While contingency planning is a relatively common concept, its use is not widespread in alliance management. In some cases,
business partners don't want to introduce any negativity—such as the thought that the project might not reach certain milestones
or that it might fail on technical grounds. In other situations, team members might find scenario planning a distraction in
an action-oriented project and give it low-priority status. For any number of reasons, the team often stays in reactive mode,
thinking, We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
Lilly's alliance management team is taking a more proactive approach. Our clients have seen firsthand the benefits of alliance
contingency planning efforts that address possible outcomes of major events, such as the release of results from a major trial
or FDA advisory board meeting. These exercises are useful because very often these situations are highly emotional and significant
to the business, and there is little time to react to the release of study data or FDA decisions. Having discussed the possibilities—and
our public responses to any number of outcomes—ahead of time, our teams are much better prepared to work together and to make
rational decisions quickly. Teams are able to communicate relevant information rapidly to all important internal and external
Another common source of business risk is leadership turnover, which occurs through attrition, restructuring, or even new
opportunities that arise for particular individuals. While many companies leave new team members to learn as they go through
trial and error, we pay careful attention to changes in staffing. We then take the time needed to bring new leaders up to
speed using the comprehensive background materials we have created over the course of the alliance. This process enables us
to affirm the business goals of the partnership and avoid any barriers to project progress.
In any group effort, clarity regarding who made which decisions, who agreed to them, and who will implement them is key. Because
memories are never perfect and interpretations often vary, we have found it eminently useful to create and maintain appropriate
records of alliance decisions and the action items that result.
It's important to note that we are not simply writing down everything that is said at a given meeting. While we do assign
one person to capture the content, our involvement as alliance professionals goes further. Before we adjourn our governance
meetings, for example, we record all decisions, then review and approve them with everyone in the room. This provides the
opportunity for clarification while the discussion points are still fresh, and team members can agree on any modifications.
This process allows for both organizations to align and agree upon future actions, with the additional benefit of bringing
to light basic missteps that have the potential to create problems downstream. For example, the review and agreement process
might highlight a case where the true decision-maker was not in the meeting, which might become problematic as decisions are
re-visited and questioned later.
By maintaining appropriate records of joint decisions, alliance management in turn becomes the repository of project information.
These records are available in case questions arise or when new team members need to be brought up to speed. Our integral
involvement in such activities also ensures that we have early notice of potential risk factors, and that we can identify
and address issues before they become bigger problems for the alliance.