Building Culture – Advisor Spotlight

For our second podcast, we are excited to be speaking with Orbit advisor — Lance Little. Apart from his advisory role, Lance is the current Managing Director of Roche Diagnostics in Asia Pacific where he is focused on uniting people together across the region and empowering others to make a positive difference through healthcare. But before joining Roche in 1995, he spent his first 10 professional years in private and public labs in New Zealand.

Join us as we ask Lance questions about the regional differences in healthcare throughout Asia-Pacific, how digitization throughout the broader healthcare ecosystem will prepare us for the future and more. Listen in, as Lance dives into how to build organizational culture and how the legendary New Zealand All Blacks rugby team helped shape his view on what culture means. Listen below!




Spanning over 20 countries, the APAC region is home to broad and diverse groups. As such creating a red thread to tie these countries together is without a doubt an extremely challenging endeavor for any organization. With that said, Lance is committed to just this, bringing different groups together to deliver new innovative solutions and life-saving digital health tools.

Organizational culture is something often talked about but never really defined. What does it mean to develop a company culture and what does it really mean to live it, day-in and day out? For today’s podcast, we unpack these questions and explore how cultural dynamics impact how organizations enter new markets, and deliver solutions

Below are highlights from our conversation with Lance.



Key Highlights

Andy: What are the regional differences in healthcare within the Asia Pacific region? How do these differences manifest when trying to bring digital health products or services into these various parts?

Lance: It’s a key question Andy. The way I describe it, is you’ve got healthcare systems that fall into one of two buckets. You [have] a number of countries where they’re trying to build up their healthcare systems and are trying to enable healthcare for the entire population at a fundamental level. Now once [these] countries have that sorted, they move into the other bucket, which is where generally [you find countries who unable to] afford the healthcare system they’ve just created.

What I see is countries sitting in one of these buckets over time. Within this, there are key differences around the mechanics of how these healthcare systems work. For example, we have some healthcare systems that are fundamentally government funded, where there’s a ministry of health who is providing the funds for running the entire health care system.

Typically you might [see this in counties like] New Zealand or in Australia, often coupled with a private healthcare system sitting on top of that. If people want to pay and get more convenient health care, and then you’ve got it. On the other end of the spectrum, [there are]countries where healthcare is the sole responsibility of the individual. In other words, the government provides essentially no healthcare funding. If you’re lucky, maybe you can buy a healthcare insurance policy, but there’s some countries where that’s not even available.

What this means is you end up in a situation where [you say to yourself], I might be sick today, but because I [have] no money, it’s irrelevant. I can’t go and procure healthcare services because it’s a user-pay system. So you have this range of models that is absolutely critical to understand, especially if you are commercializing or enabling products into the various countries.

Andy: Do cultural differences play a role in how individuals and corporations in these regions approach digital health and healthcare?

Lance: Yes, absolutely. We [as an organization] need to tailor our approach in different countries, depending on how the healthcare system works, but also how people perceive health and that’s often driven by the cultural dynamics at play. And the way in which you bring products into the market has to absolutely be in sync with the way people think about healthcare in a particular cultural environment.

However, I see digitization and the adoption of digital tools differently. It is fully dependent on the personal viewpoints versus institutional viewpoints. For example, many of us [will] kind of go, “oh, that’s an interesting looking app” and I’ll download it and I’ll play with it for a bit. If I think it’s useful I’ll keep it, if not, I’ll delete it and move on. And that’s the personal dynamic.

Now at an institutional level, [take for example,] a hospital, the way in which a hospital manages a patient journey through any particular disease state [from] diagnosis to treatment or ongoing management is highly complex with many moving parts. So whatever digital tools are brought to the fore in the healthcare space, it needs to fit with the existing systems. Tools need to be brought in, they need to be given the space and the time to grow. They also need to compliment and almost work from within to improve the patient experience and ultimately the health care outcome. And that is not going to happen in five minutes.

There’s a need for validation and I think that’s appropriate. If I use a parking app at a personal level, if the tech guys update the parking app overnight and tomorrow, it doesn’t work properly, other than being a bit frustrated, I’ll go find somewhere else to park my car.

In the healthcare space, if the same thing happens and the algorithm has changed all the information that is given to the clinician, they can make a decision that is fundamentally life-threatening. So the level of importance and scrutiny that needs to go on is appropriately higher in healthcare than anywhere else.

With regards to digitalization, I see less of a cultural dynamic and more of a difference between the personal adoption of digital tools versus the institutional adoption of digital tools.

Andy: How can organizations develop meaningful organizational culture?

Lance: I’m extremely proud of the work we’ve done across the Asia Pacific region, and it wasn’t over-engineered work. It was very honest and human work. Essentially. I had two questions going through my mind.

1) How do I bring a red thread through those 16 different countries with many different languages and very different cultural dynamics and connect them as an Asia Pacific group within our organization.

2) How do I build an organization that doesn’t see success based on a business plan timeline (i.e. 3–5 years), but sees success and sustainability beyond into decades and generations.

To answer these questions, I came across a book called Legacy by James Kerr about the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team, which I’m admittedly biased about.

Prior to one of the world cups, a number of years ago, I think New Zealand had a win-loss rate of about 75% or something like that but the organization said, we’ve got a problem and that was a cultural problem. What I wanted to do was create an organization where it was beyond any individual or superstars dynamic. So what we then did was we came together.

We asked our organization one single question: describe the company you would love to be part of. We didn’t do it in clever Google forms. We just said, describe it. Describe the company you would love to be part of and we put that same question to all countries and all functions within our organization and we boiled that up together and we then set those as our own personal values as leader.

You know, what are the non-negotiable’s for Lance Little on this planet? Not, Lance Little as Head of Asia Pacific. We created something that’s very human and it’s a set of principles that apply to me as they apply to the person that starts next week with us. They are very human principles known as APAC spirit and they guide our behavior.

They are reasons why we do things the way we do across the region. One of the core elements is to become a better version of ourselves. What that means then as leaders, we need to create an environment where teams have the opportunity to learn, it’s a fundamental principle. We can’t avoid it. We can’t step past it. We can’t say I’ll do that next year. That’s a fundamental principle that we have and we commit to. Equally, there’s an obligation as individuals to willingly step forward and take opportunities to learn.

Two more dynamics I want to share which I feel are important. One was that the organization described a style. They said we want to be humble, grateful, and thankful. Organizational culture is developed by the people in the organization and is something they feel they are or aspire to be. Another interesting one that I think is fascinating, that is one of our principles says that we plant trees we may never sit under. We are prepared to invest and do the right thing today, knowing full well it will not impact my career or the career of my leadership team of today, but it is the right thing to do for the next generation of leaders.

I very much liked that one because it comes back to one of the concepts around the All Blacks, where, they believe when you make the All Black team in a particular position, you are the custodian of that position. Your job is to make that position stronger before you hand it off to somebody else.

You are fortunate to be the custodian for the period of time, by which you continue to make the team. I just love that analogy because it’s all about continuously improving and developing before you hand it on to the next person. What you’ll see if you watch the All Blacks over time is that the incumbent in that particular position on the team is willingly growing the person that is going to succeed them and ultimately take their job. And if you can create a culture that embodies these sorts of principles, I think you’ve got an extremely powerful team.


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