Talent, Terror, and the Turnaround - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Talent, Terror, and the Turnaround

Pharmaceutical Executive


William Looney
OUR LEAD FEATURE THIS MONTH ON 15 NEW EMERGING PHARMA LEADERS is a window into what makes our publication unique. In 2007, Pharm Exec began a systematic annual search to identify and highlight those men—and women—that in our purely editorial view had real prospects for a future key to the "c suite." Two of our early choices—Sanofi's Chris Viehbacher and Heather Bresch of Mylan—have made it to the very top, as CEO.

More important, however, is the way in which each year's list serves as an indicator of wider trends in management priorities and the culture of the workplace. Early lists anticipated the rise of new strategic functions like supply chain management, market access, compliance, and chief information officer. Our selections also track the industry's gradual acceptance of leadership diversity, with the growing representation of women countered by a still sketchy rate of progress among minorities. Broader still, this year's list provides a backdrop to the immigrant experience, particularly in how the contributions of newcomers adds to our nation's capacity to innovate.

And outside interests for this multinational group range from the new age virtues of meditation to advocacy for same sex marriage. This represents a near seismic shift away from that clich fixation of previous generations of industry management: collecting mulligans on the golf course.

These important indicators of cultural change are reinforcing the transition in Big Pharma away from the "era of expertise," where tenure and technical skills drove performance, to the "era of behavior," where intuition and people skills are prized assets. If the markets today provide no clear direction, then leadership is less about commanding the ship than in being first to identify trends, spot problems, and shape better questions that at least help define what needs to be done. A focus on behavior also means that interdependence and collaboration are key drivers of process, while ethics has to be treated as an element of business performance rather than a legal or public relations sidebar.

Pharm Exec's second feature this month reinforces this view of living in an age of impermanence, one where literally anything can happen. Two international experts in crisis management take a close look at the industry's vulnerability to organized or individual random acts of terror, politically-motivated disruptions, or more conventional crimes of blackmail and theft—and find that company planning to mitigate these threats is spotty because it fails to contemplate the unthinkable. The industry's weakest link is its own supply chain, the disruption of which can cause incalculable harm to physical assets and human life but also impairs something as basic as trust—the very foundation of that legal right we call "license to operate."

The US FDA and other regulatory agencies are openly expressing concern about how computer "malware" can with a single keystroke transform medical devices into weapons that kill or maim, or confound drug prescriptions to facilitate inappropriate dosing, endangering public health. And one unheralded manifestation of the global economic slowdown since 2008 is the explosion of black market trading in sub-standard goods. Europol, the European crime-fighting agency, states that trade in counterfeit medicines and foodstuffs has doubled in the region since the recession hit.

To counter the threats, the story recommends major investments in scenario planning focused on avoiding that "failure of imagination" which leads to silo gaps across the organization and less readiness to face an emergency. Another point is expanding the human resources function's capabilities in screening recruits and identifying employees who may wish harm to the company, other employees, or top executives.

Finally, we present an industry newcomer's perspective on fostering innovation within the cultures of Big Pharma. While the biopharmaceutical sector depends on innovation for its very existence, the high failure rate on new compounds suggests that it knows little on how practically to achieve it—at least in a way that is consistent with the expectations of shareholders. Cegedim Relationship Management VP Richie Etwaru applies learnings from the retail financial sector to underscore how Big Pharma's future depends on forging a bigger emotional bond with providers and patients. The evidence-based, scientific biases of the industry too often forgets that pharma, like banking, is a "people" business. That hard factual core must be balanced with a soft personal encounter. After all, who doesn't identify with the desire for good health?

Until next month.








William Looney Editor-in-Chief
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