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How Do You Propel a Big, Complex Oncology Alliance Forward at Breakneck Speed? Very Carefully

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Friday, September 25, 2020

Lou Gerstner once asked, 'Who says elephants can't dance?' For the past year and a half AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo have been making their pachyderm sprint like a cheetah? Last week, at the 2020 ASAP BioPharma Conference, Jonathan Bell, director of alliance and integration management at AstraZeneca, and Kenji Shigeta, vice president of DS-8201 strategy in the Global Brand Strategy Unit of Daiichi Sankyo, shared the story of their companies’ fast-moving collaboration around the cancer drug Enhertu (aka DS-8201) in a presentation titled “Executing the Biggest, Most Complex Oncology Alliance in Recent History—Learnings from the First 18 Months Together.”

The partnership has amassed impressive milestones to date. In what Shigeta termed a “speed marriage,” the two organizations announced their partnership in the spring of 2019, a mere five weeks after negotiations began in February. Shigeta also claimed that the $1.35 billion upfront payment and the subsequent $5.5 billion in milestones and other transactions represented the largest pharma deal for a single compound that has not been approved yet. The collaboration, which began with 17 programs, consisted of 43 initiatives by the time Shigeta spoke to ASAP members last week—“2.5 times larger in one year,” he said, highlighting the rapidly growing scale of the alliance.

High Response Rate: Powerful Early Results Drive Stakeholder Engagement

To move a collaboration of this magnitude forward in such a short timeframe, experienced pharma-industry observers might guess that the asset at the center could be truly special. They would be correct. Enhertu has demonstrated unprecedented efficacy in treating breast, lung, colorectal, and gastric cancers, and has already garnered national recognition in the United States—Shigeta told the audience that interviews with patients who attended the 2019 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS) were syndicated over several CBS stations last December.   

The win-win for both companies is clear. Daiichi Sankyo is relying on AstraZeneca to help commercialize the drug outside of Japan, particularly in the United States, United Kingdom, and China. AstraZeneca gets a cut of the profits of a “best-in-class therapy,” said Shigeta. As is often the case in pharma, stakeholders on both sides of the alliance are highly motivated by Enhertu’s promise. Shigeta relayed an anecdote detailing how the alliance team received 80 responses to a survey it issued to a mix of 100 employees from both companies. He joked that the “response rate is higher than what we saw in Enhertu efficacy.” He then said that, kidding aside, this eagerness to participate in the survey illustrated a “pattern of high-level engagement and dedication” in the alliance. 

“Good Collaborative Attitude” Sets the Right Tone for the Partnership

Governance, always a critical part of any partnership, takes on even greater import when an alliance of this size and magnitude moves at breakneck speed. With a little trial and error, AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo came up with a model that is arguably worthy of a business school or ASAP Handbook of Alliance Management case study. A Joint Executive Committee (JEC) sat at the top of the governance chain. Five individual committees dedicated to development, medical affairs, finance, supply chain, and commercialization, respectively, reported directly to the JEC. Underneath the Joint Commercialization Committee (JCC) sat three regional committees, one each for affairs pertaining to the United States, European Union, and all other geographies.

The first meeting of the eight senior leaders—four from each company—that made up the JEC was a fruitful one. The committee developed a joint vision statement: “Our obligation to patients is beyond what one company can achieve alone.” After the kickoff meeting, the companies communicated this vision statement, strategy, and goals of the alliance to new patients. Shigeta praised the JEC for setting the right tone for the alliance, and for creating a culture that allowed stakeholders on both sides to thrive, calling them “solution-oriented leaders” that have a “good collaboration attitude.”

“We are quite lucky to work with those exceptional leaders,” he added.

Collectively, the alliance team never stops. When employees start their day in Japan, they can take handoffs from workers in America who are wrapping up their activities for the evening. Toward the end of the Japanese workday, European stakeholders start their mornings and eventually overlap with US alliance colleagues in the afternoon and early evening.

Bogged Down: Top-Heavy Decision Making Stalls Out the Alliance Engine

When Bell took the virtual podium, he dove deeper into the machinations of the governance operation. He told the audience that the alliance had a few things going for it immediately after the launch, at least on the surface. First, the oncology lead of Sankyo’s R&D unit used to work at AstraZeneca and was thus familiar with the partner’s inner workings. In addition, both companies utilized similar cross-functional Global Project Teams (GPTs). With similar working structures, the companies initially figured they could get away with relatively simple rules of engagement—why overcomplicate governance if you don’t have to? Although well intentioned, this directive backfired to a degree. The lower committees felt they had to defer all decisions to senior management, “so what should have been relatively easy, high-level discussions at the JEC got bogged down into hours of negotiation about clinical design. It simply wasn’t working at the pace we needed to go,” said Bell.

AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo decided to hold a two-day workshop under the guidance of an external agency aimed at developing course corrections. The companies administered a health check and the agency conducted one-on-one interviews prior to the event. On the first day, the joint development teams analyzed the findings and surfaced difficulties faced by stakeholders in both companies. The second day was spent driving home the idea that “a contract is not an instruction manual or a recipe book,” said Bell, making the point that beyond the JEC, the characteristics of which were spelled out in the contract, the underlying governance represented a “gray space” that could be treated as a “sandbox” for devising a structure that best fit the needs of the collaboration.

Alliance Tax Break Pays Off in Efficient Development Operation

The result was a new look for joint drug development procedures. The companies formalized the role of Joint Leadership Teams (JLTs) that sat beneath the Joint Development Committee (JDC). The JLTs and JDC were to agree upon all of the finer details before presenting initiatives to the JEC for final approval.

The new configuration had the desired effect. Loaded with relatively senior personnel, empowered to obtain approvals underneath the JEC, and now meeting weekly, the JLTs moved development items through the chain of command efficiently—fully vetted proposals were approved by the JEC 100 percent of the time after the workshop. The alliance now expects to approve as many as 15 late-stage study registrations this year. Bell said the “alliance tax bill” is much lower thanks to this expediency. 

Bell concluded by imparting four lessons to BioPharma Conference attendees. First, he credited a thorough download session conducted by Daiichi Sankyo that brought alliance stakeholders up to speed on Enhertu for setting a precedent of transparency and trust. Second, kickoff meetings are especially important in an alliance of this magnitude. Partners must agree on ways of doing things early, remain flexible during the first tests of the initial configuration, and make changes wherever necessary. Third, he recommended building “workflow archetypes”— that is, alliance managers should explore incorporating internal processes into a plan. Finally, leverage experience from other alliances. To this last point, Bell said he was fortunate to have worked on other “Goliath-Goliath” alliances in the past, such as AstraZeneca’s collaboration with Merck.

The Reward for an $18 Million Q1? The Alliance Teams Get to Do It Again

The work has paid off. On Dec. 20, 2019, the two companies received accelerated approval by the FDA two months after filing. Enhertu then amassed $18 million in US sales in this year’s first quarter. Shigeta said the clinicians are reporting exceptional responses to the drug in patients thus far.

“We cannot achieve this without fantastic and tight collaboration by two companies,” he said.

Buoyed by the success of their first year and a half working together, the joint teams entered into another major alliance initiative this past summer centered around a compound known currently as DS-1062.

In the Q&A that followed, the presenters were asked how they specifically aligned on governance before the deal was signed. Bell explained that a lot of this was covered in the five weeks of negotiations. The negotiators outlined a development plan and approved a joint business plan for US operations. Shigeta said the compressed timeframe actually spurred the teams to prioritize matters effectively.

“We had a clear goal in front of us—to launch the product within 12 months,” he said, adding that this focus was a “driving engine” for the partnership’s first year.

Asked if any executives served on both the JLT and JDC committees, Shigeta estimated a 20 to 30 percent overlap, which helped bridge the cross-functional JLT teams and the JDC when the latter had to make recommendations to the JEC. Bell added that it was important for the people serving on both committees to have a certain amount of authority if the lower committees were to obtain alignment under the JEC.

Another viewer asked if this approach is translatable to a biotech-pharma alliance of two large organizations.

Bell felt it could be, provided that the organizations, particularly the big pharma company, weren’t entrenched in their way of doing things. A 50-50 alliance suggests no hierarchy and calls for each player to remain flexible. Shigeta noted that resource allocations may not be 50-50 in another collaboration, but that doesn’t have to derail a collaborative spirit. The companies just have to tailor a structure to their needs if the AstraZeneca–Daiichi Sankyo model doesn’t fit.

