Archive for July, 2012

You always have a choice

Recently several on my friends mentioned that the work they do as graduates is boring, and that they want to move on to another organisation and hopefully be given  more interesting and challenging assignments. They were set on moving organisations to escape boring routine work, a simple solution and perhaps it has some merit, but I will argue that the way each of us works affects the kind of work that we are given to a greater extent than the organisational context. And if it’s true, then moving companies won’t help. What we need to do to solve the work routine problem, is to change the way we approach our work.

Let’s take a typical situation, a person worked at the XYZ company for two years and he feels that his boss gives him extensive, but straightforward assignments and wants them to be done in a particular way. This person feels bored and under-utilised and he wants some challenging assignments. Is there an incentive for the boss to give this person interesting work? No, not really, from boss’s perspective this person is good at doing routine assignments well and delivers them on time.

If the person does not establish a reputation of a problem solver  and does not voice constant suggestion for improvements, even at the routine assignment level, how can the boss have confidence that this person will perform well with more interesting and challenging assignments?

So in reality, in order to get interesting work, we need to establish ourselves as people who deserve interesting work. Merely switching organisations is not a substitute for  illustrating to your employer that you are the person that is right for the challenging work. A fresh start with a new employer may help, but if you don’t illustrate those characteristics, you may end up doing the same routine and boring work.



Pharmaceutical headshift

The pharmaceutical landscape is changing. Large multinational organisations such as Pfizer, Novo Nordisk and AstraZeneca, have typically focused on aggresive sales strategies; making their way methodically around the Doctoral community of every hospital.  In light of recent economic and regulatory developments their approach is beginning to change. Over the coming years we are more likely to see more of a focus on outcomes rather than sales tactics. This is one of many developments shaking up this industry.

For these behemoth organisations to effectively implement an effective headshift within their business model, a fresh approach to strategy and operations is required. A number of large pharma’s such as AstraZeneca and Pfizer have a preference for acquisitions. AstraZeneca has taken over 15 smaller organisation between 2000 and today, and Pfizer 49. Whilst they have both been disbanding poor performing units, the majority are kept under the multinationals’ umbrella.



Through this acquisition strategy AstraZeneca has kept its earnings strong, and only recently has been seeing signs of a slow down, primarily fueled by concerns over the sustainability of the company’s drug pipeline. Despite this, commentators still support the acquisition strategy. Are they missing the point though? There are fundamental forces at work in the pharmaceutical industry that this approach does not appear to solve.

Pharmaceutical organisations are hindered by enormous investments in research and development. Does heavy R&D investment mean higher returns? Possibly not. It’s more likely to be about how you do it, rather than how much you do it. With the wrong environment, culture, and structure to facilitate rich innovation, pharmaceutical organisations will continue to drag their heels and make these risky investments. Yes they will still make money. And yes they may still produce the occasional wonder drug. But will they really add the value they need to continue improving health outcomes for us all and balance this with positive returns?


Categories: Andi

Buzzwords, ever thought about the downsides?

There are buzz-words everyone is talking about nowadays that are synonymous for efficiency and process improvement. If I think about it: Efficiency and Continuous improvement are such buzz-words themselves. All of you will have come across some already and there is no way they won’t catch up on you on a regular basis anyways. A commonality across these words is that they give off positive connotations.

Take ‘team-work’ for example: It is the paragon for decisions that account to all sides of a critical topic and workload-distribution to specialists. Therefore it is said that teamwork will always save you a lot of time, because of distributing work to several people, and that it will always help you choose the best possible decision, because you’ll have considered every possibility and found one that has all benefits but no shortcomings.

Is that right? Aren’t there any downsides of teamwork? What about the time you “waste” on the Forming, the Storming and the Norming parts of the work-process . Time you could have easily used to work efficiently on your own. You should also think about how solid the base of your decision-making process is. Even if you think you have considered every possible shortcoming of your decision, that doesn’t mean that you really have… What if your team is very diverse in itself, but it doesn’t include one person that really presents the customer’s point-of-view to your product? Also, what could be the downsides of not having specialists on your team? Some people just talk out of their mind without the same level of analysis…

This was just one example…

Other fancy buzz-words that seem to be wholly positive and aren’t considered with their downsides can be seen pretty much everywhere. There are only a couple of them that I can spontaneously think of now, but there are dozens of them out there, like: teamwork, social media, continuous improvement, synergies, connectivity, transparency, work time flexibility, centralization …

Be aware of people who use them without thinking, these words are just labels, the depth and wisdom of the concept they convey depends entirely on the speaker.

What other buzz-words have you come across that you think are seen to be too positive and aren’t considering the downsides? And what downsides could you think of?

Global teams

A good number of us will have been a member of a team at some point. The majority of business schools, and universities for that matter, encourage team-work to some degree. If you have worked in a team you may be acutely aware of the following challenges this brings: cultural differences, clashing personalities, misunderstandings, language barriers and so on.

One part of team-working that most universities don’t teach us, is how to work in a virtual team; the same concept as team-working, just with a significant amount of distance between team members. According to a recent report, approximately 87% of white collar employees of multinational companies conduct at least parts of their work globally.

Managing globally dispersed teams requires a structured approach to ensure team cohesion and top performance outcomes. Tsedal Neeley suggests that team managers create “moments” to help facilitate the positive outcomes the team desires. These assist in overcoming the typical team-work challenges that can be greatly exaggerated when working in virtual teams. These moments include:

  1. Structuring unstructured time
  2. Forcing disagreements
  3. Stressing differences
  4. Creating awareness moments

There’s one factor that I believe deserves extra attention when considering how to effectively work in a multi-cultural virtual team. This is the cultural element. One benefit of working within close proximity of others, is that face-to-face meetings can be a good way to resolve issues and challenge each other with reasonable ease. This is not the case when national boundaries replace office walls.

For example, in some cultures confrontation is expected and can be utilised to galvanise progress within the team. However, in others, such as some Asian countries, confrontation is avoided like the plague. Without knowledge of certain nuances like this, top performance is going to be an unreachable objective.

Many cross-cultral indicators are available to compare certain cultures. A basic understanding of these can assist when tackling virtual team-work. Ensuring that you are aware of these indicators can place you in a more informed position as you progress through the projects you are working on.