Stanley Holsteiner
Stanley Holsteiner

Stanley Holsteiner has led major change projects primarily within the healthcare sector, both in Sweden and internationally. We have spoken with him about his career in change management and how leadership is the key factor in successful transformations.

You have had a varied career across different industries and organizations. Where did your journey begin?

”My journey began at the National Social Insurance Board where I was responsible for large projects between the authorities, and led, among other things, a risk analysis for all state agencies. They had a challenge in that they could not insure themselves, so we had to find alternative ways to manage potential incidents. After that, I moved on to Cap Gemini where I focused on process development projects and method development for that type of business analysis. I mainly worked with insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry. One of the major tasks was to set processes for quality control in four pharmaceutical factories and simultaneously digitize document management throughout the workflow.”

After working as a management consultant on major projects, Stanley wanted to try something completely new and was recruited to the Surgical Clinic at Capio St. Goran’s Hospital as Acting Clinic Manager while a permanent recruitment process was underway. After three months, he was offered the permanent position and saw it as an incredible opportunity, saying, ”I fell in love with the job and got stuck! We turned around a significant financial deficit in a short time and became more efficient. The success factor was shaping a well-functioning management team that took responsibility for all aspects of operational management. When Nordic Capital, which then owned Capio which operates the hospital, received some remarks in its audit, a new CFO was needed, and I was given the role with the mission to rectify the audit, outsource certain financial processes, and improve the financial management.”

Stanley then returned to Cap Gemini where he was responsible for expanding their offering within healthcare with major assignments in Gävleborg and Västra Götaland (Southwest Sweden). In 2009, he was recruited to the role of Deputy Hospital Director at Uppsala Akademiska Hospital with responsibility for process integration, regional agreements, collaboration with Karolinska Hospital on national healthcare issues, and collaboration with the university. ”It was a role that was impossible to say no to; it’s a fantastic hospital and Sweden’s oldest university hospital and was then celebrating its 300th anniversary.”

You later took on a role as Head of the Program Management Office at Karolinska Hospital, what was your assignment?

”I was contacted by Birger Jakobsson and Mikael Forss at Karolinska University Hospital which was taking over the responsibility for New Karolinska Hospital from the NKS administration, which required a program office that I was offered to lead. Actually, I did not feel that I was ready to leave Uppsala, but this was too exciting to turn down. Such a huge project happens very rarely. When the project was completed and we had closed down the program office, I was appointed Operational Chief of the Cancer Theme at Karolinska and also supported the then acting hospital director in various issues.”

In the next step, you took on a role based in Saudi Arabia, can you tell us more about that?

”In June 2019, I started on a large project for NEOM in Saudi Arabia as Director of Operations Health, Wellbeing & Biotech. The country was undergoing a reform encompassing economy, culture, and reducing oil dependency. As part of this, they were to build an entirely new region with a sustainable society, environment, quality of life, and health, as well as contribute to enabling local and international companies to develop future services and innovations. My focus was on developing the future of healthcare and designing a healthcare system from scratch. It was a fantastic project, and besides designing the future of healthcare, it was also about building up healthcare for the people living there during the project, and we operationalized a smaller hospital. At the same time, it was tough due to Covid, I only met my wife three times.”

After 4.5 years in Saudi Arabia, Stanley now plans to work as an Executive Interim Manager and Senior Advisor. He says he has used Interim Managers during his time at Karolinska and knows that it is a success factor when driving complex projects, and the most important thing is to utilize and share accumulated knowledge – and to have fun!

When is it beneficial to bring in an Executive Interim Manager to your organization?

”Sometimes you need a leader who lacks history from the company and can stand outside the internal politics and who can actively drive a project with clarity. It’s a big advantage when the person is neutral and fully focused on the mission without simultaneously having to manage their regular duties. When the project is completed, someone else can take over. Another occasion when it’s good to bring in an interim is if you have a critical vacancy and can’t wait for a recruitment process that can take up to 6-9 months, then it’s very valuable to bring in an experienced and competent leader who keeps the operation going and leads the team. That person can also support the new manager during a transition period.”

What is most important when leading change?

”Change leadership has a lot to do with your personality; you need to be honest and clear and show what is important right now, give responsibility, opportunities, and trust to be part of the change. I think you must describe the journey in a way that the employees have a choice to join or step off, but that I need you and hope you choose to join. It’s also incredibly important to choose the right people for the project and have internal ambassadors. Focus on individuals’ success and celebrate milestones!”

What are you especially proud of in your career?

”I think you should be proud of all the good things you have achieved and for everything you have learned from your mistakes. If I have to choose two very special assignments for me, one would be Chief of Surgery at Capio Sankt Goran where, despite all scepticism from the surgeons, I gained their trust and respect, and we managed to turn around the clinic’s finances and efficiency to everyone’s satisfaction. The other assignment must be the New Karolinska program. An immensely complex program with major technical and logistical challenges combined with many expectations and demands to manage from politics, board, and management, Karolinska Institute, the operation, and the media. The media mostly liked to write negatively about the project, but the fact is that it was delivered on time and with a very good result. But most of all, I am proud of the things I have accomplished together with my teams in all assignments. Leading change, winning together, that’s what matters to me!”

You have led large and complex projects that require a lot of focus, what do you do to recharge when you’re off work?

”I enjoy playing the guitar! Other interests include golfing and spending time discussing with my wife. I’m a sports enthusiast and played bandy and soccer when I was younger, and skiing is a big interest. We go skiing for a few weeks every year and will soon travel to our favourite place.”

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