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Having the heart to make it

Client profile: Mr Alok Mishra, Vice President Asia Pacific – Strategic Business Systems, Johnson & Johnson Medical, Asia Pacific

With approximately 130,000 employees, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) is one of only a handful of companies that has flourished for more than a century.  More than 70 years ago, just before J&J became a publicly traded company – Robert Wood Johnson – a member of its founding family and former chairman wrote “Our Credo”. It’s a set of values that states J&J’s first responsibility is to doctors, nurses and patients, to mothers and fathers and all others who use its products and services. It also declares a responsibility to suppliers, distributors, employees, communities and charities.

And it mentions the importance of investing in new ideas, research, equipment, facilities and products.  At the very bottom of this full page of text, a fair return to stockholders is also mentioned.

Mr Mishra, Vice President Asia Pacific – Strategic Business Systems for Johnson & Johnson Medical, Asia Pacific, says: “As the only shareholder at that time, Robert Wood Johnson essentially put himself at the bottom of the list. This was well before anyone had heard of corporate social responsibility; yet 70 years on, J&J still lives by this set of values.

“With our Credo as our foundation, the most unique thing about J&J is that it’s a compassionate organisation. J&J has a heart and that’s why we’ve been so successful.

“We are a knowledge business and our people retain our wisdom so we do everything possible to make them stay and thrive. I’ve been here for 17 years and just recently I was in Japan where I attended two retirement celebrations; we honoured people who’d each been with us for 42 years.”

Mr Mishra says: “Customer feedback is also critical. J&J is the largest and most broadly-based health care company in the world. We’re a very complex organisation and the only thing that can reduce complexity is customer centricity. Otherwise, we’d be doing a lot of things that don’t add value. We feel customer research is one of our best investments as it directs everything else we do.”

Working across Asia Pacific, including both established and emerging markets, Mr Mishra’s broad role covers regulatory affairs, quality, health economics and market access, professional education, marketing education, sales training, pricing, safety and surveillance and a business insights/analytics group. Mr Mishra is also a member of the J&J Regional Leadership team, where he leads regional strategy development.

Mr Mishra has an impressive background; a Masters in Pharmacy, an MBA from one of the world’s top 20 business schools, he’s previously headed the business for J&J Medical in Singapore, then India and then for all of South Asia. He’s worked in the Middle East in charge of marketing and distribution for a large pharmaceutical firm. He’s currently completing an elite health strategy course at Harvard Business School –  no less. He’s a member of Mensa, and, in his spare time, he lectures on corporate strategy, marketing, and medical technology at universities in Singapore and India.

Mr Mishra says he’s passionate about business strategy and organisation design.

“Looking at customers, employees and the community before we look at stockholder returns creates a very different environment. We are not an organisation that says ‘you better get this bottom line or you’re out’. Instead we attract and retain the best people and these are people with a heart. These people make our organisation. This works with us. If you want to be successful in healthcare you need to be a compassionate organisation, nothing else will work. We make sure that everything we do ultimately benefits patients and we are focused on serving their unmet needs. Our energy comes from our compassion. It’s Our Credo that makes us unique.

“We believe a corporation only has a right to survive if they do the right thing. Our Credo creates an energy that’s based on ethics and integrity,” he says.

Customer centricity is critical

“We have a complex and fascinating customer group. We look at the five Ps: Patient, physician, provider, payer, policy maker. And of course this changes for every type of surgery and procedure.

“For J&J Medical, launching new products is our lifeblood. If we didn’t launch new products we’d never grow,” says Mr Mishra.

Tom Holman, one of Insync Surveys health specialists (formally part of UltraFeedback which Insync Surveys acquired last year), has been Mr Mishra’s customer and market research provider for over 10 years.

Thinking about his customer research work, Mr Mishra says: “Put simply, Our Credo challenges us to put the needs and well-being of the people we serve first. Customers are sacred to us and the more we know about customers the better off we are.

“We invested in our customer feedback program with Tom because we started realising that while we did have a lot of information it was a bit biased for two reasons. One, we knew our customers but didn’t know enough about the customers in the markets we didn’t serve. Secondly, we understood surgeons very well because they’re the people we serve directly but realised we had less information about people in hospitals on the provider side.”

Tom says: “Alok has a continued drive for improvement. He’s also an encouraging and empowering leader who gives his people every opportunity to develop great customer initiatives with his guidance and support.”

All of Mr Mishra’s business functions face external stakeholders, setting the role apart from functions that have an internal focus like HR and IT. His team of around 35 provides counsel  across a variety of business units for Johnson & Johnson Medical: global surgical group and global orthopaedics.

“To become more effective we need to constantly become more customer centric. People in J&J are used to customer surveys, analysing data and doing it very objectively. We also have a vast internal employee survey project called Credo Feedback.

“Our customer focus reduces complexity, makes us more efficient and ultimately makes everyone a lot happier. We use customer feedback to design marketing strategy. All marketing decisions start with customer feedback.”


Connecting with people is very important at J&J.

“Any time I sit with the J&J leadership team, I see that they are phenomenal people with large hearts. They always focus on the customer and go out of their way to share stories about recent patient surgeries. J&J is not a hierarchical organisation; I can talk to our CEO easily. Similarly my door is open and I see mentoring of others as being very important. In our culture everyone is approachable.

“We use a leadership model with four parts: 1. ‘connect’ (internally, externally and encourage diversity), 2. ‘shape’ (i.e. based on insights and doing things that are innovative), 3. ‘lead’ (as an organisation) and 4. ‘deliver’ (to customers). This approach just makes a huge amount of sense. J&J focuses on practical execution and that’s what interests me,” says Mr Mishra.

Not about the money

Sales are measured by how many patients J&J serve.

“Patients we’ve helped is the metric. Today we’re helping 100 million patients in Asia Pacific and we think about growth in terms of how to help 300 million patients. This is very energising; compared to thinking about how much money we’re making; that’s not motivating.

“We have projects like creating a targeted number of smiles through our partnerships and corporate social responsibility efforts to cure children of cleft palate and cleft lip through a simple operation. Each smile costs us a donation of about $250. Helping people live happily and our work for the community are incredibly important.

“In sales meetings we often ask ourselves if we are holding up the tenets of Our Credo and whether we are doing the right thing. Sales are a secondary element of doing medical operations and helping patients. This is fascinating. We are very different to any other organisation,” says Mr Mishra.

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