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Summit Begins with Keynote by Grameen Foundation’s Alex Counts

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 3/5/2013

The 2013 ASAP Global Alliance Summit kicked off this morning with rousing music and a full house at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. After opening remarks by ASAP president and CEO Art Canter, board chair Russ Buchanan, CSAP, and program chair Jan Twombly, CSAP, the stage was set for the first keynote speaker, Alex Counts, head of the Grameen Foundation, a global microfinance organization that works to alleviate poverty in developing nations by partnering with corporations, governments, NGOs, villages, and various local entities.

Counts spoke about the history of Grameen Foundation, its work, its partnerships around the world, and some of the challenges it faces in forming and managing its own brand of alliances. Founded in 1987 by Counts with $6,000 in seed money from Grameen Bank founder and Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, Grameen Foundation has grown to a $20 million international organization. Running projects from Bangladesh to Ghana and Uganda to Indonesia and beyond, Grameen seeks to alleviate poverty by providing economic opportunity and access to information and health care to poor people in developing nations.

“We often see the poor through their disabilities, from what they lack,” Counts explained. “But another lens is to look at them through what they have—their skills, especially their ability to stay alive. That is a skill that can be capitalized.”

Among its many projects, Grameen Foundation has provided microcredit in Bangladesh, mobile phones to village women to use in business in Bangladesh and Uganda, mobile health care in Ghana, and women’s empowerment programs in the Arab world. To succeed in these efforts, Grameen works through partnerships with companies such as Google, Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, and Qualcomm, plus organizations like the Gates Foundation and the World Bank, and local companies and entities—all the way down to the village level.

Grameen's complex alliances experience many of the same successes, failures, and challenges as alliances that operate purely in the business realm. Counts said that the lessons learned from his years of partnering experience include the importance of establishing trusting relationships (while not becoming overly reliant on them), surfacing and acknowledging stereotypes about partners and transcending them, developing champions of the alliance while also anticipating the consequences when those champions inevitably leave, and measuring “the right things” to show how an alliance is delivering value for an organization—and where it is falling short.

Maintaining openness to ambiguity and informality across cultures is also key to Grameen’s partnering successes, as is assuming good intentions on others’ part until convinced otherwise. And in closing, Counts related his “single biggest insight”: “how incredibly important it is to try to see the world through the eyes of the people you’re working with, and other people generally. What does it look like from where they sit? What does their private conversation about you look like?” As Counts noted, taking this approach doesn’t mean you have to agree with your partners’ perceptions, but being honest about differences and even stereotypes “gives deep insight” and can help avoid misunderstandings, reroute alliances that are going “off the rails,” and propel partnerships—whether for-profit or non-profit—to greater maturity and success.

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ASAP Announces New Global Member—Janssen

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 3/1/2013

ASAP today announced its newest Global Member, the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies (Janssen). This membership will enable Janssen to outfit employees responsible for all or part of their health care and pharmaceutical alliances with the latest tools, methodologies, frameworks, and training for the negotiation, planning, execution, and evaluation of their strategic alliances.

Read the full press release for more details!

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Longtime Lilly Alliance Pro Brings “Whit” and Wisdom to Solo Practice

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 2/26/2013

For some, retirement can be more daunting than liberating. Not everyone deals well with the sudden lack of structure, and many are shocked at how hard it is to fill the more than one third of their day that was once allotted for job duties, including getting to and from work.

This isn’t a problem for Sherman Whitfield, CA-AM, who retired on August 31, 2012, after 15 years with Eli Lilly and Company and multiple decades dealing with manufacturing relationships in one form or another in the biopharmaceutical, aerospace, and automotive industries.

“Sherm is a motivator,” said ASAP Midwest chapter president Ann Trampas, CSAP, professional development practice lead at Phoenix Consulting Group.

