Marvin Weinman: From Corporate Australia to Outcomes Australia

Does your workplace promote a healthy work environment for its staff? Did you know that a positive work environment increases output while lowering absenteeism, bad performance, and health conditions?

Today I spoke with Marvin Weinman. Marvin is a company director and business advisor with over 20 years of experience managing companies in several countries such as Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. With a track record of driving major change and improvement programs, his executive experience includes the MD of George Weston Foods. He was Managing Director of Boral Building products with sales of over $1.2 billion and he served as general manager for Laminex Industries and Formica Asia.

Join me as Marvin and I discuss how managing directors deal with the corporate environment and change and how people as senior in the corporate world as Marvin do after they retire. We also speak about Outcomes Australia, Sharelife, and his program Tune in to know more about these non-profit organisations and why they’re important!

Marvin Weinman: From Corporate Australia to Outcomes Australia

Well, our focus today is on managing company health, why the health of your workforce matters, managing change within an organisation and working at the highest level of corporate Australia, and what you do with those skills once you leave the corporate world. My guest today is Marvin Weinman. Marvin has been Managing Director of companies that you would recognise probably in your house right now, building materials from the company. Marvin was managing director of Boral Building Products with a turnover about $1.2 billion a year. Another company that he was Managing Director of is George Weston Foods, with a turnover of $1.6 billion a year. So he’s been involved in some very big companies. And he was responsible, I mean, George Weston Foods was responsible for producing many familiar, in fact, iconic brands you would certainly be familiar with in the middle aisles of the supermarket.

Marvin’s track record of driving major change and improvement programmes, and his senior executive experience give us a unique insight and a unique perspective. And once he left the corporate world, he also decided to develop a strong community interest. He’s a former Director of the Garvan Research Foundation and the former Chairman of Transplant Australia. He is also the Founder and Chairman of Outcomes Australia. Now the Outcomes Model was developed on the basis that existing successful solutions to commonly occurring global problems can be identified and then used in Australia. Rather than reinventing the wheel, find out what’s best and bring it to this country and make it work.

He’s also Chairman of Sharelife. Now Sharelife was established to ensure that Australians have the same access to organ transplantations as the citizens of the world’s leading countries. It’s rather sobering to learn that Australians are dying simply because there are not enough organs from deceased organs available for transplantation. I think you would be quite shocked and we will have a survey at the end of this podcast, which I encourage you to have a look at. You may have ticked the box that you’re an organ donor, but you’re really not. You’ve just made yourself available. The story is a little more disturbing than that, so we cover quite a range of topics. I hope you enjoyed this conversation I had with Marvin Weinman.

Podcast Transcript

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to Unstress. My name is Dr Ron Ehrlich. I’d like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which I’m recording this podcast, the Gadigal People of the nation, and pay my respects to their Elders – past, present and emerging.

Well, our focus today is on managing company health, why the health of your workforce matters, managing change within an organisation and working at the highest level of corporate Australia, and what you do with those skills once you leave the corporate world. 

My guest today is Marvin Weinman. Marvin has been Managing Director of companies that you would recognise probably in your house right now, building materials from the company. Marvin was managing director of Boral Building Products with a turnover about $1.2 billion a year. Another company that he was Managing Director of is George Weston Foods, with a turnover of $1.6 billion a year. So he’s been involved in some very big companies. And he was responsible, I mean, George Weston Foods was responsible for producing many familiar, in fact, iconic brands you would certainly be familiar with in the middle aisles of the supermarket. 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:01:18] Marvin’s track record of driving major change and improvement programmes, and his senior executive experience give us a unique insight and a unique perspective. And once he left the corporate world, he also decided to develop a strong community interest. 

He’s a former Director of the Garvan Research Foundation and the former Chairman of Transplant Australia. He is also the Founder and Chairman of Outcomes Australia. Now the Outcomes Model was developed on the basis that existing successful solutions to commonly occurring global problems can be identified and then used in Australia. Rather than reinventing the wheel, find out what’s best and bring it to this country and make it work.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:02:06] He’s also Chairman of Sharelife. Now Sharelife was established to ensure that Australians have the same access to organ transplantations as the citizens of the world’s leading countries. It’s rather sobering to learn that Australians are dying simply because there are not enough organs from deceased organs available for transplantation. 

I think you would be quite shocked and we will have a survey at the end of this podcast, which I encourage you to have a look at. You may have ticked the box that you’re an organ donor, but you’re really not. You’ve just made yourself available. The story is a little more disturbing than that, so we cover quite a range of topics. I hope you enjoyed this conversation I had with Marvin Weinman.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:02:35] How does the health and wellness of your employees impact a CEO? How do you approach that in a company?

