Turning The Battleship Around

Nov 02, 2007

IMAGINE: YOU ARE THE CEO of a top pharmaceutical company. For years business has been good, very good. You've produced important, blockbuster drugs. Big profits are predicted for the industry in the future ($1.3 trillion by 2020). Only problem is, your current business model is not sustainable. Change, or lose out.

As a solution, you are thinking of hiring someone new. Someone who not only can navigate tricky waters, but also aid in turning the ship around altogether.

Sure enough, the perfect candidate presents herself. Remarkably, she has worked for many of your competitors. While she is admirably discreet about these companies, she is a fund of insider information. Of course, her expertise does not come cheap, but she's not interested in stock options, or bonuses, or even an annual salary. Who is this dream candidate? A consultant.

Top consultants possess one thing in common: the ability to think independently. So, what are these consultants thinking? Pharmaceutical Executive's CONSULTANTS CONFIDENTIAL interviewed 23 of the best. Their responses are divergent, insightful, and their advice free...for now. And since this issue is about the industry's future (present tense), we've included a story about a consultancy in a virtual world. Welcome to the twilight zone.

And finally, we offer here invaluable advice on hiring a consultant from a consultant. Who else would know best?


Conrad Heilman, senior vice president of Tunnell Consulting, suggests the following when considering a consultant:

  • Proven partners you can count on For the long term, not just for a one-off solution. Moreover, they should bring a collaborative working style that inspires mutual trust, promotes widespread buy-in, drives change deep into your organization, leverages your unique knowledge of your business, and ensures solutions tailored to your needs.
  • A proven problem-solving approach Savvy companies have little tolerance for "boiling the ocean," or starting with blank sheets of paper that turn into blank checks for consultants. Consulting partners should provide an approach to problem-solving that is proven, powerful, and efficient at uncovering root causes and pointing the way to a once-and-for-all solution.
  • Execution and infrastructure Look for partners that help you drive the execution of improvement across your firm and leave the necessary infrastructure to make it sustainable.
  • A track record in the industry A pharmaceutical enterprise is too complex, too technical, and too fraught with risk to be left to the mercies of consultants who lack extensive industry experience. The rule here: Ask potential consulting partners for their record and references.
  • Disciplinary depth and breadth Because many issues in pharmaceutical companies cut across functional and disciplinary lines, your consulting partner should have expertise in all of the relevant disciplines: discovery, drug development, scale-up, regulatory affairs, manufacturing, technology transfer, quality, risk management, technology, marketing, continuous improvement, and more. Consultancies' personnel should include not only consultants, but also scientists, engineers, and veterans of regulatory agencies.
  • Process understanding Because the quality of highly complex manufacturing processes is a defining difference in the pharmaceutical industry, your consulting partners should be able to help you achieve profound process understanding and improvement. Moreover, they should be able to deliver similar understanding of nonmanufacturing processes because, as the great quality pioneers tirelessly pointed out, all work gets done in processes.
  • Return on investment Your consulting partner should firmly tie projects to business goals, calculate the expected ROI, and deliver that ROI if your company is to maintain the high level of return that industry investors have historically enjoyed.
  • Positioning for the future Many consultants promise knowledge transfer, but if it is restricted solely to the substance of a particular problem—rather than serving the methodology for solving such problems in the future—then it is of limited value. The best consultants leave you not just with a problem solved but with a way of problem-solving, not just with work well done but with a way of doing work well.

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