ChangeOn Monday 13 October, Shail Thaker, Partner, McKinsey & Co., addressed Coping with change fatigue in pharma.  “Change is proving hard for us as an industry,” said Thaker, who noted that other industries, such as the communications, automotive, semi-conductor, and more recently the banking industry, have gone through profound and successful fundamental transformations in recent decades.

Those industries, he said, went through and achieved transformations, “the hallmark of which has been a structural shift.”

So where does that put pharma? He cited two elements crucial to organizational change: “performance” and “health.”  Performance he suggested is what is “delivered,” while the health of an industry involves alignment to execute and the ability to self-renew.

“How has pharma been doing?” he asked while looking at 32 ‘activities’ that would indicate organizational health. “It’s not the picture of health.”

He reduced those 32 items to five important realities that did not reflect a picture of health for any industry and did not bode well for success, and then focused attention back on pharma.

First, a declining sense of direction is not good. Equally undesirable is, second, a radical shift in leadership styles with a decrease in “supportive” style, the opposite of “authoritarian” style.  Third, a significantly increased ‘inward focus’ is not a good sign. It detracts from the customer focus.

“Taking a burdensome approach to managing key processes, such as compliance, is fourth,” said Thaker.  “Fifth among the signs of struggle is an underinvestment in managing change itself.”

He said that in pharma there has been a consistent underestimation of what is required to make change happen.

Although he claimed not to have a “silver bullet’ to drive successful change, Thaker suggested sticking to your change ‘story’; being disciplined for transformation; delivering meaningful simplifications; and ‘hardwiring’ a focus so that the focus is more than rhetoric.

“Health is not hard to measure,” he concluded. “When you are dealing with change, do it with discipline and do it well.”