Marvin Weinman: [00:03:03] Okay, health and wellness is a critical financial matters. It’s also an issue of employees’ welfare and so on. But on the question of financial impact, if you’re having a lot of accidents in your factories, guess what? Your premiums go up and that affects your bottom line. It’s the same if your factories are down a lot. You will then experience substantial premiums and loss of shareholder value and profits and so on. 

So the object of the exercise is to be able to institute very strong prevention strategies for both our health and safety, on maintenance. In factories, they’re just two examples of where a company has a commercial interest in ensuring that there are effective preventative measures in place.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:04:08] I know you mentioned premiums as being a major issue, and that was something that I hadn’t really thought of. Are insurance premiums for occupational health and safety workers a major expense the company has?

Marvin Weinman: [00:04:24] Absolutely. It’s not just the premiums. It’s also well, you’re also having to pay employees for lost time injuries. And if they’re quite serious, you’re paying a lot of money over a long period of time and it’s having a significant impact on the employee. And you’re also short an employee in a specific role, so you’re missing out on expertise, experience, and so on. 

So there’s a whole, you know, everything seems to dovetail around the need for corporates to focus on preventative maintenance, preventive health, and safety. We don’t want people to get injured and there’s a whole bunch of measures she could use to do that. There’s work practises, there’s equipment. You don’t want to have equipment that exposes people to danger in a factory or in an office, for that matter. 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:05:27] Stress is another thing that I think is a major issue for all of us in life, but particularly within the work situation. And I know that you introduced me to the fact that there’s a difference between a treatment philosophy and a preventive philosophy. Can you explain that in a corporate sense?

Marvin Weinman: [00:05:44] Yeah. Well, you know, again, my experiences are in a corporate area that I’ve learnt a lot as an individual and you know, I’m looking at changes in the community and so on. I’ve become very sensitised to that. The important thing is that in Australia if I could give you one example, there’s a very heavy focus on treatment. 

So you fall off the cliff, the health system will treat you, and then they’ll put you back on the cliff saying a little while later you fall off the cliff again. So they’ll take you and put you back on the cliff, then, Ron is a very smart guy. And he says, “Why don’t you build a fence so I don’t fall off the cliff?”.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:06:36] Right. 

Marvin Weinman: [00:06:37] And this is one of the biggest dilemmas we have in our health system, because as a result of that, just to give you a measure of our entire health budget, only 2% is on prevention. Okay. That is not a good thing for the community. It’s not a good thing for the health system in terms of giving ensuring that people have sustainable access to the sort of health services that you and I have enjoyed. So I’m thinking about my kids. I’m thinking about my grandchildren.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:07:14] Hmm. But this is interesting because you draw the analogy with the health system. That is definitely true. We have a disease management system. We spend very little on prevention. Are our corporations largely reactive or proactive when it comes to engaging with people’s health?

Marvin Weinman: [00:07:34] I think I would say that in the, you know, many years ago, they weren’t reactive. You could almost think that corporates didn’t really worry about the health of their employees. That has changed dramatically because, as I said, there are financial drivers to enhance your prevention strategies. And, you know, people don’t like to… 

You know, we’re community-minded people, so we don’t like to see families destroyed by disease or injuries, etc. More recently, you’ve seen a very good example of this with COVID. I think the corporate community probably went over the guidelines that the government laid down. People worked at home. People who came in were forced to wear masks. 

And even today, the practises in corporate have changed as a result of the pandemic. People are still working from home, and there’s been an incredible increase in the awareness by both the corporate and the employees about the need to, you know, to be careful to take preventative measures rather than waiting till you got COVID. So you got to go to a hospital.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:09:07] Hmm. No, no, go. Look.

Marvin Weinman: [00:09:09] So. You know, it’s both a community-driven thing. And after all the people running corporations, they’re also members of the community.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:09:18] Yeah. With families, with their own health issues, with, you know. So this is a win-win. Being proactive, being preventative in your approach is a win-win, not just for the individuals at all levels, but for the corporation as well.

Marvin Weinman: [00:09:34] Yeah. And you know, I found it interesting when I read your book about stress-free living if you like. And when I thought about the experiences I’ve had with change. Change is probably the most significant factor in driving stress. And just as there are preventative things you do in regard to health and so on, the way in which you manage change is a major factor in minimising stress.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:10:11] You drew the distinction between improvement and change. And I wondered if you could just share with us about that.

Marvin Weinman: [00:10:21] Okay. Well, again, I think I should tell you at the start, I’m not a genius and I didn’t learn about the change in textbooks and so on. It’s when you have too many you know, I’m not very good at personal change. I need to lose weight and I need some support in doing that.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:10:43] Mm hmm. 

Marvin Weinman: [00:10:44] But when you’re trying to manage eight and a half thousand people in a change programme, you start to really understand what it is that drives it. And as you’ve noted, I’ve been managing director of three corporations and they’re all in completely different industries.