We captured all of the other live sessions from last week’s events on this blog, and we will be bringing recaps of several more prerecorded on-demand presentations over the course of the next month. However, if you registered for the BioPharma Conference, we strongly urge you to check out the full recordings on the conference portal. Our blog posts capture only a fraction of the great insights in each session, so don’t miss out on any of the great wisdom that has been shared during the livestream and on-demand portions of the event.

Tags:  Alliance  AstraZeneca  cancers  collaboration  Daiichi Sankyo  Enhertu  integration management  JDC  JLT  Jonathan Bell  Kenji Shigeta  Oncology Alliance  partnership  pharma-industry 

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Driving Through Spaghetti: Navigating the “Chaos” of Biopharma/Digital Partnerships

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Wednesday, September 16, 2020

There are many things biopharma alliance professionals do well, and many areas where they shine. Partnerships between life sciences companies and digital organizations, however, while on the rise, remain the new frontier for alliance management. And to give alliance professionals their due, it’s often their organizations that are caught flatfooted by the demands and challenges that lie along the biopharma/digital divide. In fact, greater involvement by alliance groups might help operationalize and execute on these partnerships such that they fulfill their purposes and create more of their intended value.

That’s one of the assessments provided by Stu Kliman, CA-AM, and Ben Siddall, both partners in Vantage Partners, in their presentation, “Enhancing Partnerships Between Life Sciences and Digital Organizations,” on day two of the 2020 ASAP BioPharma Conference. (Vantage Partners is a platinum sponsor of the conference.)

In introducing Kliman and Siddall, ASAP president and CEO Michael Leonetti, CSAP, noted that this is “a topic that we’ve been talking about for a number of years at ASAP.” The two presenters agreed, with Siddall adding that what has changed in the three or four years since he and Kliman began facilitating such partnerships and doing presentations on the subject is the sheer proliferation of these alliances—to the extent that they can no longer fit on one slide anymore.

The trend is part of “an increasingly complex ecosystem, with biopharma at the center,” according to Siddall. The question, he said, is “How do we take advantage of all these relationships and manage [them] in a coherent way?” It can be done, he added, but due to the number of relationships involved, and the breadth and longevity of those relationships, “it’s a struggle.”

Changing Mental Models

Kliman mentioned that when biopharma people hear the word “partnering,” they have “a mental model for what that means,” which may be “somewhat narrow and [something that] happens linearly—the classic drug development and commercialization process.” But digital partnerships are a different animal. As Kliman put it, they tend to be “more invasive and more involved for alliance management than is typically the case.”

Kliman gave a couple examples of such partnerships, such as Concerto AI and BMS, and GE and Roche, before noting that there are often so many internal and external players and stakeholders involved, and so many different activities across the alliance life cycle, it can be challenging to coordinate all those functions and activities. “All that looks easy on a slide, but it’s hard to make all the pieces fit,” said Siddall.

And whose job is it, anyway? Both Kliman and Siddall, in different ways, made the case for alliance management groups to perform this difficult task.

Even in a “traditional” biopharma alliance, there is great complexity and a number of functions involved, and alliance managers tend to move among the different functions as needed to communicate and coordinate activities and ensure alignment, in addition to working closely with their opposite numbers at the partner company. With a biopharma/digital partnership, however, the number of functions increases and may include things like AI, tech suppliers, virtual trials (often international in nature), and more.

The Spaghetti Slide

Displaying a slide showing a veritable spider web of lines drawn between all these different functions, Siddall noted, “You see how complex the map looks. You’ve got this spaghetti.” Throughout the presentation, this was referred back to as “the spaghetti slide.”

Notwithstanding this complexity, said Kliman, “We believe the alliance management group is very well positioned to own these activities” and be the “change management driver” in digital partnerships. Other functions are simply not prepared to do it, he said.

Yet significant organizational challenges remain. Recent Vantage research shows that 74 percent of biopharma respondents said their organization has an explicit digital strategy—but 52 percent say that internal stakeholders are not clear about how to effectively engage their key digital relationships. What’s more, only 15 percent of respondents said their company has clear and operationalized approaches to manage digital relationships differently from more transactional vendor relationships.

“So how do you do this well?” Siddall asked. He cited what he called “three critical enablers.” To be successful, he said, organizations must:

  • Align decisions with strategy (“What’s the purpose? Why are we doing this?”)
  • Embed a cross-functional operating model to speed execution
  • Build the skills to enable agile collaboration

“Everybody’s Doing It”—but Not Everybody’s Doing It Well

Many companies simply ask, “Which partner does X?” he said, and then “get a list of big names.” This is the wrong approach. Rather, they should start with their overall strategy and ask, “What are we trying to do?” And, given the number of activities and functions involved, they also have to ask themselves, “How do we actively manage all that chaos, and make it strategic?”

