Ways to Innovate in Times of Resource Scarcity

How to do more with less has been in focus in pharma for a good 10 years now.
Almost every client or colleague I speak to is challenged to deliver on complex, global programmes, with limited resource and limited budget. Unfortunately, despite the resource constraints, teams are often also expected to deliver to very tight timelines. 
In Today’s  Chronicle, I’ll share some ideas on how to thrive in spite of budget and resource challenges.

Happily, new ways of looking at old problems can turn up incredible results. Read on for the story of a physician, who undeterred by poverty and a lack of trained health care professionals, found a  creative solution to a huge healthcare problem. 

An exceptional outcome for patients. I am inspired by his story. I hope you will be too.

Doing more with less is en vogue. CEOs typically get by on 5 hours of sleep and run marathons on the weekend. Teams frequently deliver their day-job and run global transformation programmes on the side.

Doing more with less is not sustainable in the long-term. So, absent a magic wand, what is a leader to do?

Basically, you have three options:

Prioritize your tasks: As demonstrated by a client of mine, the only manager I have ever met who said: ” I have enough budget and headcount to run an effective global Medical Information team”. His secret? He accepts that budget and human resource are limited. He has rigorously focused his team’s activities. All processes, roles, and responsibilities fit the resource he has available to him. Any new management requests are prioritized and delivery negotiated. The team meets regularly and discusses work-load challenges and potential solutions.

The outcome:  No staff turnover for a stretch of six years and a very happy team. I met them, so I know.

Minimize/Phase the quality of your deliverables: When you are faced with too many tasks and not enough time or resource. Consider, phasing the tasks and negotiating new timelines. If this is not feasible, identify key deliverables for the business, and maintain the service level for those, and consider reducing the quality of your deliverables in other areas. Also regularly question your team’s deliverables. Business needs change. Your tasks should mirror those changes. 

The outcome: As soon as you start talking about reducing service levels, you can expect initial pushback, however, often these discussions will serve to highlight what your team is doing, and may help you and your management to identify a new approach. 

Innovate and expand your resource pool: As demonstrated by psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda in Zimbabwe. Faced with a poverty-stricken population, absence of healthcare funding, stigmatization of mental health issues, and a lack of mental health practitioners in Zimbabwe, (there are just 12 practicing psychiatrists for a country of 16 million)  he could have been forgiven for saying there is no solution. Instead, he came up with an innovative approach using the resources available, effectively expanding his resource pool: the local grandmothers. In a country where senior citizens are very well regarded, this is a stroke of genius. Since 2006 Chibanda and his team have trained over 400 grandmothers in evidence-based talk therapy, which they deliver for free in more than 70 communities in Zimbabwe.

The outcome?: In 2017 alone the Friendship Bench, as the programme is called, helped over 30’000 people. The programme has been empirically vetted and has been expanded to countries beyond Zimbabwe, including the USA. 

You can read more about the Friendship Bench here

As we begin another busy year of global transformation programmes, mergers, and reorganizations, I hope the examples above will motivate you to discover new ways to work effectively and creatively within your teams and across functions.