One was decorative surfaces, one was bricks and pavers and our customer-based were builders, and the third one was completely out of the left field. It was George Weston Foods, which is a consumer-branded product business. 

We had the number one food brand in Australia at the time, which was Tip Top bread. Coca-Cola was the number one beverage brand. So, you know, when you’re looking at transition and change, even as a managing director, you have to go in with certain learnings and certain knowledge about how to drive change in a way that minimises the stress of the employees and so on.

Marvin Weinman: [00:11:52] When you talk about improvement, you find a lot of organisations, whether they’re businesses or charitable organisations, are doing very well. And when you’re doing very well, you actually don’t want a major change programme, you know, as long as your shareholders are happy and in the community, your shareholders are part of the community in a business, they’re the people who invest in your company. 

And so you would tend to bring in people who are or you have people running the business who maintain stability and do enhancements of the status quo. Small changes settle them in. Change again. But when you have a shareholder revolution because the returns are unacceptable, then you need change. 

And the practises in change are so different because what’s important is you can keep improving, but your competitive advantage might be deteriorating because your competitors are changing much quicker, much more significantly. They might be bringing in new technologies, you’ve got old equipment, and so on. So even though you’re improving, you’re going out of business. So that’s when corporates and shareholders demand change.

Marvin Weinman: [00:13:20] Now what’s interesting is that the business community learnt this, that 30 or 40 years ago. Because they started to understand we had a lot of corporate takeovers and so on. They started to really understand that if you wanted change, you had to break away from the status quo. 

So you couldn’t do it with the people who were in the company that was beholden to each other, beholden to past practises, because you wanted to change that. So you had to bring in people from outside. And that has been a major success factors for those businesses that have gone through a major transition. It also explains why I was recruited to run three completely different businesses.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:14:11] Yeah, well, you started with Luminex, which was taken over by ACI, and then you went to Boral, as you said, a building company. I mean, they had $1,000,000,000 plus sales and then George Weston Foods, which I think are major manufacturers of processed foods. But I’m not going to hold that against you. But interestingly, $1.8 billion worth of sales there. I mean, these were all big companies. And how effective is change management in that corporate setting?

Marvin Weinman: [00:14:44] Well, let me kind of describe to you what you’re walking into when you come into a completely different industry and you’re taking over a company that has to change and has to change quickly. So generally, when I was appointed to these roles, they made an announcement. “We are trying to do 15 years of change and five or two years into it. And so we’ve brought in Marvin Weinman because he’s got a successful record of change.” And I always say to people on my first morning in the new business, how many people do you think greeted me with a hug? And you can imagine there wasn’t anybody. 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:15:31] Yeah.

Marvin Weinman: [00:15:31] Except for probably my new PA.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:15:35] That would have been a given. That I think that’s a given. 

Marvin Weinman: [00:15:38] Right. So that’s where you’re starting. And you then have to deal with people who have been in roles for a long time and don’t want to disrupt their power base, the way in which they run their business, the loyalty of their management, and so on. So you can imagine walking into, let’s say, George Weston Foods and going to visit the guy who’s run the bakery in Sydney for 20 years. 

And the immediate reaction you get is like, “What if I’ve come from Boral? Like, what do you know about baking bread?” And you know, my answer was fundamentally not very much, but if we don’t get the performance up, then there’s going to be severe consequences. And the changes that would impact you and the employees are not desirable. They will cause enormous stress and so on. 

So you got to try and get people to be comfortable with change. And to do that, they have to understand that there are certain principles and that doing nothing is not an option. And there had to learn how to do this on the fly, because you’re dealing with a lot of different employees, different people with different agendas. And so you kind of work through how to change the groups. And it starts with trying to change people at the top level.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:17:15] But you also mentioned, I mean, buy in you made your presence felt on the shop floor literally, didn’t you?

Marvin Weinman: [00:17:22] Well, that’s a very good point. I think that is the key. One of the lessons I learnt early on is most CEOs will bring in their management team and say, “Okay, this is what we have to do.” And because most initiatives are going to come from head office, if you like, in a change situation, and they then think, “Okay, my job’s done. I’ve spoken to my senior management, they get it.” And so on. 

The point is, at that point in the process, there’s been zero shareholder value created. The shareholder value only gets created when there are changes at the coalface, the factory workers, the sales reps. It’s only when they change. And so essentially what you were relying on is that your management team, who weren’t really hot to try to get change in the first place, are going to actually drive the change agenda in a proper way with their employees. 

So I found that wasn’t enough to just get your management team on the side. But I, you know, I developed certain techniques for actually getting right down to the factory floor, getting them to understand who we are, what we’re going to do. And the predictability is what minimises some of the stress. And you want to try and create an environment which is stress-free as much as possible. You do that with your patients. 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:19:03] Hmm.

Marvin Weinman: [00:19:03] I can speak from personal experience. It’s no different when you’re dealing with, you know, a bunch of employees.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:19:12] Yeah. 

