Magazine Article | October 13, 2011

Ask The Board December 2011

Source: Life Science Leader
Rob Wright author page

By Rob Wright, Chief Editor, Life Science Leader
Follow Me On Twitter @RfwrightLSL

Q: What is the biggest challenge presently facing our industry in the area of R&D, and what should be done to overcome?
The key to success in pharmaceutical R&D is having a robust discovery group. Specifically, there needs to be a tremendous focus on the difficult task of identifying good targets and finding compounds that modulate that target safely and specifically. This work, predominantly done by chemists and biologists, is time-consuming – there are no shortcuts.

Disruptions to these groups can be debilitating. Reorganizations, shifting of work to different sites, and most concerning, major mergers are killers to the focus and flow of the productivity of these groups. It can take years to recover the momentum that was once generated in these groups.

   Discovery groups should be coddled. They must have stretch goals and strict timelines for productivity. But, to deliver for the corporation, they need to be resourced and nurtured. The biggest challenge, therefore, is maintaining focus on discovery at a time of industry upheaval.

Dr. John L. LaMattina is the former senior VP at Pfizer Inc. and president, Pfizer Global Research and Development. In this role, he oversaw the drug discovery and development efforts of over 12,000 colleagues in the United States, Europe, and Asia.

Q: What are the key steps to creating and implementing culture change within a large, established organization?
Change must come from the top, and those leading the organization need to clearly articulate the vision of the new culture. The leaders must truly believe in the culture and be willing to “walk the walk.” Everyone will know if the vision is just another poster statement on the wall. Leaders should allow different groups within the organization to set their own goals and plan for how their individual groups will implement this cultural change. As the new culture begins to take shape, celebrate these small wins, so that others in the organization can see it happening and be encouraged to change as well. Talk with those who may ultimately refuse to adopt the new culture or who undermine the progress being made, to help them determine if the new organizational culture is a fit for them. They may find that they can’t or don’t want to change, so another organization may be a better fit for them.

Lynn Johnson Langer, Ph.D., MBA, is president emeritus of Women In Bio and the director of enterprise and regulatory affairs programs in the Center for Biotechnology Education at Johns Hopkins University.

Q: What can an executive quickly do to improve their effectiveness as a leader?
While leadership begins with you, it clearly does not end with you. Leadership is not the sole responsibility of one person, but rather a shared responsibility among members of a collective group. As much as some in leadership may not want to hear this, a leader belongs to a group, and each member has responsibilities to fulfill. An individual leader can accomplish much, but a culture of leadership can accomplish more. Formal leadership positions are merely added responsibilities aside from their obligations as members of the team. Effective leadership requires members to do their share of work. Starting as a mere group of individuals, members and leaders work towards the formation of an effective team. In this light, social interaction plays a major role in leadership. Learning how to work together requires a great deal of trust between and among leaders, as well as members of an emerging team. Trust is built upon actions and not merely on words.

Mike Myatt is a noted leadership expert, author, and widely regarded top CEO coach in America. As a thought leader and columnist on topics of leadership and innovation, his theories and practices have been taught at many of the nation’s top business schools.

Ask the Board wants to hear from you. Have a question that you would like to pose to our editorial advisory board of experts? Send it to

If we select your question for publication, we will provide you with a complimentary copy of a business book, such as Jeff Appelquist’s Wisdom Is Not Enough: Reflections on Leadership and Teams. Appelquist is the founder and president of Blue Knight History Seminars, LLC, which provides leadership and team development training at famous historic landmarks. He is a former U.S. Marine Corps infantry officer, practicing attorney, and corporate executive.