Whitfield is bringing alliance management skills honed at Lilly to two new solo ventures with his newfound spare time: 1) Whitfield Strategic Alliance Consulting, a consultancy in which he is advising mainly contract manufacturers on how to plan and govern alliances; and 2) Whitfield Motivational Speaking Services, LLC, where Whitfield provides inspiration to employees, students, and board members alike at corporations, schools, community centers, nonprofits, and other entities by helping them identify their special gifts and the “greatness that resides in each of us.”

“My ASAP experience is really paying off,” said Whitfield. “I’m still using processes and tools I learned in Lilly, and of course at ASAP.”

Lilly’s Pioneering Alliance Management Practice Shapes a Career

Indeed, Whitfield left Lilly with a wealth of experience in manufacturing-related partnerships. He began his Lilly tenure in 1997 when he and his wife took positions in the company’s London office; his wife became head of Lilly’s Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) legal affairs, while Whitfield began a five-year stint handling procurement relationships for a UK-based Lilly manufacturing site. It was in London that Whitfield got a hint of the power of a truly collaborative relationship. When a supplier worked with Whitfield to drastically reduce overall prices and order lead times in exchange for Lilly ordering in higher increments, Whitfield realized “if you work with partners and you sit down and talk about what it is you’re really trying to do, what you want to do, and why…suppliers can help you get to where you want to go.”

Five years later, Whitfield was transferred to Lilly’s budding alliance management practice, which at the time was one of the very rare Big Pharma alliance outfits with the backing of the company’s most senior leadership. According to Whitfield, Lilly’s then-CEO Sydney Taurel had an edict for his alliance management team: “Learn how to work with partnerships and key relationships in a collaborative way.” This was music to Whitfield’s ears.

“It fit who I was,” he said of Taurel’s approach.

Whitfield and the other members of the Lilly alliance group brought Lilly’s own proprietary governance processes, metrics, tools, and processes to their partnerships. Lilly’s Voice-of-the-Alliance (VOA) feedback tool, in particular, always seemed to blow away partners, according to Whitfield.

“‘We can't believe you guys want to have a governance committee and give us a voice,’” Whitfield said, mimicking the surprise of his partner counterparts.

This was a far cry from Whitfield’s previous life in the automotive world, where he spent time in quality control prior to joining Lilly. At that time, U.S. automakers were still behind the curve in adapting collaborative supply chain practices that were becoming standard in Asia.

“That was the culture in the automotive world at that time; forget collaboration. Just beat ’em. Beat ’em up to get everything they’ve got. The philosophy was to work each year to negotiate a new and better price. If the supplier refused, tell them you’ll go somewhere else. It was clearly not a culture of trying to work together,” said Whitfield.

Key Voice in a Growing Professional Association

Just as Whitfield witnessed firsthand the alliance management profession’s advancement in the world of biopharma over the course of the millennium’s first decade, ASAP was simultaneously emerging as the backbone of the alliance management community—and Whitfield was a part of this movement too. He attended many ASAP Global Alliance Summits and served as president of the association’s Midwest chapter, helping to straighten out its books after it had gotten itself into an accounting quagmire.

“Sherm was the most fiscally responsible president we’ve ever had. He got us into great financial shape, which I thank him for over and over again,” said Trampas.

In addition, Whitfield was a member of the very first class of alliance professionals to earn CA-AM certification. ASAP’s certification program was founded in 2007. This first set of certified pros was being formally recognized during the 2008 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, which led to one of Whitfield’s most memorable contributions to ASAP, according to members who knew him.

“Give me a C! Give me an A!” Whitfield began to yell as the event progressed. By the end, he had given birth to the “CA-AM cheer” where everyone in the room chanted “C-A-A-M” in unison. All kidding aside, Whitfield felt the certification program was one of ASAP’s most important initiatives.

“That CA-AM certification legitimized what we do as alliance managers,” he said.

Calling People Out = A New Calling

Looking back, Whitfield credits Lilly with instilling the right values in its approach to alliances, namely empowering its alliance professionals to protect the interests of their partnerships first and foremost—something others might only have been preaching, not practicing, in the early 2000s.