In fact, Siddall said that alliance professionals not only need to manage the chaos, but they might need to create some as well. In so doing, they’ll need to avoid what has sometimes been the biopharma response to digital organizations’ ways: “That’s not how we do it here.”

Kliman acknowledged that the challenges of the biopharma/digital divide can make for a “differentially uncomfortable situation.” “As alliance managers, we like control,” he said. But there are far more digital partnerships now than just a couple years ago, and the number is expected to continue to rise. So get used to it—the future is here.

“The size and diversity of digital portfolios has grown,” Kliman said. “Folks have woken up to the implications for their organization. We see organizations bellying up to the [digital] bar.” Or as Siddall said, “Everybody’s doing it now.”

And although some of the skills needed for digital partnerships may be different, Siddall said it requires a “mindset shift” rather than reflecting a “skill set conflict.”

We Need a Navigator

Finally, Siddall’s pitch for greater involvement by alliance management in digital partnerships highlighted alliance managers’ role as “navigators” of different relationships, especially their ability to help partners navigate biopharma organizations and surface differences.

Kliman said he wouldn’t argue what alliance managers should or should not do, but the fact remains that companies need to have an approach to managing these partnerships—and who will be accountable to drive alignment around executing the operating model?

“It makes good sense with a portfolio of digital relationships that alliance management has a role to play,” he said.

Check back in this space for more coverage of the 2020 ASAP BioPharma Conference, and remember that the online showcase on Vimeo gives you all the livestream sessions in real time—and later, once they’re archived, in case you missed one—as well as all the on-demand content, sponsors’ messages, and more!

Tags:  agile  alignment  alliance management  alliances  Ben Siddall  collaboration  cross-functional  Digital  internal stakeholders  Life Sciences  Partnerships  portfolio  relationships  speed execution  strategy  Stu Kliman  Vantage Partners 

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What’s in a Moment? On-Demand Summit Session Details Key Elements of Joint Alliance Marketing

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Thursday, June 25, 2020

The 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Summit is underway. On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of this week, ASAP will deliver two to three hours of live-streamed sessions that will be chock full of information that can help alliance managers advance their collaborations. On top of that, Summit attendees also have access to many more prerecorded sessions that touch numerous aspects of alliance management. As my colleague Michael Burke wrote yesterday, we will be bringing you highlights of some of those presentations throughout this week and beyond.

Liz Fuller, CA-AM, senior director of alliance marketing at Citrix, tackled one of those critical elements of alliance management in an on-demand session titled, “Integrated Joint Alliance Marketing Best Practices: How to Establish Joint

Marketing Moments That Drive Impact.” Fuller broadly covered five themes in her presentation:

  1. Focus on marketing “moments,” not activities
  2. Understand data
  3. Establish an integrated approach
  4. Build a complete content journey
  5. Set shared partnership goals

Share a Moment with Your Partner and Prospects

What is a marketing moment? Fuller asked viewers to think about their marketing efforts by contrasting the ripple effects that result from throwing one giant boulder into a lake against those that appear on the surface of the water after steadily tossing several small pebbles over a long period of time. You might see a large short-term impact from one big marketing initiative, but steady, consistent, small-scale engagement with prospects over time will ingrain your company’s value proposition into their consciousness, especially since people by nature have short attention spans. Metaphorically, the ripples from continual lighter-touch communication last longer.

“It’s not that you hold people’s attention, it’s that you stay in front of them. You don’t keep their attention because of one thing that you have done. You keep their attention regularly,” explained Fuller.

To tie the concept together, Fuller cited a hypothetical major partner user conference as an example of an event that could serve as a standalone marketing initiative (a large boulder) or part of a larger chain of interconnected marketing activities over time (a series of stones). Your company and the partner organization will likely put out press releases announcing a milestone of the collaboration during the event. The parties might issue other announcements at your conference two months later, and at another industry conference toward the end of the year.

However, the time between these events represents a white space of sorts for alliance marketing teams. Fuller urged listeners to fill that void with thought leadership pushes, extensive social media promotion and engagement, content tied to demand generation and pipeline nurturing, and customer success stories. She saw these activities as the “connective tissue” between the big events that creates larger marketing moments.