Marvin Weinman: [00:19:12] If I could maybe just tell you one little story. 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:19:14] Yes, please.

Marvin Weinman: [00:19:15] So when I arrived at George Weston Foods the first morning I had to sign documents as a director and so on. And then I call. I hadn’t met anybody except for my P.A. I walked in, so I called up one of the… We had ten divisions. One was bread, one was biscuits, probably ate a lot of our wagon wheels in those days. 

One was Don Smallgoods. I called up the biscuit general manager who had met yet, and I said, “Can you do me a favour? Can you send one of your sales reps into head office?” You know, because I’m the new M.D., a sales rep arrived and she was this young lady and she came and she never met a managing director in her life. And so when she came into my office and she was probably full of stress, let me tell you, I then said to her, I picked up my jacket.

 I said, “Okay, I’m coming out on the road with you for the day and I’m going to make all your sales calls with you. I want to learn what you actually do.” And so we went and made calls on Woolworths and Coles and her other clients. And each time I would say to the manager of the supermarket, “You know, it’s my first day as MD. I’m here with so-and-so, you know, you have to give her a bigger order than normal.”

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:20:41] It’s a tough sales job.

Marvin Weinman: [00:20:42] Yeah. Anyhow, that. And throughout the day in the car, I kept talking to her, about why I’m there, why we need to change, how we’re going to be better off if we do change how we’re going to be worse off if we don’t change. And then at about 5:00, she dropped me back at head office and off she went. 

And the first question I would ask you is, what do you think she did when she got back into her car? She got on the phone and the telegraph went to work. But now they were hearing it directly from me. There was nobody editing what I was saying. So that’s a little call it a trick or initiative that I used. 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:21:29] But it’s buy in at the ground level. It’s it’s connecting and actually identifying what people who you are in charge of are actually doing. Yeah, it’s understanding them.

Marvin Weinman: [00:21:41] Well it’s, it’s understanding them. But the key thing is they have to understand the consequences or the benefits of participating in change and what it actually means, what it you know, there are certain cultural things that have to be you know, you’re going sometimes you walk into a cult that an autocratic view of an organisation that doesn’t work with change you need to get everybody’s buy in. 

And so it, it sounds strange to you but it, it’s a more democratic process that’s needed. Not an audit. It’s not you will change your house. Although I have to tell you, through my career I coined a particular phrase at the end of it, I said, “If you can change the people, change the people.” So because I was very I’m very much people’s person, I probably went over the line on trying to change people, but sometimes they just weren’t going to change for a whole range of reasons. And when that happens, then you have to change the people.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:22:58] People are changing their jobs a lot now. I mean, that’s a big deal. What’s going on there? Why? Why what are they doing?

Marvin Weinman: [00:23:08] Okay. Well, you know, that’s I’ve now become very interested in that whole space. And I’ve been working with some leading researchers and academics in the US at Harvard, USC, and my own observations, if you like, and fundamentally what’s happened is the world around us is changing and it’s changing quickly. I remember when I graduated from university and I’m 74, so it was a long time ago, people, if you got an accounting degree, for example, you then got a job as an accountant in an accounting firm or in a corporate. And you’re generally you were in the same job for 35 years. 

Then you got a gold watch and you retired. And the interesting thing is the only management tool change that you had to make was to go from a calculator to a PC. But the PC was loaded with software. So fundamentally, all you were doing instead of punching a calculator, you were punching a keyboard. So, you know, it was a very stable kind of thing and probably people were a lot less stressed and so on.

Marvin Weinman: [00:24:23] Today, things are changing so quickly, the management tools are changing. I would really struggle to run a company now, given all the technology that’s around all the digital stuff. And so you’re kind of in a situation where you have to continuously develop yourself. 

In the early part of my generation, people got a university degree and that’s all they needed for the rest of their career. That was their platform. Today by the time you finish your degree already the management tools have changed and you’re seeing an impact of this. You’re seeing the fact that people are changing.

Marvin Weinman: [00:25:06] Young people particularly are changing jobs every two or three years. In my day, I remember when I was recruited by one of the reasons, apart from saying I had a good change management record, they said, “Oh Marvin’s been with one company for 20 years now.” If they say that about you, you can forget about getting another job because you’re not actually bolting on new skills. 

New capabilities, which is what… Companies don’t want, just an account. They want somebody who’s going to contribute in different ways to their business. So what’s happening when people leave university, they can only develop by changing jobs, if you like. And so somebody who works for a manufacturing company says, “Okay, I’m going to get a job with Facebook.” Three years later, and they just keep bolting on new experiences and they develop a much more suitable background to that which corporates need. Now the consequences of that. 

