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Wednesday, 28 March 2012 02:45

Changing Big Pharma: People, Pace and Planning

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You chose your people because they love structure.
Don't expect them to love change, too.

Scarcely a day goes by that I don't read another article about the benefits of entrepreneurial thinking in the workplace and how fantastic it is.

change management in pharmaceutical industry

It's not unusual for change-based initiatives, even in large organizations, to start with this desire to be more 'entrepreneurial', to be more 'responsive' and 'nimble', and to tap into 'big thinking'.

That's great, as far as it goes - but when it comes to actually implementing business changes, things are a little more complicated.

The pharmaceutical industry isn't Silicon Valley

In the last 20 years, I've led a lot of change, transformation and training initiatives, both client-side and as a consultant.  During that time I've learned that it doesn't matter what the spreadsheet says will happen if you make some changes, your success ultimately depends on one factor:  People.

Different industries attract - and flourish with - different types of people.  While tech startups and ad agencies do best with people who like to think of themselves as highly dynamic, creative 'change agent' types, the pharmaceutical industry does better with structured thinkers who are comfortable with process and rules.

This isn't a bad thing:  The pharma industry is highly regulated, legislated and controlled, and it's important that serious rigor is brought to everything they do.  It's not unusual for a new product to spend 10-20 years in research and development before it launches, and I for one am happy about this - I'm much more comfortable knowing that the medicine I'm taking in the morning has had years of careful testing and scrutiny before it's hit the shelves.

However, this does have significant implications for change management within the pharma and healthcare environments, and it's important to address these.

Successful change within pharma

Ultimately, leading and managing change within pharma companies - especially large, global ones - comes down to addressing 3 key factors:

1.  People

Recognize that the majority of your employees are more comfortable with structure and an established set of parameters than they are with adapting to rapidly changing environments.

This doesn't mean they will be resistant to change efforts - they're more than intelligent enough to recognize the need for change - but it does mean that they may require more communication, more encouragement to become fully engaged, and more reassurance throughout the process.

2.  Pace

When you're working within a highly structured environment, it's important to understand that the pace of change may not be quite as fast as senior leadership would like.

Most pharma companies are, of necessity, large organizations that simply can't turn on a dime.  Trying to implement change too quickly can set the stage for failure; starting and stopping will cost you momentum and make it more difficult to engage employees.  Setting a realistic, steady pace for change from the beginning will go a long way to ensuring success.

3.  Planning

Half the battle in any successful change initiative is successful planning.  In the pharma industry, it's even more important to ensure that scope, requirements and expectations are established at the outset - and that there aren't dramatic changes of direction mid-stream.

You'll find your employees will be much more engaged and enthusiastic - and productive! - throughout the process when they feel that the change is unfolding as planned and that they can see a clear outcome.  After all, that's how they approach their own work.

Read 3992 times Last modified on Monday, 02 April 2012 16:18

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Beth Banks Cohn, PhD, founder and president of ADRA Change Architects, is dedicated to helping you and your organization reach your full business potential…
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