MVPs - Pharmaceutical Executive


To ramp up their operations around the world, companies need executives who can lead across cultures

Pharmaceutical Executive

The Business Benefit A discussion of what MVPs are begins with talking about what they are not. MVPs are not necessarily senior managers or those with formal positions of power. They are not just "high performers" or the "high potentials" in an organization, nor are they the "prima donnas"—those star employees that are really talented, but are so arrogant or self-centered that they are difficult to work with. Rather, MVPs go beyond results-driven numbers and create extraordinary value for the organization, and ultimately, for stockholders. Many companies think of MVPs as the top two to five percent of their employees. In other words, if you were at risk of losing 100 people, who are the two to five that you would protect at all costs? (See "Beyond Performance")

What is apparent to pharmaceutical executives and senior human resource managers is that the life science business is built upon ideas and skills that cannot be locked up at night. Managers are fearful of losing their top employees. In fact, they are so scared that, among all the companies approached for this article, no executive would name an MVP for the record, for fear that he or she may be poached. In essence, this shows that management understands MVPs are walking assets—they walk out the door every night and decide to walk back in each morning.

It is up to pharmaceutical companies to create their "must keep" list of MVPs and develop strategies for retaining them over the long term. What is interesting is that true MVPs are very committed to their organizations and are hard to poach. They only leave when given good reason, and the most common reason is poor management.

Certainly, it is worth companies' efforts to develop the best possible strategies in this area. "As we face different market challenges around the world, having multicultural MVPs has become a competitive advantage for AstraZeneca," says Denise Dick, the company's talent management director. "All of my international colleagues strongly believe this."

As a global player, AstraZeneca is trying to leverage its global talent to take advantage, not only of in-country opportunities, but synergies across different markets. The company is also very focused on optimizing the performance of its individuals, as well as the entire organization.

"We are absolutely convinced that when people don't have cross-cultural sensitivity in that environment, we will not be able to get our best performance out of the organization," says Dick.

"We do have talent pools that we've established," she says. "As we look at the top 200 positions in the company, those are global people and that's the pool where we would identify our MVPs, and they absolutely have global responsibility. The notion that they can just come with the perspective of their home country and expect to really grow the business will obviously not work. Those 200 roles are global and those people have to be multicultural."

There are great performers, and then there are MVPs. In conducting research for their book Corporate MVPs (Wiley, 2004), co-authors Margaret Butteriss and Bill Roiter, EdD [co-author of this article] found that MVP competencies and behaviors cluster into three major attributes: performance, leadership and collaboration. It is these three major attributes that set MVPs apart from other top executives.

Performance Certainly, MVPs are top performers. But more than that, MVPs are experts in their chosen role—be it as scientist or business developer. Many have great expertise in managing people, allowing them to take their skills and apply them in other areas. That base of skills is then strengthened by a strong learning orientation. They love to learn and they love to teach, which improves and extends their value within their organization.


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