PEOPLE should never be judged by their age but in a holistic manner — spirit and mental agility. Orie Andari Sutadji, the president director of PT ASKES (Persero), is a striking example of this. It would appear that Orie never runs out of energy. She is seen as being so determined that colleagues have nicknamed her the “Iron Mare” after Britain’s “Iron Lady”, Margaret Thatcher.
Luckily Orie is fond of horses and horse ornaments of various sizes and materials are scattered throughout her spacious office. Her stamina makes it apparent that the Ministry of Health made no mistake in appointing Orie to manage state-owned PT ASKES health insurance firm. The company provides health insurance to around 14 million civil servants, pensioners, members of the Indonesian Military/Police Force, veterans and 1.5 million private sector workers and their families.
Today PT ASKES, which has millions of participants, needs someone not only knowledgeable about health matters and insurance but who is also reliable and has strong leadership skills. The giant task became even greater recently when the government assigned PT ASKES to handle health insurance for the country’s 60 million poor people.
Therefore, Orie could be viewed as the CEO of an insurance company with the biggest number of participants in Indonesia (over 74 million people or about 35 percent of the country’s population.)
All these health insurance participants are served by just 2,300 employees in 12 regional offices, 92 branch offices and 204 offices in regencies all over Indonesia. To overcome the shortage of human resources, PT ASKES recruits temporary employees, especially to deal with the poor.
How does Orie deal with this challenge? “Initially, honestly speaking, I was worried,” said Orie, a mother of three, when reminiscing about her first days as director of general affairs of PT ASKES. She was worried not because she was afraid but because, “I was worried I would not be able to meet the government’s expectations.”
Her worries were understandable because how pensioners fare lies in her hands. If she were to fail, it would affect millions of people. Her concerns were even more understandable given the fact that she was just a bureaucrat and PT ASKES had just been transformed from a state corporation to a limited liability company. “To manage a limited liability company, you need the spirit and enthusiasm of a professional, just like leading a profit-oriented private company,” she said, explaining that the greatest challenge was to transform her own paradigm and that of the people around her.
To this end, as her initial step, Orie revamped the human resources system in PT ASKES. First she changed the human resources assessment system usually adopted at government ministries and state-owned enterprises. The assessment method, which used to be based on rank or position, is now more complex as it encompasses an employee’s competence and performance.
This system helped Orie decide which people would remain at PT ASKES and who would be returned to their former ministries or accept early retirement. A number of employees protested her new policy, but Orie was firm in her decision. “I solved this problem by means of a golden shake hand,” said Orie, a 1974 medical graduate from Semarang’s Diponegoro University.
Thanks to her perseverance and other basic changes — Orie later received the Prof. AM Kadarman Award (in the category of Strategic Leader of Change in Market Development) from her alma mater, the IPPM institute of management, in 2006. She also introduced a new salary system at PT ASKES. “Competence helps determine a person’s salary, meaning that salary is no longer based on position alone,” said Orie, who was born in Purwokerto on Oct. 29, 1947.
Employees of PT ASKES now also have the opportunity to join a number of educational institutions. Under the new scheme, employees are paid according to competence and performance. This has borne fruit for Orie, who is still full of optimism and enthusiasm, and has seen her remain at the helm of PT ASKES for over 14 years, even though she should have retired in 2005 when she was 58.
Orie, who is married to Sutadji, said music brought balance to her life, which is filled with routine activities. “Sometimes I have missed things, like the times when I should have been with my children when they needed me,” she said.
However, she says it had a positive impact as it also made her children independent and they learned to solve problems on their own. Orie is successful in managing not only the company but also her family. She said she learned a lot from her mother, Soejati, in matters related to family management and firmness, and carefulness in taking action from her father, Soedirman Partosoepeno, a police officer who became a businessman later in life.
Regarding corporate management, Orie, who loves reading, said she did not adhere to any particular method. “I admire Steven R. Covey with his 7 Habits and 8 Habits or Philip Kotler, the world’s marketing guru, but still we have to adjust these theories with the real conditions in Indonesia and with the character of Indonesians,” she explained.
When asked for her opinion on how Indonesians view life, she said she was concerned that Indonesians did not pay attention to health and insurance matters. She is also worried about the lack of standardization in medical services, medical therapy and hospital rates. “This absence of standardization has led to high costs in the health sector as an unnecessary examination, for example, can be forced upon a patient. Some doctors write a prescription for expensive drugs even though cheaper drugs are available,” she said, partly blaming poor public awareness about health matters.
Orie expressed hope that PT ASKES would lead to the emergence of national health insurance in Indonesia. “I hope health insurance for all will one day no longer be a dream,” said Orie, a lover of light jazz.
As to her retirement years, Orie said she plans to continue contributing her ideas about health and health insurance. “Perhaps I will teach,” she said, adding that she had never aspired to be in the health or medical sector. “I used to dream about being an architect!” said Orie.
What about a president director? “I was born and bred in the small town of Kebumen in Central Java. I didn’t even dare dream about going abroad, let alone of being a president director!” she said. C’est la vie, Madame! (Arif T. Syam)
The Jakarta Post, March 28, 2007