Magazine Article | March 10, 2010

Are You Ready For A "Right Fight?"

Source: Life Science Leader

By Dan Schell, Editorial Director, Life Science Leader

I’m intrigued by companies that stay committed to their management strategies even during tough economic times.

After all, there’s always someone breathing down a manager’s, president’s, or CEO’s neck when times are darkest and yammering about the need for widespread change or some kind of an “overhaul.” Sometimes that change is warranted, though, as many big pharma companies found out in recent years when they tried to cling to their blockbuster models. On the other hand, as G.V. Prasad of Dr. Reddy’s noted to me in this month’s feature article (p. 8), it’s sometimes best to “stay the course” and give your big picture a chance to appear.

Making sure your team is in alignment with the goals you have established for your company is an ongoing struggle for any manager. This challenge reminded me of the book I’m reading now called The Right Fight by Saj-Nicole Joni and Damon Beyer. In it, the authors posit that while alignment (i.e. happy, productive employees) is important, it should not be your overarching goal. Tension, too, is a good thing. “Counter to conventional wisdom, the dirty little secret of leadership is that a leader’s time is not always best spent trying to help his or her teams make nice and get along,” the authors say. They talk about the importance of a leader to foster and sometimes manufacture creative tension — or right fights — and they give examples of the rules or principles that these fights should follow. “With right fights, organizations can achieve breakthrough performance, real innovation, and leadership growth,” the authors explain.

One message in the book that I thought applied well to the pharma industry was that right fights demand real uncertainty in a company’s future. There are two situations when this is applicable. “The first situation occurs when the external environment is so unstable that a definitive path forward is difficult to see. The second situation is when the external environment is fairly clear but potentially threatening, and the best way forward is far from certain.” Whether faced with new government regulations, global obstacles, or new business initiatives/models such as PAT (process analytical technology), QbD (quality by design), or even FIPNet (fully integrated pharmaceutical network), it’s likely you can relate to one of these two situations.

Many of the concepts Joni and Beyer propose are contrary to traditional management practices, which makes the book all the more intriguing. Today, pharma managers at all levels are seeking to foster innovation and creativity more so than ever. I‘m not suggesting this book’s message is the answer, but perhaps a right fight in your organization could serve as the spark you’ve been looking for.