Grow your own timber: Succession planning with Mediclinic’s technical teams

Posted on 21 March 2019

In the early ‘90s, Mediclinic’s technical team consisted of seven staff at head office and another handful of staff at each of the hospitals that were part of the group at that time. Since then, their scope and function have expanded – together with a strong focus on training up staff. The technical team now number over 400.

Kevin Poggenpoel, now General Manager: Technical Operations for Mediclinic Southern Africa joined Mediclinic in the early 90s. He was a technical manager at one of the local facilities in Cape Town.

During this time, the philosophy of the division was ‘maintain to design spec’ – meaning that maintenance carried out on any piece of machinery was done to ensure that machinery retained function and performance as indicated by the design spec – with the target of the asset functioning for thirty years. Assets were purchased for a purpose – maintain them to fulfil that purpose.

Record keeping

How does one maintain assets with a 30-year target? Record keeping. “Guidelines for each piece of machinery were developed, along with instruction sheets on how to maintain it and lastly record sheets of the maintenance. Today, there are 290 planned maintenance documents for Mediclinic assets,” says Kevin. A testament to the importance of maintaining value in assets.

Assets are obviously replaced in the business, a world-class hospital group cannot exist on outdated technology, but when they are replaced it is because of advancements in technology, cost to maintain or greater capacity required. Their philosophy still holds true.

Mentoring is a habit

How is a philosophy such as this passed on? “Mentorship. Spending time with your people. You need to live out instructions and show staff that they are not just words on a piece of paper. This is how you do business,” explains Kevin.

He goes on, “Grow your own timber. Succession planning is essential. So many of our current team started out as trainees and then moved on to being technical managers over a sustained period of development. Mediclinic was also the first corporate to establish a clinical training programme for our staff. Specifications were drawn up for the course, and we began training staff in association with colleges. Giving them the anatomic background to complement their technical knowledge.” The only existing formal course was in Pretoria – this made it difficult for members of Mediclinic staff to attend and formalise their training. The team needed to expand access across the country.

“Growing your own staff allows you to embed these values and philosophies as they rise through the ranks. Of course, you need to bring on new people with new ideas to combat complacency and bring fresh direction, but we see value in bringing people up through their career in the business. Hard work, drive and a good work ethic hold an important place in my mind,” explains Kevin.

What is success in Kevin’s environment?

When asked what he saw as success, he is after all General Manager of the technical team, Kevin says success is still planned maintenance, solid staffing and maintaining equipment cost-effectively. “You need to recruit the right people. I have spent much time drawing up solid interview processes to ensure that when we hire a candidate – he or she is the best for the job. We understand background. We understand experience. But when you combine all of that, the person needs to be the best candidate for the job.

“It’s not just about the paper qualification. Do they have the right personality and attributes for the position? I want enthusiasm. And I want dreamers,” he says. When asked about the irony of dreamers in what is essentially a very functional environment, Kevin explains, “They are the problem solvers. They are the ones that want to rise through the ranks. They look at a challenge and want to accomplish something. If you don’t dream, you stay where you are and stagnate.”

“Paper qualifications alone do not create good leaders. Education provides insight and knowledge on how to do a job. You need to equip leaders to lead. Give them experience and train them in the working environment to solve the challenges and think out of the box. Then you have grown a leader and your timber is strong,” Kevin concludes.


Published in Business