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Learning Agility ID: Insight into Successful Leadership, Part Two

Posted By Genevieve Fraser, Tuesday, December 5, 2017
Updated: Monday, December 4, 2017

ASAP Media continues its coverage of “The Future Belongs to the Learning-Agile, a session presented Sept. 15 by Jim Peters at the 2017 ASAP BioPharma Conference. Peters is a senior partner in Korn/Ferry International's Leadership and Talent Consulting group. His core message: individuals and/or organizations most adaptable to change are the ones best positioned to survive in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world.


At this point in the session, Peters introduced the attendees to a “Learning Agility Assessment Chart,” where characteristics such as self-assured to self-awareness were graded on a continuum. Other items at each end of the continuum included “depth mental agility” to “breadth mental agility,” “consistent people agility” to “flexible people agility,” “structured change agility” to “experimental change agility,” and “dependable results agility” to “resourceful results agility.” The talent was then scored as a depth learner, expandable learner, or a breadth learner.

Learning agility is based on ability and willingness to learn from experience under first-time conditions, Peters continued, referencing the charts and where people placed themselves and historic figures, such as Mozart, da Vinci and Benjamin Franklin.  “It’s not related to IQ. There’s a difference between traditional learning in comparison to agile learning characteristics. By navigating waters of external forces, agile leaders make a difference. They seek out and have more diverse experiences which enable them to handle challenges. They reflect, gain insight, and distill to apply to situations that may have underlying principles that need that sort of approach.”

Executives who derailed had blind spots—have untested or underdeveloped competencies. In extreme cases, some executives are not able to give up control.  Peters warned against putting people into experiences they haven’t the know-how to deal with. From 35 to 54 is the prime age of functional leaders. But today, too often top executives and even CEOs are found among MBAs that are young and clueless. Their talent may help them with high performance but not agility.

Peters cited that research shows organizations are experiencing a 56% shortage of key positions. Some 48% of companies have no process in place for appropriately selecting candidates and 40% of high potential candidates promoted into a new assignment failed! He admonished the attendees to think about the risk to their organization and the damage to the talent’s future if he/she is shuttled into a position for which the professional is ill suited. Most executives send people to take a course to expand. Yet, research shows that 70% learn from assignments; 20% learn from people, and 10% from courses.

Some companies ID CEOs decades earlier, he stated. “They look for an aptitude for logic and reasoning, a problem solver with a track record and leadership ability. They focus on strengths, but should not ignore weaknesses. Instead, they should create a workaround, so it won’t cause problems. A serious candidate must be able to learn from experience and adjust and must be self-aware. Avoid the hierarchical talent who believes ‘I’m the leader and don’t care how others are responding around me.’”

Financial people believe IQ is the key to success, Peters warned. Select those with learning agility. Mental agility is about problem solving, not IQ. Remember, there are narrow problems and broad problems (depth and breadth).

“People who are endowed with agility are good at reading people. (Steve Jobs could zoom in to see what you were bad at and use it against you.) Agility does not mean you like change, but rather that you understand it and are willing to take heat to work it through, as opposed to some others who would dig in their heels,” he said.

Tags:  Agile learners  agility  alliance managers  Complex and Ambiguous)  creative problem solvers  executives  expandable learner  Jim Peters  Korn-Ferry International  Leadership and Talent Consulting  Learning Agility Assessment Chart  talent  Uncertain  VUCA (Volatile 

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Learning Agility ID: Insight into Successful Leadership, Part One

Posted By Genevieve Fraser, Monday, December 4, 2017

When the race goes not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, those that succeed are most likely blessed with agility. That was the reoccurring theme of “The Future Belongs to the Learning-Agile on day three of the 2017 ASAP BioPharma Conference, “Accelerating Life Science Collaboration: Better Partnering, Better Outcomes,” held September 13-15 in Cambridge, Mass. USA. Presented by Jim Peters, a senior partner in Korn/Ferry International's Leadership and Talent Consulting group, the core message is that the individual and/or organization most adaptable to change is the one best positioned to survive in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world.


Peters is the co-creator of Lominger's proprietary Succession Architect toolset and its Talking Talent process for enhancing executive talent reviews.  He is an expert in strategic human resource management, with a specific emphasis on strategic staffing, development, and succession planning.

“We have a talent problem, a huge talent problem everywhere. Because of VUCA we must move talent faster,” Peters informed attendees. The concept of VUCA was introduced by the U.S. Army War College to describe the more volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous multilateral world that resulted from the end of the Cold War. The term has been applied to ideas in strategic leadership in a wide range of organizations, from for-profit corporations to education.

Peters acknowledged that disrupters are a normal part of the business culture. Change is everywhere and coming on fast. Companies cannot rely on past performance to inform them what to do next. “Think, Google’s coming,” Peters said. “Publishing is now self-publishing. Food is now”

“Today you need to change and adjust, to be agile. Disruptors are at work so those at the top must allow for responsiveness, a strategic agility to see over the hill to  the other side. Alliance professionals can move more easily because of their adaptably. But if you don’t have the right people in the mix, what you want to happen won’t happen. You need the right people with the right skills at the right place and time.”  

