The pharmaceutical and biotech industries have undergone a great deal of change over the last decade. With companies looking to increase their market share and competing on an international stage, they’ve engaged in an unprecedented wave of mergers and acquisitions, resulting in many creative smaller companies being incorporated into larger, more static organizations. They now face the challenge of implementing strategies to harness that innovative spirit while still addressing the ongoing needs of an established, multinational company.
In order to achieve success in this era of rapid and sweeping change, pharma companies will need to identify and promote the next generation of agile leaders. Agile leaders set themselves apart from their peers by their ability to balance the most important components of organizational effectiveness. Agile leaders:
- Connect with others, allowing them to inspire, influence, and foster a collaborative environment while also setting a tone for the organization.
- Adapt, recognizing changing dynamics and adjusting rapidly to overcome challenges, reimagine strategic direction, and propel transformation throughout an organization.
- Deliver, driving performance and generating consistent, reliable results by investing in the right accelerators and cultivating high-performing teams committed to creating value for customers and shareholders.
Here are a few ways that pharma companies can foster and promote agile leadership:
1: Emphasize Innovation
Technology is transforming the pharma industry in fundamental ways. Not only is it making new advancements in drug research possible and expanding the marketing and distribution reach of major companies, customers around the world are using technology to become better, more informed consumers. This combination means that pharma leaders must leverage technology to facilitate innovative research while also controlling costs to remain competitive in the global market.
Pharma companies need to prepare and empower their leaders to identify and implement these strategies. Rather than dismissing such ideas out of hand, companies should embrace creative solutions that improve services and creates an agile workplace that allows them to get products to market faster.
2: Promote Systems Thinking
There are few industries more complex than the pharma industry. With companies forced to deal with a wide array of national health providers around the world while also complying with a dizzying variety of drug regulations and patent laws, even a minor oversight could cost millions in lost profits. Furthermore, many pharma companies are sprawling, multinational organizations with multiple departments and divisions that sometimes don’t have an infrastructure in place to coordinate strategy. In such a complicated environment, a single action might impact many areas or have unintended consequences.
These companies need to enable leaders to take a holistic view of their operations. A systems thinking approach, which considers how different policies, procedures and processes within an organization interact, can help agile leaders to anticipate the potential consequences of any decision. Understanding these connections allows them to develop more effective strategies for an agile workplace and maximize existing resources without compromising other aspects of the business.
3: Provide Feedback
The pharma industry can’t afford to wait for its ideal leaders to emerge out of thin air; it will have to take an active role in developing them. One of the qualities that sets agile leaders apart is their degree of self-awareness, which allows them to understand their own emotions and motives. A self-aware leader is less likely to be influenced by personal bias and also appreciates how others perceive them. This combination allows them to make better decisions and deal with people more effectively.
Feedback assessments are one of the most effective tools for developing this sense of self-awareness. Providing comprehensive feedback from multiple sources helps agile leaders to understand their strengths and weaknesses, which in turn enables them to make the necessary adjustments to improve their performance. When GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) found itself struggling to engage its aspiring second line leaders, it partnered with OnPoint Consulting to develop an assessment program that provided a developmental feedback report to participants. This integrated report helped them to create professional development plans in consultation with management. The program increased engagement and retention, and many participants moved on to key leadership positions at GSK.
4: Lead by Example
Many pharma companies will need to undergo significant change in the coming years if they’re going to remain competitive and profitable. Change is difficult in the best of circumstances, but some companies will be forced to undergo these change initiatives under the duress of falling profits and organizational mergers. To help drive these changes successfully, pharma companies need leaders who employees and other stakeholders can trust. Agile leaders can create a reputation for integrity by keeping and honoring commitments, taking responsibility for their actions, and acting in ways that are consistent with their stated values.
Organizations need to invest in developing aspiring, high-potential leaders who demonstrate the attitudes and behaviors that lead others to trust them. These agile leaders can use their ability to connect with others to help secure the necessary buy-in for important change initiatives and reassure stakeholders throughout the difficult process of transformation.
5: Reward Risk
Decades of status quo bias and cost containment strategies has led many pharma companies to neglect the research that they depend upon for future success. With the patents on their most profitable exclusive drug treatments set to expire within the next few years and few innovative new drugs in the pipeline to replace them, these companies stand to lose billions of dollars. Pharma companies can’t afford to stand still. They must work to develop the innovative new products that can carry them through the coming decades.
Rather than being risk averse, they must look for the agile leaders who are willing to take risks and potentially fail rather than cling to the status quo bias that discouraged risky and expensive research. Agile leaders possess the adaptability that allows them to learn from failure, making it more likely that they will push toward more acceptable solutions in the future.
The pharma industry stands on the brink of monumental change and it will need agile leaders to develop and implement the strategies that will help companies secure long-term success. By taking steps to develop and promote employees who possess the key competencies of agile leadership, pharma companies can put themselves on solid footing with an eye toward a prosperous future.