strategy, culture and thinking, because these leaders have inevitably lost control of the total situation with the ongoing disruption. Where a strong culture exists throughout the organization, however, it can act as a powerful force for cohesion during the crisis.
As one participant noted: ‘the biggest lesson is that culture is everything … you don’t know how important it is until you have a pandemic: then you see the importance of a brand you can touch and feel. Culture kept us together.’
At present, this participant hosts live-from-HQ sessions every week to keep employees abreast of the latest thinking. The senior team members “make five calls randomly within the organization every day to make sure people feel connected and know what the priorities are.” Another participant agreed with this emphasis on internal transparency, noting that while leaders may not necessarily share all the details around company runway or burn rates with all employees, they nevertheless need to ensure everyone knows that this is a pivotal moment.
How medtech’s customer base is coping with disruption
While companies struggle to maintain and grow their own operations, they also recognize that their customer base is “reeling” from the crisis. The industry can’t be blind to the fact its customers are struggling: clinicians, for example, are itching to get back to productivity and trying desperately to build revenues, while simultaneously waiting for the next wave and anticipating being shut down again. Companies therefore need to be considering different aspects of their customers’ situation, from hospital economics and how these are impacting hospitals’ ability to make investments, to access and trust.
One participant described their company’s efforts around access: how can the company become the COVID-19 solution? One value proposition it has identified is its potential to save clinicians from going into operating rooms and reduce personal protective equipment utilization. The company has developed semiautonomous robots as virtual educators, launching these into five hospital systems. In general, participants agree that the demand is there from hospitals for better patient data and tools for remote management of patients, with companies in the discussion also believing that they have tech platforms that can meet hospitals’ requirements.
These efforts to address the issues from the customer’s side have led to increased interactions with hospitals’ leadership teams. One participant described how their company has been connecting with hospital C-suites daily, indicating the high level of trust there is at present. In EY discussions, hospital administrators have mentioned that they expect to rely increasingly on vendors to help them innovate going forward, a great example of how doors that have historically been closed are now beginning to open. As one participant notes, this is an industry built on partnership, and at a time when companies could become very introspective, the industry should instead maintain sight of the wider picture. Hospitals are hurting, physicians and the wider economy are under pressure, and the industry should focus on asking “how can we help?”
One participant noted that their company has received a tremendous amount of gratitude because its team has remained on-site amid the pandemic and has aided anti-COVID-19 efforts, such as the logistical assistance it lent to a big Silicon Valley donor lacking a distribution system for the face shields it was aiming to donate. Though it doesn’t have the resources to give away, the company offered this assistance nonetheless. Companies can use their strong cultures and personal relationships to assist their partners across the ecosystem.