We live in a fast-paced and fast-changing world, and companies have to adapt to be able to keep up. For some people, change is exciting and stimulating; they enjoy the feeling of slight discomfort and uncertainty that goes with transformation. But for others, change is just disturbing and distracting. This is where change management comes in, and Dennis Urbaniak, VP U.S. Diabetes at Sanofi, has learned a lot about managing change and getting the best out of it during his 18 years at the company.
What Is Change Management?
Change management is traditionally thought of as a structured process that moves individuals, teams, or even entire companies from the current work patterns and organizational makeup to new patterns and structures. It should help people to understand, accept, and even see the advantages of the new setup. However, Urbaniak sees it as more all-encompassing — as something that needs to be borne in mind for all changes within a company, however small.
“Change management is about how to handle specific and even major change, but it’s also about how to interact with customers, and how to run an organization on a day-to-day basis,” he says. “Change is a discipline, not just a single event. Effective change management can alter behavior and have positive and long-term outcomes throughout the company, and throughout people’s careers, as well.”
Creating An environment For Change
In order to make change easy, effective, and positive, it’s important to create an environment that fosters and rewards change, supports the ability to learn from change, and even encourages people to be interested and curious about the changes that are being made. But how can companies create this type of environment? According to Urbaniak, it’s all about communication.
“The first step is to communicate and share the rationale for change and encourage dialogue across all stakeholder groups, regardless of level,” Urbaniak explains. Once an organization or team has established that it needs to change, and this rationale has been disseminated to all its members, the next step in change management is to establish clear, measurable, and sustainable goals and outcomes, and to communicate them clearly.
“Throughout the process, it is really important to remember the goal behind your changes. It sounds simple, but many companies get carried away, and you end up with change simply for change’s sake,” says Urbaniak. “If change is seen as an ongoing environment, then this can be used as a way to learn, but it is important to stop the activities that don’t add benefit and prioritize the things that do.”
The measures are just as important as the goals themselves, and deciding the measures for the goals beforehand (and communicating them) can make the whole process of change go faster and be more effective. “A lot of organizations just assess the outcomes after the fact, to see if things have been successful. It’s important to have up-front measures and goals, and to be prepared to change the process as you are going along if need be, rather than just defending the course of action afterwards,” says Urbaniak. “I have seen pilot projects that have just gone on forever. This always reduces the chance of a positive outcome. The process should be about measuring, learning, and then making an adjustment, rather than getting to a point and saying, ‘We are done’.” Any change involves risk, and in fact, risk-taking is a key part of change, but it does expose the vulnerability of individuals, management, and even the company, and the leadership needs to declare this risk up front.
Getting Through Change
Some people don’t like change — they just don’t know how to deal with it — but others want to be right in the thick of it, and the leadership needs to manage both groups of people. “It’s important not to forget or dismiss the people who don’t cope well with change, otherwise you run the risk of losing valuable employees. Work with these people to see what their experience is, and see where they can contribute the most, and use their strengths. To help them out, you need to continue the dialogue, show them how things are moving, show them the progress, and share the learning. While it can be beneficial to have a team that is open to ‘feeling uncomfortable,’ it’s important not to force the feeling,” says Urbaniak.
Change And Innovation At Sanofi
Urbaniak has worked in core areas that needed to change and adapt, and in completely new initiatives, both of which have required change management. The restructuring of Sanofi’s U.S. Diabetes business unit is an example of an area that needed to evolve and was driven by a market need.
Companies have historically carried marketing out brand by brand, and Sanofi’s U.S. Diabetes business unit has been no different. Urbaniak is working to change the model toward a franchise offering diabetes solutions rather than marketing individual diabetes products or brands. “This restructuring changes how we communicate and value the offer,” says Urbaniak. “The brand-based marketing can look disconnected, but the customer-based franchise model, targeting either the patient or the physician, is more efficient and easier to access.”
Many big pharma companies have seen a dearth of innovation, with pipelines thinning out as marketed products fall off the patent cliff, and costs spiral for the development of new products. There also have been changes in physician practice and consumer demand, as well as sweeping U.S. and worldwide healthcare reforms. But Urbaniak says diabetes is still an area that needs innovation, explaining that by 2050, one in three Americans could have diabetes. “To meet that challenge, we need to change how we look at its treatment. Many companies have focused on simply providing drugs or devices, but we have realized that these are just a component, and we need to seek more of a solution from the patient’s perspective. And this solution will be different for everyone. There are already a lot of great drugs on the market, so what is needed is a new approach, not a new drug,” says Urbaniak.
This new mindset has required a change in how companies look at innovation – how they use it and where they find it, as it’s never as simple as just being able to say to researchers “go innovate.” Change and innovation are incremental as well as disruptive, so it’s important to look for the small ideas as well as the big ones. Facing up to this, Sanofi has created a centralized innovation group, which is looking at new ways to run the business. For example, patients are becoming increasingly vociferous, particularly through social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and through patient groups. Sanofi has decided to use this to its advantage by creating a non-brand-specific social media group. The company is using this group to “crowdsource” answers to questions such as, “What matters most to you in diabetes?”
“Monitoring social media gives us the opportunity to hear what the market is saying and provide our customers — both physicians and patients — with what they really want. Two-way communication is just as vital here to manage change in the market as it is with employees, when trying to facilitate internal change.”
The Sanofi U.S. Data Design Diabetes Innovation Challenge is an example of how the company changed the way it approaches innovation. The first challenge, launched in 2011, promised prizes of up to $100,000 for innovators to develop a data-driven project that could improve life for patients or caregivers in the diabetes community. “In six months, we had more than 100 responses. It would have taken us maybe four or five years to develop that many proposals in-house,” says Urbaniak.
The outcome from the 2011 challenge was the Ginger.io app, which tracks how people are feeling by analyzing changes in their location and cellphone use patterns through “machine learning.” People with diabetes are almost twice as likely to suffer from stress, anxiety, and depression, which can interfere with diabetes management. When the app spots this kind of behavior, it sends out “caregiver alerts” to friends, family, or healthcare professionals, to suggest that they check in on the patient. Ginger.io carried out its first patient study in people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and the company plans a month-long diabetes study for 2013, to see if the app does have an impact on disease management.
The success of the project has sparked change in how innovation is perceived in other parts of the company, and similar programs in other divisions may soon be developed. This project also proves that, in addition to patients and caregivers, there is also a role for government in developing innovation. For the challenge, the U.S. government helped Sanofi tap into a network that the company could not have reached alone, as well as provided open access to the data sets on healthdata.gov.
“I hope more companies will see that change is a fundamental aspect of business — you need to feel comfortable with being uncomfortable. However, it’s important to remember — the best ideas come from customers, employees, and partners, not from you. Your role is simply to provide support and coordination,” concludes Urbaniak.