Marvin Weinman: [00:26:14] Now that’s positive. The impact of that is very interesting because what happens is because people who are today say 50, have become a large to a large extent redundant because they cannot develop at the pace that people below them are developing. And so they just don’t have all the skills to do the job at a higher level than they have in the past. And so I can tell you an interesting story. 

I was speaking to a professor emeritus at University of California who’s an expert on burnout. And so she says to me, “I’ll tell you an interesting story, Marvin. I was speaking to a CEO of a company and he said burnout is not necessarily a bad thing. Why is that? Because it allows corporates to call employees.” Not because in the old days there were people who got fired or retrenched or whatever because they were either lazy or they didn’t work hard. They didn’t put in the hours, if you like. Today, that’s not the case. 

Marvin Weinman: [00:27:34] Today it’s because they just haven’t been able to develop at the same pace as others beneath them. And so corporates are saying, well, if we want if our goal is to optimise the returns to shareholders, then we need to have people who are at the peak of using all the management tools available to achieve that goal. And so what happens is when people stop doing that, then there’s a productivity issue. 

And so what corporates have been doing is they send their employees who’ve been with the company for a while who’s kind of hit that snag, and they send them into what’s called outplacement. And outplacement, the company funds it. And basically, you get in office so you’re not in the corporation and people help you with your CV and so on. But that is not helping people with emotional change. 

They’ve lost relevance. They’ve lost their belonging. And also, it has a major impact on friendship, because every time you change jobs, you build up a new group of friends. You still have some of your social friends, but now you have a new. But if you change jobs four or five times and usually changing locations, there’s a major impact. 

And people need that social interaction if you like. So it’s a real problem now. And as I’ve said, I’ve been working with these people and we’re actually looking at medicine, if you like, that will assist people to cope with the transition into the next phase of their life.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:29:33] We’re not talking about a pharmaceutical product. No, we’re talking about a process of, well, a preventive rather than just coming in, being proactive about this stage in a person’s life.

Marvin Weinman: [00:29:46] It’s giving people a tool to deal with this transition. Because when you actually think about it today, we are living longer and younger than my father’s generation. You know, when he was 65, that was like time to go into the departure lounge kind of thing. And, you know, look after the grandkids, watch Netflix or whatever and then die. You know, I’m 74 and my son keeps telling me I’m not acting my age because, you know.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:30:23] You’re an interesting example and actually a good case history of this because, you know, having been in such senior positions in such big companies and then coming to the end of that part of your career poses some real challenges, but also some real opportunities. Can you share with us what your own experience has been?

Marvin Weinman: [00:30:47] Well, I’ve been really lucky because my wife, when I was 54, my wife told me that if I didn’t retire by the age of 55, I’d be dead.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:30:56] Okay.

Marvin Weinman: [00:30:57] So that was pretty stunning. She’s probably right. I would have been. So I did retire and I decided to do some things, some private equity, do a little bit of community work, and play a lot of golf. And then through a set of circumstances, I got involved with an organisation that we then founded called Outcomes Australia. And what was interesting is, as I said earlier, what happens to people, it’s happening at a younger and younger age. People are so-called retiring or I referred to as going into the after-work phase of your life. People have the illness, if you like, the disease. 

And I can tell you, from all the work I’ve done, this disease is massive. Do you think COVID was big? There are 30 million people in the US on psychotropic drugs and it’s happening earlier or earlier. And what happens is three things, they lose their relevance. They lose their sense of belonging. And I’ve forgotten the third thing.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:32:11] Those two are pretty major. Yeah, those two are pretty major. 

Marvin Weinman: [00:32:14] But oh and you have then the threat of loneliness coming in because how are you going to make new friends? You’re no longer in a work environment and environments are what are conducive to establishing social interaction. 

I can actually recall a few weeks ago we were in Melbourne and which is where I came from after it came from Canada, but we went out to dinner with all the friends we’d had during that time in Melbourne and I looked around the tables and I noted that without exception every one of them was friends. We made them, my wife made through playgroups. Because when you think about it, that’s a common interest thing. And so people going to playgroups and then it’s let’s go out to dinner. I’ll bring my husband along.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:33:09] And then you’ ‘ve got kids of the same age… 

Marvin Weinman: [00:33:09] You right. 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:33:10] Those kids bring families together.

Marvin Weinman: [00:33:12] Exactly. So that’s an event in your life where you can reinvent yourself easily. It’s provided for by the community. School was another one where you reinvented yourself. So now we’ve gone into this thing that no, that society’s never experienced before, you know, have been living longer, younger. So when you think about it, between 50 or 55 and 80, today should be the time of your life, your kids off your hands.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:33:43] Mm hmm.

