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Transformation in real-time: An inspiring module in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Study / 5 July 2023
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MBA International Healthcare Management Class of 2023
Marisa is an experienced project and process manager with a healthcare, media and non-profit background. She thrives in lean start-up environments and possesses strong organisational and leadership abilities. She is also passionate about digital health, its impact on quality and access to care in underserved populations and the value proposition for government and private payers.

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“Change before you have to,” said Jack Welch, former long-time Chairman and CEO of General Electric. This profound statement encapsulates the essence of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s (KSA) Vision 2030 – a comprehensive plan aimed at reducing the nation’s reliance on oil revenue through economic diversification while simultaneously fostering social and cultural reforms. The ambitious goals of this visionary blueprint include enhancing governmental effectiveness, improving social services such as education and healthcare, nurturing local talent, attracting foreign direct investment and cultivating a thriving business environment.

Bridging the gap: uniting tradition and modernity in Saudi Arabia’s transformation

This transformative journey set the stage for our penultimate module in the MBA International Healthcare Management programme, held in the vibrant Saudi capital of Riyadh. The focus of this module was Human Resources, Organisation and Change Management, offering us a unique opportunity to delve into these critical aspects.

Our site visit took us to the esteemed King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre (KFSH), a renowned medical institution recognised for its state-of-the-art facilities, cutting-edge medical technology and unwavering commitment to delivering exceptional patient care. As we explored the hospital, it became evident that no expense was spared in creating the command centre, equipped with advanced data aggregation tools meticulously monitoring hospital efficiency and effectiveness at a granular level. Following the tour, we were captivated by a presentation delivered by the humble and enthusiastic CEO, H.E. Majid I. Al Fayyadh, MD. With a simple flip of his ghutrah, he revealed ambitious plans for strategic expansion, financial sustainability and talent growth and acquisition.

In this dynamic nation, where the boundaries between old and new, traditional and modern, as well as religious and secular intersect, a unique set of challenges emerges. To provide further insight into these intricacies, we had the privilege of hearing from two distinguished guest speakers during our module. His Excellency Osama bin Abdul Aziz Al-Zamil shared compelling anecdotes that shed light on the interpersonal and cultural barriers impeding progress. Additionally, Khlood Aldukheil, CEO of Erteqa Financial Company and adviser in the banking and financial sector, offered her distinct perspective on social reform, exemplifying the remarkable talent working tirelessly to realise the Kingdom’s ambitious goals.

Transformative learning and cultural immersion

Inside the classroom, Professor Erich Barthel guided us through an exploration of human resources, delving into theories surrounding the development and retention of human capital. We gained invaluable insights into effective management strategies and change management techniques from the expertise of Tim O’Hanlon, an accomplished professional in operations and management.

Engaging in various group exercises, we were challenged to apply these theories and strategies to real-world scenarios. However, the true revelation occurred when we turned the focus inward, using the DiSC behavioural self-assessment tool to identify our inherent competencies, blind spots and ideal work environments. This exercise proved illuminating, revealing to many of us the driving forces behind our pursuit of an MBA. When striving for a sustainable future, it is imperative to examine and leverage our innate strengths while acknowledging and addressing our weaknesses. Undoubtedly, this exercise perfectly complemented the enlightening lectures on the challenges faced by the KSA and the benchmarks they have set for themselves.

Self-exploration and growth are easier with the help of stakeholders and friends. Our resident Saudi classmates went above and beyond, planning a cultural programme with near-daily activities. We shopped at the old market, took off-roading jeeps to the Edge of the World cliffs, toured the UNESCO heritage site of Diriyah and ate incredible food. The module culminated on the final evening at a remote desert camp where we hiked sand dunes, rode camels and ate communal dishes in a tent adorned with beautifully woven carpets. Under a full moon, we shared stories, asked questions and continued learning from each other – the perfect cap to a productive, informative and unforgettable week.

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