Seasoned Leadership in Action™! An Interview with Sandra Ketchen!

Sandra Ketchen
Sandra Ketchen
Sandra Ketchen

At Supply Chain Game Changer we believe in sharing experiences and expertise from people in every industry and from across the globe.  As such we have introduced our “Seasoned Leadership in Action™” Interview series.  This interview is with Sandra Ketchen.

I first met Sandra while at Celestica.  I was in the Supply Chain organization and Sandra Ketchen was the Executive in charge of one of our largest accounts.  Our interactions spanned the full range of Customer-Supply Chain activities:  materials costing, planning, materials availability, inventory, delivery performance, and logistics.

Sandra’s customer was notorious for buffering their forecasts and asking us to hold tons of extra inventory.  In Sandra’s capacity she was focused on satisfying the customer and meeting our business needs.  In my role I was looking at how to drive improvements in our inventory performance without sacrificing customer expectations.

While many may view these as two opposing and irreconcilable positions our reality was quite different.  Sandra Ketchen proved to be fantastic to work with.  She was completely understanding, empathetic,  and she was always able to see the bigger picture.  We worked through the situation calmly, professionally and pragmatically.    And not surprisingly we met all of our objectives, including making the customer happy with the outcome.

Thank you Sandra  for your friendship, leadership, your support of Supply Chain Game Changer, and taking the time to share your experiences and expertise with us.

Here is our interview with a great friend and world class leader, Sandra Ketchen!

Tell our readers a little about your background and experience?

I was recently the Senior Vice President of Operations at SE Health. I managed SE’s national operating network of community nurses, therapists, and personal support workers who complete more than 20,000 visits into people’s homes every day to provide personalized care.

Before making the transition to SE Health, I spent more than 20 years leading operations in global electronics and automation manufacturing organizations.  Much of my experiences revolve around supply chain design and optimization across a global operating footprint, to support overall strategy deployment and execution.

I now have an amazing opportunity to apply this supply chain knowledge and skill set to community healthcare.  Many of the tactical and logistical challenges are the same from one industry to the next – but the stakes are higher in healthcare.  We impact the lives of 20,000 Canadians every day by providing the right care, at the right time, from the right person.

If we can apply best-in-class tools to execute this human supply chain with unfailing consistency, growing capacity, and rigorous quality, we can certainly help change the landscape of healthcare delivery in Canada.

What are some of your greatest achievements in Business?

I’ve had incredible opportunities to make a difference along various points of my career.   I’ve off-shored, on-shored, and green-fielded business operations in more than fifteen countries across Europe, Asia, and North America.  I’ve turned a money-losing division into a high impact corporate account, supported by a sophisticated global supply chain, high performing global factory operations, and a very strategic customer relationship.

At one point, I was granted the challenge to restart a Medical Device business division, bringing to life a strategic business plan over the course of five years. I have led the assessment and execution of both buy-side and sell-side acquisitions across a few different industries in both manufacturing operations and healthcare.

However, having said all this, I take the most pride in seeing the personal and career growth of the people I have mentored along the way – who are now delivering their own awesome impacts to their respective businesses and value chains.

How has Business and Supply Chain changed over the course of your career?

Transparency and visibility of real-time supply chain data changed the game over the last 15 years as it drove latency out of supply chains around the world. We’ve gone from stocking mass inventory based on historical lead-times to shipping customized products based on actual demand triggers.

Effective supply chains include partners working together across the total value chain of a product using real-time data, driving out all possible demand latency in the system.    And these supply chains will evolve further in the coming years as machine learning and predictive analytics support building something for someone even BEFORE they know they want it!

Now think about how all of this applies to healthcare which generally still leverages very traditional supply chain models.  Our front line ‘angels’ are tasked with a prescribed set of care duties to complete, customized for every patient in every home.  Imagine taking world class supply chain processes from other industries, and colliding them with the world of healthcare – this is where true innovation in healthcare system capacity will actually happen.

We just have to always remember that the most important component of our supply chain is the actual point of care delivery – whether in person or virtually – everything else is just latency and slog in the system.

What are some of the lessons you learned in your career that you would like to share for others to learn from?

I had some great mentors early on in my career that taught me the importance of building and executing business strategy based on the unmet needs of a customer, first, foremost, and always.  A great CEO once coached me “You need to know your customer better than they know themselves”.  This might sound simplistic in nature, but sometimes putting on your “customer hat” and really thinking through that lens can be more challenging than you’d think.

Another important lesson I’ve learned is not to make quick assumptions about anything. With jammed packed days and crazy schedules, it can be easy for us to accept things at face-value but sometimes the devil really is in the details. The trick is to know when to dive deep and when to float on the surface – this comes with practice and perhaps a few battle scars along the way.

What challenges facing the world are important to you?

SE Health is an organization dedicated to helping people live their best possible life at home, whatever that means to them. We are committed to having positive impact on the communities in which we live and work.  We deliver not only care but compassion – the most basic of human connections.  These are exactly the reasons I joined this organization.

The generation of Baby Boomers is aging and increasingly these people expect to age and die at home – SE Health will be a driver behind enabling this outcome to happen. Many seniors today are lonely and isolated – and we use basic technology tools to help these people re-engage and feel connected.  People in hospital generally don’t want to stay there – SE Health is helping bring them home sooner, with better health outcomes, and at lower total cost to the system.

Our Foundation is also helping Toronto’s homeless population by bringing the Journey Home Hospice to life this year – and although these people may have had significant challenges in their life, we can help them die in comfort and dignity. Who wouldn’t want to be part of an organization committed to making these kind of social impacts in the world?

What is the role of Business, Supply Chain and Change Leadership in addressing these challenges?

These are tough, systemic challenges – so leadership, and the business itself, needs to be bold in approach. This means being able to not only think but also LEAD outside of the box.  The approaches of the past won’t be successful in the future.

Encouraging and facilitating significant change starts at the Leadership level.  There is no question getting people to buy into and accept a new way of doing things can be difficult.  The right Leadership will not only influence but more importantly inspire a new way of thinking.

When it comes to a lot of the social challenges we are facing in the healthcare sector, we need to rethink the human elements of our supply chain, designing everything around our patients and their caregivers. We can learn from other industries how to bring speed and customization to the delivery of care – but we can never forget what we already know how to add ….  the human element called compassion.

What are you working on these days?

We are embarking on a digital transformation of the business. Human touch and connection will never be replaced – but we can transform and optimize everything around this point of care.  As a leader in the healthcare sector, SE Health is relentlessly focused on developing and deploying new and innovative strategies and models to propel the business forward.

Health care operations

As part of the company’s digital transformation, we will also begin to harness the power of data and information sharing, leveraging machine learning and predictive analytics to ensure our patients have the best possible care outcomes.  Understanding this data will help us implement new strategies to change the landscape of community healthcare in Canada – providing better, smarter and faster care to our patients.

What advice would you give people who have a career in, or who are considering joining, Business and/or Supply Chain?

Pick a career that you love and don’t try to predict the outcome – but rather, ride the peaks, weather the valleys, and enjoy the view along the way. Don’t be afraid to colour outside the lines.

Play to win – but know the rules of the game and never under-estimate the other players.  Pass down your experience to the next generation of leaders.  Learn as much as you can each day.  Build your network and really connect with people.

Be bold in your thinking and have the confidence to make a difference, regardless of the magnitude.  And don’t forget to let people see you smile, even on the tough days.

How can people contact Sandra Ketchen?

Sandra Ketchen can be reached on LinkedIn.

Originally published on September 18, 2018.