Marvin Weinman: [00:33:44] And it’s a matter of how to maintain your relevance. And if not, you know, drift into loneliness, drift into the departure lounge too early. I will probably go to the departure lounge after I’m 80, which is fine. Excuse me, but the important thing then, if you identify that is the problem, then the solution means that you have to actually reinvent yourself just like you did between school and your middle years. When your parents said to you, “Ron, now that you finish university, now it’s time to become responsible.” And it became married. House. Kids. Hmm. Patience. 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:34:30] Yeah. Yeah. Right. Yeah. 

Marvin Weinman: [00:34:32] So. One thing I forgot to mention, which is implied in change, is it’s important for people to want to change. And there are things you can do to encourage them, but they also have to be provided with tools. If you think about smoking, we’ve had a dramatic reduction in smoking and it was because of, you know, societal pressures. But we also had patches, we had tablets, we had hypnosis, and so on. 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:35:03] Plain packaging. 

Marvin Weinman: [00:35:04] Wrapped in packaging and horrific pictures on those days, which was a constant reminder. So, you know, when you actually look at where we’re at now as a society and as individuals who are, say, 50 and above, we actually also need tools. And that’s one of the things I’ve been working on with people, and I would encourage any of your listeners if they want to know more. We’ve got a website. It’s called

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:35:43] Right. 

Marvin Weinman: [00:35:44] Okay? 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:35:44] Yeah.

Marvin Weinman: [00:35:45] And if you register with that website, you will get access to a quiz which will open up your mind to some of the things I’ve been talking about. And, you know, it will afford you the opportunity to go on this journey. The unfortunate thing is that people this is one of the few areas where people cannot learn from their parents because their parents never experienced this.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:36:14] Yeah. Yeah. The precedent is it’s unprecedented where we’re at. And you mentioned well, you talking about burnout. And I know they’re talking about the great resignation as one thing that the last two years have done is it’s made, forced people to reflect. I mean, the fact that they haven’t had to commute, they realised what a price that pays. The fact that they were working till all hours is another price they pay. So burnout has become a major issue for not just 55 or 50 plus, but for everybody of every age.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:36:50] I mean, this, what are some of the things that people you know if they, if they were looking to that, what what what would they find it?

Marvin Weinman: [00:37:07] I’d like them to go in and then they will become, if you like, they will be communicated to on an ongoing basis that will take them into.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:37:21] Origins. 

Marvin Weinman: [00:37:22] Solutions, life. 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:37:23] Okay. But in your own particular case, you’ve got very involved in fact, you know, Outcomes Australia is a very big part of your life since, you know, in your retirement, your after-work. In your after work. Can you tell us a bit about Outcomes Australia? 

Marvin Weinman: [00:37:42] Yeah, well Outcomes Australia is very unusual. I wish I could tell you that I woke up one morning and I thought there’s a better way. And the problem we have is that the community has actually lost confidence in the Government’s ability to deliver. What outcomes Australia does is look at we only get involved in projects where the community is missing it. How do you know the community’s missing it? Because somebody else is getting something we’re not. 

And so therefore we’re not in the business of trying to develop solutions because we have 26 million experts in this country and that doesn’t really work. And so what we do is we look at proven leading practise, which has measurement and all that, and then we do due diligence on it, develop, look at its replicability in Australia because we have different laws and so on. And what we effectively do to do that is leverage, expertise and the best way to solve problems again to move from the status quo is not to do with the people who have had stewardship through the status quo. 

That’s why, you know, I’m working with you on things. And we have we don’t actually have any members. We don’t have any hierarchy. But we need certain expertise to look at something we get it and we basically form commando units, if you like, and they go and get things done. We don’t have administrative tasks, we don’t raise money. We just go and find proven leading resources. And then go get it funded. 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:39:37] I know, I know. One of the things the Outcomes Australia has been and you are very passionate about is organ transplantation, you know, organ transplant. And you have shared with me some statistics. Well, I’ve done a quiz and we will have a link to this quiz in this in the show notes here. But it shocked me and this is a really good example of not reinventing the will, but finding best practise and trying to introduce. Can you tell us a little bit about Sharelife?

Marvin Weinman: [00:40:08] Well, Sharelife, well, did exactly what I said. We identified the country. We at the time had an organ donation rate and I should say most people don’t know much about I didn’t know that organ donation or transplants.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:40:26] I mean, I’ve ticked the box on my licence and I thought that was it, you know, my organs are guaranteed to end up somewhere useful.

Marvin Weinman: [00:40:34] Yeah. And you assume the system is working?

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:40:36] Absolutely.

Marvin Weinman: [00:40:37] Well, that’s not the case at all. And the community is grossly misinformed, and misled, which poses a serious question about integrity.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:40:48] Not the integrity of the people who ticked the box.

Marvin Weinman: [00:40:50] No. It’s the integrity of the people.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:40:53] Who are delivering your organs.

Marvin Weinman: [00:40:55] That’s right. Who are actually supposed to be doing the leading practise system but aren’t really doing it. So when we got involved, we had nine donors per million people in Australia. When you do a transplant, depending on the organ, the success rate is 90 to 95%. 