“If you come into one of my governance meetings and you don’t know me, you don’t know who’s who, and you can tell which side I’m on, then I haven't done my job. I’ve gotta be objective in that meeting,” he said. “I’ve called out my Lilly colleagues. I’ve been in meetings where I’ve had to call out my partners. Lilly told us that’s what they wanted. They didn’t need another mouthpiece.”

Today, though his motivational speaking efforts, Whitfield is calling out students and corporate employees alike who have set the bar too low for themselves.

“The world is waiting on you. You’ve got more opportunities to be successful in this world than ever in the history of mankind. So tell me again what’s holding you back?”

When Whitfield was with Lilly, the mantra he used in his alliances was, “It doesn’t matter to me who wins if the patients lose.” Now, he’s working to rid people of all ages of what he calls “excuse-itis.”

To Whitfield, a collaborative approach and a “dose of positive thinking in the morning” is a cure for many ills.

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12 New CA-AMs Join Growing Ranks of Certified Alliance Professionals

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 2/25/2013

In the past month, 12 professionals have earned a CA-AM credential. Congratulations are in order for:
  • John Larson, AbbVie
  • Shankar Subramanian, AbbVie
  • Timm Hoyt, Brocade
  • Heidi Larsen, CA Technologies
  • Charles Peckham, Cisco
  • Jade Boneff-Walsh, Entrepreneurs' Organization
  • Vinnie Rivera, Nationwide
  • Laurence De Schoulepnikoff, Novartis
  • Masatoshi Takada, Shionogi & Co., Ltd.
  • Tamra Phillips, Unisys
  • Joan Wesolowski, Unisys
  • Houston Cable, USAA

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Big Pharma Allies with Doping Agencies to Prevent Drug Abuse by Athletes

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 2/20/2013

We cover a lot of interesting alliances in the world of biopharma, some of which are chronicled in our article “Strange Bedfellows” penned by our editor-in-chief Michael Burke that appears in the Q1 2013 issue of Strategic Alliance Magazine.

Yesterday, the New York Times had a fascinating feature on big pharma’s efforts to root out abuse of their drugs by athletes. The story is told primarily through ASAP Corporate Member Roche and its efforts to curb use of its EPO product that has used by several prominent jocks to gain an edge illegally, most notably now-disgraced Lance Armstrong, the most famous cyclist who was recently stripped of his seven Tour de France victories in light of mounting evidence of doping. It’s an interesting situation for Roche and other pharmaceutical companies in similar situations; EPO has several legitimate uses, but is gaining notoriety for the abuses by Olympic athletes, cyclists, baseball and football players, and the like.

Although the Times article doesn’t mention it, there are many people who believe the now-prohibited supplement Ephedra can provide positive benefits if used responsibly. However, Ephedra was banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) almost a decade ago based on growing evidence of a correlation with heart problems associated with the product. In particular, professional athletes that had taken Ephedra as an energy booster had subsequently died from heart attacks. Athletes, of course, tend to abuse drugs to get an edge, especially when taking them unsupervised.

What does this have to do with alliance management? ASAP has talked about public-private partnerships in the Q4 2012 edition of Strategic Alliance Magazine and its recent Triple Helix webinar, and these alliances will be front and center of the 2013 ASAP Global Alliance Summit’s keynote session. Still, the type of work being embarked upon in tandem by Roche and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in some ways breaks new ground in terms of how these types of alliances can be utilized.

The larger premise of the 2013 ASAP Global Alliance Summit keynote is to get people thinking creatively about what alliances can achieve. The Roche-WADA partnership shows how you can accomplish critical objectives that don't fall into neat buckets such as revenue generation, market expansion, or intellectual property gain—the things we normally think of when examining “partner” in the context of “build” or “buy,” for example. In fact, one wonders whether reputation protection is an area in which partnerships might play a bigger role in the near future.

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