“Data Is Your Friend”

Although gut instinct always plays a part in marketing, Fuller reminded the audience that even those judgments are partly based on the “absorption of data,” not just on personal experiences.

“Data is your friend,” Fuller said, before admitting that she hated math as a student.

Fuller exhorted technology alliance pros to be familiar with the latest third-party economic and industry research, as well as reports and analysis from respected industry analysts. Current market size and projected growth models should always be in the minds of marketers as they try to figure out what is driving the market and from where the biggest growth will come. Joint marketing efforts should also be aligned with data and messaging associated with the sales organization’s annual priorities. Perhaps most importantly, past and current business results are also critical data points, even if constantly shifting marketing dynamics oftentimes lay waste to the notion that past is prologue.

“It’s not a perfect science,” Fuller acknowledged. However, “if you don’t look at how things perform for you previously, how do you expect to know how they will perform for you now?”

Integrating Marketing into Broader Organizational Goals

Fuller spoke about Citrix’s broader “air cover brand campaigns,” which embody some of the virtualization giant’s most pressing corporate goals and messages. These campaigns function as a roadmap for alliance marketing teams. Fuller said messaging for all joint alliance-marketing efforts: 1) align with this broader brand-campaign messaging, 2) are purpose-built for Citrix’s primary audiences, and 3) support the priorities of the sales organization. 

Of course, gelling marketing with the other departments can be challenging.  Each part of the organization might look at different metrics. In an alliance, sales, marketing, and business development “sometimes operate in different swim lanes,” according to Fuller.

Marketing can support sales in every phase of the funnel. If salespeople have already spoken to a prospect about a joint product, the alliance team should think of ways to support that lead further down the pipeline by delivering messages and supporting documentation around competing products, particular uses of the product or service, other potentially helpful joint offerings, or other functions or services that the customer has not considered that might be of use.

Content for Every Stage of the Marketing Journey

When putting together marketing campaigns, Fuller develops content for various stages of the customer’s purchasing journey, which she characterized in a set of generic statements:

  1. “I want to know” – The stage where the customer is eager to learn about something new
  2. “I want to go” – An intrigued customer wants more detailed information
  3. “I want to do” – The prospect is ready to see a demo or take a specific action  
  4. “I want to buy” – Customer is ready to select an offering

Fuller similarly broke down the prospect’s mindset into a series of phases, and spoke about how to target content for the customer’s disposition in each moment.

  • Awareness – Help prospects articulate their problems or illuminate a challenge they were previously weren’t conscious of
  • Education – Customers gather lots of information before they talk to vendors, so alliance marketers must make sure those people come across white papers, articles, data sheets, and other content detailing their joint products and value proposition in the process
  • Consideration – Strengthen side-by-side comparison messaging vis-à-vis competitors, and make sure joint offerings are submitted for bakeoffs, independent product reviews, and in-depth investigations of relevant products
  • Purchase – Marketing materials must get prospects to do more than just buy the product; they should inspire customers to use a large percentage of the offering’s functionality—partners will endure a customer backlash if their services become “shelfware”
  • Advocacy – How do you operate as an advisor to the organization so that they advocate for you down the road?

 Jointly Developed KPIs Align Partners Behind Alliance Goals

If partners can’t agree on the alliance’s goals, they will have a hard time reaching them. Each party in an alliance needs to arrive at a set of clear, simply stated key performance indicators (KPIs) that reflect what joint success looks like to the parties. This could come in the form of sales revenue, leads in the pipeline, share of voice, or other data points. This can be tricky at times because organizations often don’t measure things the same way, and sometimes each company uses a different language to discuss the same topics. These are minor obstacles as long as the parties ultimately present the same story to customers, prospects, and key internal stakeholders, in Fuller’s view.

Fuller had many more insights in her session. Summit attendees have the opportunity to learn what else will help their joint alliance marketing efforts, as her presentation will be on demand for those who have registered for the conference for an extended time.

Remember, Fuller’s presentation is just the tip of the iceberg of the great knowledge awaiting Summit registrants in our lineup of live sessions this Tuesday through Thursday and deep reservoir of on-demand sessions. Make sure you delve into the Summit portal soon! 