When you think about it, there are very few medical interventions with that success rate and I don’t have to tell you what an impact it has on your lifestyle. Being on dialysis is terrible. Yeah, and I used to go and visit dialysis centres every Saturday morning to see the people because it kept my anger level. 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:41:33] Because this is you’re talking about kidney dialysis and yeah, from my understanding, correct me if I’m wrong, but what is a typical week in the life of a person on kidney dialysis look like?

Marvin Weinman: [00:41:45] Well, you have to dialyse for five or 6 hours, three times a week when you can get access to a dialysis machine.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:41:53] Wow.

Marvin Weinman: [00:41:54] And what it means is it’s very difficult to go for a holiday because you want to go up to the Gold Coast or something. You got to get access to a dialysis machine and they’re pretty much used all the time. If you’re lucky, you might get access between two in the morning and seven in the morning. If you like.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:42:12] So they’re going 24/7?

Marvin Weinman: [00:42:14] Yep, 24/7.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:42:15] And do you have the statistic about how many people in Australia on dialysis? I mean…

Marvin Weinman: [00:42:23] I just to give you an example and I really would like to speak to you at greater length, about that but just to give you two examples. In Australia, there are 14 and a half thousand people on dialysis and that’s going up because diabetes is going up, biggest cause of kidney failure, etc.. Now of the 14,000, how many do you think are on the waiting list? Most people I ask, you know the answers.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:42:52] Go on. Tell us.

Marvin Weinman: [00:42:53] Most people say all of them because that’s what you would think. [00:42:57][3.4]

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:42:57] Yeah.

Marvin Weinman: [00:42:58] In fact, there are only a thousand. Really, it’s about 8%. In 1999, we were at 26% of people on dialysis being on a waiting list. Right. We’re ranked 39th in the world on people on dialysis being on a waiting list as a proportion. 

So, you know, that’s one thing I don’t want to I’ll give you one other one. That is my favourite way to engage people. We have and it’ll refer to your question about registration. So in Australia, we have about 165000 people who die every year from all causes, road accidents, heart attacks, cancer, and eight and a half million Australians have registered to donate.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:43:53] Right. So, that is sort of what a third of the population have donated. So a third… 

Marvin Weinman: [00:44:01] Registered.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:44:02] Registered to donate, hadn’t donated, but of the 160,000, you would think a third of those would be potential donors.

Marvin Weinman: [00:44:10] So 40,000 or something? Yeah, the answer is this year was about 430 people donated. Now we think about that and you realise that we have eight and a half million people, registered people like you. And only 400 or so. And the government is telling people to speak to their family and register. Registration has not driven organ donation. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work that out. But anyhow, we should talk some more about that. 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:44:47] We will. We will. Coming back to the corporate, because I know that, you know, you’ve come into companies to affect change. And when there’s a crisis on I mean, that’s when change occurs. I mean, it is in health. 

Someone gets a diagnosis of cancer or out in the out of the bush, there’s a fire or there’s a drought or there’s a flood. And a crisis occurs and people change. How do you manage organisational change during a crisis in a corporation? Coming back to the corporate world. 

Marvin Weinman: [00:45:22] Okay, well, first of all, you’re starting off with everybody, the organisations in a status quo mode. You’re coming in to change the status quo. In the process of changing it, a crisis erupts. And what companies are doing now is really planning for a crisis, if you like. And so I remember in my day, we used to always have what I called a disaster plan. What happens if this happens? 

So that you can respond very quickly and sometimes you can actually put in some preventative measures. You don’t want to have a crisis. That’s the moral of the story. And so when a crisis happens, the first thing is to keep more people of thought. But what happens in different sorts of crises, the more easily and stress, less risk they will be in managing it. And you can learn a lot about this from the armed forces, for example. 

The worst thing that can happen is when people just go haywire and lose it and so on. So that’s where leadership is very important. It’s a matter of stabilising. I liken it to an ICU, for example. We have a very serious piece of surgery going to the ICU. And their job is to keep you in the game and then get you back to see your cardiologist or lung specialist or whatever. 

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:46:57] But this would come back to where we started this conversation with the difference between a treatment philosophy and a preventive philosophy. Because I’m guessing one really important part of the corporation is to build resilience into it.

Marvin Weinman: [00:47:14] Absolutely. It’s sustainability. It’s resilience, and predictability. It’s when I always used to say to people, I don’t like surprises. I don’t like bad surprises. And I also don’t like good surprises because a good surprise tells me you didn’t you’re not on top of what’s happening. And that’s a concern to me, if you like.

So, again, you know, I think we all do this in our homes. I mean, I don’t know if that thing up there is a smoke alarm. Okay. The fact that I have smoke alarms in the accommodation on gives me some comfort. It’s a preventative measure. I also know that you know, for example, I had an accident about 15 years ago and I had a cerebral haematoma and I lost my sense of smell. 

