Improving collaboration across silos

Almost the end of the year and I am writing from London. Despite all manner of meetings I have taken the time to enjoy the lights, and they are beautiful this year. 

Today’s topics:

  • How to align and transform your organisation
  • Designing software systems for success beyond deployment
  • Why transformations linked to AI will lead to changes in pharma pricing models
  • Leadership; Want to improve your company culture? Plan for tomorrow but start today

How to align and transform your organisation

I recently explored Glassdoor reviews of pharmaceutical companies, specifically those left by employees who departed on positive terms. One standout comment praised the overall experience, opportunities, leadership culture, and colleagues. However, a noteworthy observation was made: “If teams didn’t operate in silos, the company would perform even better.”

Most large companies struggle with the “silo issue.” Fortunately, proven methods exist to bridge these gaps. When embarking on transformative projects, bringing together key stakeholders to agree on the mission and vision is a powerful strategy. This process helps align teams, fostering a shared goal. Even if you know where you are going, even when the business reasons are clear, it is important to remember that without people on board, you can do nothing. Whatever your project, whether it’s achieving a 360-degree view of the customer to improve service, harmonising processes, or sharing resources to reduce the duplication of effort, once teams realize that collaboration will ultimately facilitate their jobs and magnify their collective impact, any project will become much easier to manage.

Key Takeaway: Emphasise common ground, encourage collaboration, and acknowledge the shared commitment to delivering the best solutions for customers.

Designing software systems for success beyond deployment

Imagine, you are a clinician in rural Zambia. You have a waiting room full of patients, you are the only provider for your community, and the nearest hospital is over 80km away.  You are also the first port of call for accidents and emergencies. Imagine further, that you cannot just pop into the next room to have a chat with a colleague about your patient’s health, because there is no colleague in the next room. There may not be many rooms in the building in fact, beyond your surgery.

This is reality for clinical officers providing healthcare in rural communities around the globe. The Virtual Doctors, the charity I am involved with as a trustee, provides virtual access to “a colleague in the next room” through technology. The charity’s  telemedicine model links clinical officers in rural Zambia and Malawi to UK volunteer doctors who can provide a second opinion or guidance in complex cases where specialist knowledge is required.

The reality of a healthcare professional in Zambia and Malawi may seem to have no relevance for your daily life working in the pharmaceutical industry, however, I believe it absolutely does. When working you need to understand the reality of the teams you engage with, the challenges they face and what will make their working life better. If you have never experienced a situation, it is hard to imagine all relevant aspects, which is why engaging with experts is critical. This might be the expert in a different field down the corridor, it might be a commercial team based in Kuala Lumpur. Unless you talk to them about what their needs are you cannot hope to imagine what that market needs.

This truth is important in all areas of business and especially so when developing software tools for global use. The Virtual Doctors recently developed an app working with 3-sided cube, a tech company, that focuses on developing technology for good. The app needed to be fit for purpose, which considering where it would be used meant that it needed to be functional regardless of network access, i.e. on and off-line. Considering the time constraints clinical officers are under ease of use partnered with capturing sufficient data for case resolution was critical and the needs of UK based volunteer doctors also needed to be respected. In addition, it was important to understand the expectations of the Ministries of Health and local regulations in countries of operation regarding data use, data privacy and data storage location.

In summary, good software system design depends on many factors. User needs, user reality and the awareness that good design for a desk worker working on a stable network with multiple screens is not the same as good design for a field worker, who in the case of an MSL, or a sales representative, faces similar challenges to rural health officers. They don’t always have network access, they may be moving between clinics, they may not have much time to enter cases and they don’t necessarily want to scroll for a long time to enter the data.

I recently took part in a podcast hosted by 3-sided cube to discuss the Virtual Doctors, data, analytics and apps. If you are interested to hear more about the charity you can find the link to the podcast here.

If you are looking to implement a new software system and need help balancing business and data analytics needs do reach out, I’d love to discuss, because helping companies to build systems that are fit for purpose while capturing relevant data for analytics and business growth is a passion of mine.

Key takeaway: the foundation of good system design is universal and factors in location, purpose, people, analytics, regulations and finally the available tech.

Why transformations linked to AI will lead to changes in pharma pricing models

As AI has become more widely embedded in business the healthcare sector has witnessed remarkable advances in the past decade. These breakthroughs have unlocked the potential for enhanced diagnostics, the creation of more precise and targeted medicines, personalized healthcare solutions, and faster product development. In addition, many companies across various sectors including those not initially involved in healthcare provision, are actively harnessing this potential.

As products become more efficiently produced, with a sharper focus on precision and very likely shorter time-to-market for new products, and as new entrants from diverse industries with different business models join the healthcare sector, bringing along different business models, the landscape is undergoing significant change. In addition the focus is moving from treating disease to preventing disease and product/diagnostic packages including digital healthcare solutions. 

Considering these new introductions and ongoing transformations, it is reasonable to anticipate that future pricing models will evolve and pricing might be linked to product “packages” rather than single products leading to new models in the provision of healthcare and a new approach to healthcare financing.

I am curious to hear your thoughts on this. Do you agree? Disagree? Have additional ideas? Please share them with me!

Key takeaway: when one aspect of a system changes, it’s unlikely that the rest will remain static.

Leadership; Want to improve your company culture? Start today while you plan for tomorrow

Company culture influences productivity, your reputation, and how your customers view you.

The culture depends on the behaviour of individuals and how they engage with others. This is true for both the customer’s engagement lifecycle and an employee’s employment lifecycle. Whether a customer comes back, an applicant endorses the experience with your company, or people have fond memories of you and the company you work for, depends fundamentally on the following: Do you do what you say and say what you do? Are you consistent and honest, regardless of what you are communicating? Do you treat new hires, employees, and those you let go with respect? Authenticity is key.

People choose to work for individuals, they resign from working with individuals, and they perform, in the main, for individuals. In addition, they also care about the people they work with and remember if their friends are not treated well. Your company may have a wonderful mission and vision statement, but if these are not embodied, then your employees know. And if they are not embodied, there is likely a very good reason why.

So while you are reflecting on how to improve your company culture, what can you do in the meantime? Start with your sphere of influence. Do not endorse bad behaviour, even if it is practical to do so. Embody the qualities you admire; be a person you would want to engage with. You’ll attract top talent, retain it, engage customers, and foster loyalty among colleagues and teams. If you are in the position to do so, ensure that individuals are treated with respect whether you are hiring them, developing them, or letting them go. How you do this last one says a lot about you as a human being and a leader. As a leader, let the culture you want to see start with you. In parallel, assess where you are, assess the obstacles, and why these obstacles are maintained and who they serve, and decide on what you are willing to sacrifice for a better culture.

If you need support I have worked across organisations but also with teams and individuals to bring about systemic change.

Key takeaways: A good company culture depends on individuals respecting other individuals. I believe it really is that simple.

Thank you for reading. The end of the year is nigh. I hope you are winding down activities, getting ready to enjoy some time with friends and family and planning to recharge your batteries before the new year is upon us. If you are looking to solve an issue before the end of the year, or to get a foundation in place to prepare for next year, I’d love to discuss how I can help you either with your business strategy and operations or with your team and personal development goals.

Wishing you a wonderful festive Christmas season and looking forward to hearing from you,

Isabelle C. Widmer MD

Photo credit: Isabelle C. Widmer, Carnaby Street, London December 2023