In the highly competitive arena of pharmaceutical development and marketing, organizations aiming to keep pace must look
beyond their own backyards. Alliances between pharma and biotech companies, or between big pharmas and small, are commonplace
and increasing. The logic behind such teaming is clear: Each partner brings something of value to the table and, working together,
they create (at least theoretically) a stronger force and position themselves for greater results through strategic collaboration.
As pipelines need fuel to sustain profitability and growth, organizations look to ensure competitive advantage by joining
with an ally to co-develop and co-promote products, leveraging each other's strengths and building on mutual opportunities.
Case Study: A Tale of Two Cultures
We understand why alliances are formed. The continuing question is: How can companies best prepare and sustain their alliance
teams for success?
One of the biggest challenges in creating successful alliance teams is the ability of brand and senior management from each
company to understand and manage the issue of cultural compatibility. "It takes two to tango," says the old adage. But what
happens if one partner excels at tap-dancing, while the other prefers a stately waltz? At best, there's the chance for each
to learn some new steps; at worst, the partners won't even agree on what tune to play.
Culture is "the integrated pattern of human behavior that includes thought, speech, action, and artifacts." Or, as Marvin
Bower, former managing director of McKinsey & Company once said: "It's the way we do things around here." Extending to alliances,
it's how the behaviors, values, and operating procedures of two separate entities interact.
Reading the Culture
Effective teamwork doesn't happen by accident. Ignoring cultural issues overlooks the fact that however strategic and viable
the mission at hand, it's up to the people involved in the alliance team, with all their individual talents, skills, foibles,
and tendencies, to align and move forward on the shared agenda thrust upon them. The lawyers who wrap up the deals on alliance
contracts are understandably focused on the bottom line—specifically, how will this deal enhance the company's financial performance?
Meanwhile, the joint team tapped to carry out the deal is subject to a host of pressures, the most fundamental of which is
that their ability to get work done together—as a team—will determine their ultimate success.
Once a deal is in place, close and immediate attention to potential cultural issues confronting an alliance team offers a
huge jump-start toward success. Too often, however, no attention is paid. The alliance is announced. Individuals from each
side are thrown, willingly or otherwise, into the fray. Groups of functional experts from each company are now expected to
work in lockstep, as a team—collaborating, communicating, managing conflict, making decisions, effecting strategy—without
regard to how such operational procedures are normally conducted within each respective camp. Certain "mechanical" processes,
such as forecasting, budgeting, information technology systems, usually have to be put in place right away. Yet the team itself
is expected to "bond" and "grow together" without even the corporate equivalent of a ceremonial "Kumbaya" around the campfire
to commemorate the union.