Tags:  alliance goals  alliance management  alliance partners  Citrix  collaboration  Liz Fuller  marketing  marketing journey  partner  partner program  partnering  prospects 

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Riding the Roller Coaster in a Long-standing Alliance

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Thursday, June 25, 2020

How do you keep a long-standing alliance moving forward productively? Put another way, how do you keep a roller coaster humming along on its tracks, despite the ups and downs?

The answer, in a nutshell, is to have tools, frameworks, and lots of communication. And for good measure, a dedicated team whose sole purpose is to look after the health and success of the partnership. In a word, resilience.

That was the message of Alistair Dixon, PhD, head of alliance and integration management at UCB, and Tracy Blois, PhD, director, alliance management business development at Amgen. Their presentation, “Resilience in Alliance Management: How Amgen-UCB Managed the ‘Roller-Coaster Ride’ of a Long-standing Alliance,” was just one of many sessions now available on demand from the virtual ASAP Global Alliance Summit.

From Molecule to Market

This alliance began back in 2002, as a partnership between Amgen and Celltech. In 2004 Celltech was acquired by UCB, and the partnership continued as a collaboration license agreement for research, development, and eventual marketing of antibody products targeting the protein sclerostin, which plays a role in bone formation. As Blois described it, this was conceived as a partnership “from molecule to market from very early on.”

Profits and losses would be shared equally, and as Dixon said, “This collaboration agreement is truly structured to foster collaboration, alignment, and concession.”

Perhaps surprisingly, given that UCB is European, headquartered in Brussels—Dixon is based in the UK—and Amgen is a US company based in Thousand Oaks, Calif., Dixon reported that the cultural differences between the two companies were not actually that great. Organizational and internal structures, however, were another matter.

UCB is organized around “patient value units” and “product missions,” and regional leads report back to business units. Amgen, on the other hand, is more traditionally organized into R&D, operations, and commercial, and the regions report back to the commercial division.

Exploring Differences, and Cooling Off the “White Heat”

It was important first that these organizational differences be understood and communicated, and that some tools and strategies be developed for the sake of the alliance. These have consisted of three main pillars:

  • Regular health checks, including the use of joint organizational maps
  • Alliance tools, including focusing on interests, not positions
  • Evolved governance, featuring the formation of an alliance leadership team, or ALT

The tools in particular were helpful, including a Circle of Value tool provided by Vantage Partners, as well as joint problem-solving frameworks, “ways of working” frameworks, and exercises in joint scenario planning. The latter, according to Dixon, helped the two companies to “prealign” before finding themselves in “the white heat of a difficult situation.”

Reaping the Benefits of an Elevated, ALTernative Governance

Having a flexible governance model helped as well, but one of the biggest contributors to the alliance’s success has been the formation of an Alliance Leadership Team (ALT), specifically focused on the needs of the partnership and its ongoing health. The ALT membership is composed of senior program leadership, along with representatives from global alliance management, global project management, and finance—all from both organizations, working together.

According to both Dixon and Blois, the ALT has been able to resolve issues, avoid escalations, establish more trust, and more proactively manage the partnership overall—which has made for better cross-functional execution by the joint project team, as well as more “elevated” governance by the joint commercial committee and other governance bodies.

Dixon and Blois both see the ALT as a team specifically set up to focus on the success of the partnership. The key role it plays has meant that:

  • Time and space have been carved out for “nonoperational” decisions.
  • The ALT fosters objective, nonpositional discussions and is a “safe space” for open conversation about perceptions and concerns.
  • Senior governance has become more strategic, with the ALT getting “ahead” of the usual governance committees in its high-level decision making.
  • Trust has been built over time through issue resolution and intervention.

Meanwhile, the years of research and development and hard work by all concerned resulted in a new drug called Evenity (romosozumab), approved for treatment of osteoporosis among postmenopausal women at high risk of bone fracture. So the partnership not only has kept the roller coaster on the tracks, but arguably has been an exhilarating success.

“Resilience has been absolutely key to this,” said Dixon. “Being able to sit down, understand, and have open and transparent conversations with people has been critical to what we’ve achieved.”

Tags:  Alistair Dixon  alliance management  alternative governance  Amgen  collaboration  cross-functional execution governance  health checks  integration  joint organizational map  partnership  PhD  Tracy Blois  UCB 

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Collaboration: Easier Said Than Done

Posted By Jan Twombly, CSAP, President, The Rhythm of Business, Thursday, December 12, 2019

The following blog was originally posted by ASAP corporate member and Education Provider Partner,  The Rhythm of Business.

