With expertise in neuroscience and oncology, our client is a global biopharmaceutical company that develops life-changing medicines for people with serious diseases, so they can live their lives more fully.
Following a significant acquisition, there was recognition of the need to develop a broad-based portfolio of early stage R&D projects to secure future growth.
In the past, the focus had been on late stage R&D and the acquisition and commercialisation of promising molecules. However following the acquisition of a complementary business, a clear and ambitious strategy for growth was presented to the markets. This required development of an early stage R&D strategy, with more space for innovation and experimentation in the early stages of research.
In order to deliver this, R&D leaders had signed off a recommendation for an evolved operating model, new ways of working, and a shift in behaviours and mindset. And the project lead commissioned us to support her in delivering on this.
The red thread for this work was to be a thinking partner for the project lead. So we started by connecting with the project sponsors and workstream leads to hear their perspectives on what was needed.
We’d noticed and discussed with the team a tendency across the organisation to develop recommendations off-line, which were then presented for sign-off in fairly short and formal meetings. Those tasked with delivering the recommendations would sometimes find they were unclear on what exactly was intended or expected of them.
To remedy this, a key element of our work was to make sure ownership remained in the organisation, and to pay attention to mindsets and ways of working that were making it hard for the project team to deliver effectively.
We also facilitated conversations to help the team adapt governance structures and ways of working to bring more focus and pace to the project. This included holding space for key conversations around decision-making processes, particularly those involving key members of the Executive team as well as the steering group and other stakeholders most affected by the proposed changes.
By taking this approach, the team experienced first-hand that they could make decisions ‘live in the room’, which was hugely valuable.
And finally, we provided support and challenge to the workstream leads on how to engage stakeholders with great impact as they developed their proposals for change. This included observation of, and feedback on, existing R&D processes as they managed their existing portfolios.
Come the end of the project, the team felt they had had an experience of integrated, joined-up working. This provided a blueprint for the behaviours they needed to accelerate ‘early stage’ processes and bring greater decisiveness to project and research portfolios.
They also had an early stage R&D strategy that had credibility and tangible buy-in from key stakeholders.
But what was perhaps the most valuable for the team was learning how to approach projects in a way that brings a more productive balance between innovation and control.