Okay, so now we’re done preventative measures with my wife. Because if we had a fire, I wouldn’t smell the smoke. Hmm. Okay. Equally, if things are past their use-by date in our fridge, I won’t be able to detect it unless I look at every label. So I’ve allocated that responsibility to my wife. And on the smoke, I’ve got smoke alarms all over the place.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:48:38] Yeah. Listen, I’m taking a step back from this final question, taking a step back from, you know, your role as a managing director in all these big companies. Now you’ll work with Outcomes Australia because we were all individuals on a healthy journey through life in this modern world. What do you think are the biggest challenges for people on that journey?

The Biggest Health Challenge

Marvin Weinman: [00:49:02] The biggest challenge is to become adaptable to change because when you go through your and people are really experienced this, they just don’t realise it. You know, the first stage in your life is childhood and adolescence and there are certain factors that drive or that dictate, you’re the criteria for success. 

You know, do you have a girlfriend? Boyfriend? You couldn’t marry captain of the cricket team or whatever. And then you move into the middle years. Now the criteria changed, and you have to reinvent yourself. You have to go from the university or high school or public school, whatever lifestyle. Now you’ve got all these other responsibilities.

 It’s a major issue. You want to talk about change? You know, marriage, children, house, job. It’s all hitting together. And that’s something a life less stressed is probably a useful thing to read. I know it’s made, even though I’ve had a lot of experience with change. You know, there’s certain little tips in here that have enhanced my knowledge.

Marvin Weinman: [00:50:15] But then you go into what I call the golden years. And the golden years used to last for one or two years. And then you went into the departure lounge. Today, the golden years are lasting for 25 years. That has a major impact on the economy and your own personal financial situation because when you’re in the golden years, you spend money. When you’re in the departure lounge, you don’t spend money. 

And you know, that’s where people in the previous generation said, I wanted to maintain my assets so I can leave it to my kids. Now I have to do less for 25 years, and there are a lot of things I want to do that cost money. But I can also do things that don’t cost a lot of money, but that is keeping me active, if you like, and keeping me socially active.

Marvin Weinman: [00:51:12] So, you know, I would say that reinventing yourself is something we do all our lives. It’s when you have kids. I talked about playgroups earlier and so on. Jobs. Now you’re having to reinvent yourself constantly while you’re working. Whereas before, you could be an accountant for35 years of life. 

So the skill is there. But it’s when you go into the Twilight Zone that people then say, How do I reinvent myself? The other phases are predictable. You can look around you here. This is new. You with me, people. I haven’t had to deal with this. The environment’s changed. You know, we’re living in a different world. And, you know, I think one of the things I’m doing with these other people in after work is to actually provide people with a tool.

Marvin Weinman: [00:52:12] First of all, they have to realise what their disease is. I know working with researchers, for example, they will provide very strong evidence on symptoms, depression, suicides, drugs, alcohol, etc.. 

Those are your symptoms and what do people do? They go into therapy. If you think about it, therapy just keeps you going from week to week. It’s not solving your problem, right? Or medication, anti-stress or anti-depressants, and so on. So I think what I’ve learnt is I’m very interested in this whole area because new and it’s different and it’s getting people to understand their disease, it’s getting them to understand the diagnosis. 

It’s what you do whenever I come to see you, right? If you get your diagnosis wrong, your treatment’s going to be wrong. So, you know, I would encourage people because it’s a journey we’re all going on and the answers will evolve and so on to, as I said before, go registered with

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:53:31] Yeah. Marvin, thank you so much for joining us today. And we will have links to

Marvin Weinman: [00:53:37] Yeah. Yeah. Thank you.


Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:53:43] Well, as I mentioned, Sharelife, the organ transplant story in Australia is actually a rather sobering one. And I will have links to that site. And you should really go in and fill out a questionnaire because one day you or one of your loved ones may be looking and needing an organ transplant as an organ transplant, and they are incredibly successful. 

I mean, the success rate is something like 90%, certainly when we’re talking about kidney transplants, and yet we have 8 million potential donors that have ticked the box. And yet you may be surprised to learn how many organ donations there actually do occur, remembering if there are 8 million donors. 

And really the sobering statistic is that 160,000 people die every year in Australia. You would think, well, there would be a lot of potential donors there. So there must be thousands of organ donations going on all the time. Well, fill out this questionnaire. You might be surprised and shocked. Anyway, I hope this finds you well. Until next time. This is Dr Ron Ehrlich. Be well. 



This podcast provides general information and discussion about medicine, health, and related subjects. The content is not intended and should not be construed as medical advice or as a substitute for care by a qualified medical practitioner. If you or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately qualified medical practitioner. Guests who speak in this podcast express their own opinions, experiences, and conclusions.