Collaboration is a business buzzword that everyone thinks they know what it means and how to do it, but few truly do; yet it has never been more important than it is today. In addition to the lack of collaborative skills and mindset would-be collaborators also face a Collaboration Paradox— the systems, processes, and policies that have enabled success in the past reinforce barriers impeding success in today’s ecosystem-based collaborative business models. Developing the necessary capability—the mindset, skillset, and toolset for intra- and inter-organizational collaboration—is a work in process for most organizations. This capability also needs a backbone to latch itself to—the culture, policies, and processes of a leadership system that enable and encourage collaborative ways of working.

As a business concept du jour, collaboration means everything from open office concepts to electronic documents that multiple people can work on simultaneously, to team work. These are all elements of collaboration, but they fail to adequately define it. Collaboration is a risk sharing and resource leveraging strategic behavior that necessitates coordinating activities and exchanging information for mutual benefit. It requires an environment of trust, transparency, and respect. It is a comprehensive way of thinking and acting that takes proficiency in multiple skills. It is not a single skill and certainly not a technology.

Companies that are successful in becoming digitally-enabled and customer-obsessed—and therefore prepared to compete as we enter the 2020s—are those best able to collaborate internally and externally. For example, MIT Sloan Management Review’s research finds that: “A focus on collaboration—both within organizations and with external partners and stakeholders—is central to how companies create business value and establish competitive advantage.”[1] According to a study by SAP, “Digital winners tend to have more managers with strong collaboration skills than lower performing companies. In addition, 74 percent of these top performing companies plan to actively nurture the concept of collaboration within their organizations over the next few years.”[2]

Despite collaborative skills becoming ever more the imperative, the reality of collaborative execution is far more challenging than the data would have you believe. In a study from Capgemini, approximately 85 percent of executives believe that their organizations easily collaborate across functions and business units, whereas only a little over 40 percent of their employees—who are actually on the front-lines of collaboration—agree.[3] A Harvard Business Review article on collaboration sheds light on this collaboration gap:

Leaders think about collaboration too narrowly: as a value to cultivate but not a skill to teach. Businesses have tried increasing it through various methods, from open offices to naming it an official corporate goal. While many of these approaches yield progress—mainly by creating opportunities for collaboration or demonstrating institutional support for it—they all try to influence employees through superficial or heavy-handed means, and research has shown that none of them reliably delivers truly robust collaboration.[4]

Does this mean that, while collaboration works in theory, it can’t be practically applied? Not at all. But the question does strike at the heart of the problem—collaboration is easier said than done.

Let’s look at a simple example. A company we were engaged with instituted a campaign to improve collaboration amongst sales teams. The company spent a lot of time, effort, and money on a program intended to promote collaboration within the teams. When the results were evaluated, the program’s sponsors found that level of collaboration hadn’t improved at all.

Our analysis quickly identified why that was the case. The teams’ performance was evaluated by rank-ordering each of the team members from best to worst. And, using the existing performance criteria, the individuals at the top received a number of “rewards” for their success, while the folks at the bottom of the rankings lost their jobs. Clearly, the evaluation process encouraged an “everyman for himself” approach that was exactly the opposite to the desired increase in team collaboration.

That’s the collaboration paradox at work—rewarding the traditional approach while investing to get the desired increase in collaboration. Despite focusing on collaborative skill building, the company neglected to adjust their employee evaluation and reward system—elements of the leadership system—to support collaboration. Leadership worked to change the evaluation system to reward collaboration and our subsequent analysis demonstrated both increases in collaboration and sales performance.

This is but one example of attempts to foster collaboration falling flat because the leadership system was built for competition among team members, not collaboration. Until companies evolve their leadership systems, collaboration as a strategic behavior will remain easier said than done.

[1] David Kiron, “Why Your Company Needs More Collaboration,” MIT Sloan Management Review, Fall 2017

[2] Virginia Backaitis, “Collaboration Leads to Success in Digital Workplaces,” SAP Survey, 2017

[3] “The Digital Culture Challenge: Closing the Employee-Leadership Gap,” Capgemini Digital Transformation Institute, 2018

[4] Francesca Gino, “Cracking the Code on Sustained Collaboration,” Harvard Business Review, November-December 2019.

Tags:  collaboration  collaboration paradox  collaborative skills  Jan Twombly  leadership system  The Rhythm of Business 

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