“Consider air traffic control landing planes in a pattern—a string of pearls. If there is any change, you must change the pattern,” Peters said. “We find talent and create a string of pearls we call the organizational pipeline, the line and number of roles in an organization. To do that effectively, you need to be able to project into the future – to develop a person, starting as an individual contributor, up the line to a managerial role. But first, you need to properly ID the talent. Once you ID talent, you can figure out where they belong in the pattern, the string of pearls,” he explained.

Executives mistake high performance with high potential. Potential is looking forward; competencies look to the past. Think of agile learners as those who step out of their comfort zone. High performers exist on a continuum from depth to breath. Depth is found in functional technical experts who may be superior performers year after year, such as a chief engineer or medical specialist. But when searching for leaders, look for someone who can manage dilemmas effectively. To lead, you need folks that are creative problem solvers. They have breadth of focus in terms of performance. They lead well in first time situations.

We continue with Jim Peters’ session “The Future Belongs to the Learning-Agile in Part Two of this blog post. Check out ASAP Media’s extensive coverage of this and other sessions from the 2017 ASAP BioPharma Conference in Cambridge, Mass.

Tags:  Agile learners  alliance managers  Complex and Ambiguous)  creative problem solvers  executives  Jim Peters  Korn-Ferry International  Leadership and Talent Consulting  talent  Uncertain  VUCA (Volatile 

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Mayoly Spindler’s Stéphane Thiroloix: More on What CEOs Expect from Alliance Management

Posted By John W. DeWitt, Friday, September 9, 2016

Yesterday, Mayoly Spindler’s CEO Stéphane Thiroloix kicked off the opening plenary of the 2016 ASAP BioPharma Conference. His hour-long presentation and Q&A discussion riveted attendees and teed up key themes for the remainder of the three-day event at the Revere Hotel Boston Common, which was attended by more than 150 life sciences and healthcare partnering executives from around the world. A perennial topic of discussion among alliance execs, regardless of industry, has been how to make what alliance executives do top-of-mind in the C-suite—and how to educate and influence senior executives on how better to leverage alliance management to support the company’s strategic goals. Thiroloix’s talk resonated—because he truly “gets” alliance management and how it fits into an organization. 

Thiroloix has pushed to expand the role of alliance management in Mayoly Spindler, which focuses on gastroenterology and dermocosmetics—so he’s a fan of alliance management and argues that it now plays “a central role in what we do in the healthcare industry.” He’s also crystal clear on what he expects from alliance executives—and what he doesn’t want. I talked to several veteran chief alliance officers who described it as perhaps the best presentation they’ve heard at an ASAP conference, and as I’m writing this blog during the closing session of the conference, attendees are still exclaiming the value of this session for them. 

Check out our earlier coverage of his plenary talk as well as my colleague Cynthia B. Hanson’s strikingly thoughtful Q&A blog post with Thiroloix in August. And here are more nuggets of insight Thiroloix offered during his session: 

  • Align with C-suite processes. “Use the C-suite’s governance [process]. If you can fit your into the normal C-suite governance agenda, it’s better. Be part of the monthly meeting, versus scheduling an alliance meeting the C-suite.”
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat. “Alliances are complex. The rest of my life is also, so don’t expect me to memorize, remind me again, even if it feels incredibly basic. I will stop you if I don’t need more information.”
  • Be specific and don’t assume knowledge. “Whenever you talk about a partner, be ultra-specific. When [my alliance manger] Fabienne Pioch-Laval talks to me about a partner, I don’t hear the first sentence. I’m thinking about, ‘this is the one with the product coming out 2021.’ You have the full picture, but I don’t. Don’t assume that [senior executives] know the specifics. Keep telling me what, why, what for, and how.” 
  • No surprises. “Your role is to anticipate, to manage changes that come from the outside, and from the partner, which is perceived to be outside the company. But make sure [communicating these changes] doesn’t happen in groups. Make sure executive team members know in advance that this is coming up—working the meeting before it happens. The best way to do that is to get their teams to understand, make their teams look good, make sure they convey to their bosses [the information they need]. Help them help you—the C-suite can create interpersonal goodwill.”
  • Give timely support that builds partner. “There are a couple of companies where I have to make myself visit, but if something goes wrong, I don’t know how much I would want to fix it” because of the poor nature of the relationship. “And there are companies that even if something goes wrong, I still want to work with them. Try to find opportunities for senior executives to be in a positive relationship with each other. Make sure your CEO or head of R&D makes that phone call of congratulations for your partner’s success. Write me that message that I can email onto the partner—so that when there’s a bit of turmoil they’ll do the same,” and have the same goodwill towards your company.
  • Don’t bring the CEO your gripes about BD. “One thing that I really don’t want to do is to sort out issues between business development and alliance management. One of the functions where you can step on toes is business development. But you guys can work it out. I don’t want to be involved—I’m just being honest with you.” 
  • Bring your partnering magic to C-suite executives’ teams. “At the end of the day, it’s a function, it’s a set of technical skills, a 360-degree understanding, but there’s an art, an element of humanity, interpersonal dynamics, an element of human magic. I want to see you spending a lot more time with the teams of the C-suite members, so they are informed by their teams. Collaborating in governance just works better naturally—so this is really the key message.”

Tags:  alliance manager  business development  CEO  chief alliance officers  C-suite  executives  Mayoly Spindler  partner  R&D  Stéphane Thiroloix 

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