Digital excellence in medical affairs webinar, what stakeholder management and herding cats have in common

After every DIA meeting I put time in my calendar to download the slides, review my notes, revisit some of the presentations and to follow-up with attendees to find out what their meeting highlights were. Invariably, my plans get delayed slightly. However, I am running the first ever follow-up session from a DIA event on Innovation in Medical Information together with Peter Brodbin and our session’s speakers.

Check my LinkedIn feed for more information. The session is only available to attendees of the DIA meeting in Barcelona. However, I will also be on a panel discussion discussing digital excellence on the 10th of November. The panel is hosted by TransPerfect and is open to all. You can sign up below.

Topics for today are:

– Expect surprises; project planning lessons from a 4am motorway rendezvous
– Driving digital excellence in medical affairs – upcoming webinar
– What stakeholder management and herding cats have in common
– The curse of the time zone – being late while being on time

Expect Surprises; Project Planning Lessons From a 4am Motorway Rendezvous

I recently had an appointment at 4am. The location was sent by text message. Having confirmed that it would take me thirty minutes to drive there, I added an extra half hour to my trip time, just to cover any unforeseen events.

Navigating unknown roads in the middle of the night, alone, turned out to be a challenge. In addition, because I would have suggested meeting in a brightly lit service station, that is what I was on the look-out for. I ended up missing the designated pick-up location and having to make a long detour. At 3.58 my phone started pinging, as I received calls, asking where I am. Worried that if I took the call I would miss the stop again, I didn’t pick up. When I finally got to my destination at 4.05am it turned out to be a very small motorway lay-by, it was a dark, scary place to be alone at 4am for a meeting with people I had never personally met. No lights, no humans, just loads of parked lorries, cockpits lit by the flickering of screens.

Project planning learnings.

  • Plan ahead and add in extra time to complete your project. Expect the unforeseen.
  • Be aware that what seems like common sense to you, in the example above, to meet at a populated service station not in a dark and desolate lay-by, is not necessarily what makes sense for others taking part in your project. Be prepared to be surprised.
  • Have a wing-person along for the ride if possible.
  • If you are going somewhere, you have never been before, even if you have mapped out your route, you may get lost. For complex projects it may be worth taking a guide along with you.

If you are thinking of setting off on a new destination in the Medical Affairs arena, I’d be happy to divulge if I know the particular route you are looking at, to highlight some potential dead-ends, and detours to avoid, and to discuss how I might be able to support you.

Driving Digital Excellence in Medical Affairs – Upcoming Webinar

The recent pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital capabilities in the pharmaceutical industry. Most pharmaceutical companies are expanding their digital capabilities in order to better understand customer needs and to provide better customer service. Digital solutions have been rolled out in areas including IIS submissions, training and education, key stakeholder engagement and interacting with patients, to name just a few.

Beyond changes in individual areas though the biggest change that is currently underway is moving from individual engagement channels to an omnichannel approach, with the aim to provide customers with a seamless engagement experience and companies with improved insights into market needs.

Does your company have a digital engagement strategy? Do you know what it is? Is it holistic? Spoiler alert, if it is not, it should be. If you are interested in this topic and want to hear more, please save the date for the TransPerfect Webinar on Driving Digital Excellence in Medical Affairs. November 10th at 10am EST.

I will be joining a panel hosted by TransPerfect together with Ben Gallarda, PhD, Head of Scientific Content – EPG Health, Quynh Nguyen, Medical Digital Initiatives Lead, Europe & Canada – Organon. We will share perspectives and lessons learned. You can sign up here.

What Stakeholder Management and Herding Cats Have in Common

People often say, “it’s like herding cats” when they are exasperated with a project. This was an abstract concept until Henry fell out of the window, landed in the bushes below, and high-tailed it into the garden. A recent addition to the household, Henry is scared of his own shadow, and I can’t touch him. After trying to catch him by wandering around the garden calling his name, I realized, that I would not be successful even if I spent the rest of the afternoon in the garden shaking a bag of cat food. Especially as I couldn’t see where he was. So, I needed a stakeholder adapted plan.

Henry may not trust me, but he is, luckily, besotted with his brother. Consequently, I knew I’d need to incorporate his sibling into my rescue plan. The sibling was duly harnessed and led to the area where Henry was last spotted. After a short while Henry emerged from the woodpile meowing loudly. Step by step I enticed him towards the house. It took an hour, but finally I had him back indoors.

This situation reminded me, that you can save a lot of time and energy if you adapt your approach to your stakeholders and the specific situation because attraction always works better than coercion.

The curse of the time zone – being late while being on time

Whenever we rely on something too much, this reliance becomes a potential liability. For example, when I use Outlook to plan my meetings, it automatically fixes any time-zone differences. Everyone knows when they need to dial in, it’s all very simple. Sometimes, however, I agree to speak on the phone, in this situation I don’t necessarily send out an invitation, I just put a reminder in my calendar. This is where things can go wrong. Some recent examples:

  • A phone call with Athens. We agreed 10am. We didn’t think to check for time-zone differences. We both assumed 10am our time and ended up connecting at 9.30 am Swiss time, 10.30 in Greece.
  • A teleconference with the UK was organised through Doodle. The meeting time showed as 9.30am, I assumed this was UK local time, so an hour later for me. However, Doodle corrects for time-zones too…Then a WhatsApp message came through with a Doodle screenshot confirming the 8.30am timeslot.
  • A teleconference with India. The link and time shared by the service provider through email. The invitation was sent out to Outlook calendars but the service provider was not invited using the same Invitation. It took us a while to connect.

Even if none of this has ever happened to you, it’s probably worth taking note that the clocks went back today. At least they did in Switzerland. This means that now, instead of a 6-hour time difference to the East Coast, there is a 5-hour time difference, until the US changes their clocks back on the 6th November. What I have learned? Even when I am in a hurry, I need to double-check meeting time suggestions and confirm participants’ locations.

I hope my blog provides you with some useful insights and, as ever, I look forward to hearing your thoughts. And if you have a challenging project or would like to discuss coaching to help you achieve that next level, please reach out for an informal chat.

Very best wishes

Isabelle C. Widmer

Photo by Isabelle C. Widmer at 4am