Transitioning a Life Science Company to Commercialization

The following are a set of factors frequently impacting Life Science companies in the midst of the transition from an R&D dominated to more Commercially oriented culture.  Not all elements impact all organizations of course.  Nonetheless, a discussion of these topics and their relevance (or not) in your organization can be useful in anticpating and navigating the tricky territory ahead.

Fundemental shift in culture:

  • Academic to Market Focus, or
  • Interesting Science to Relevant Science (my interests vs customer interests), or
  • Research/Discovery to Clinical/Marketing (Redistribution of Management Attention & Resources)

An increased need for:

  • A clearly articulated strategy and an equally clear translation of that strategy into day-to-day priorities
  • A balance between Creativity and Rules:
    • Increased process discipline and controls
    • Increased structure and accountability
    • Generally, becoming more results and milestone oriented
  • Readily recognize expertise gaps and quickly fill them (and listen to the new experts)
  • Stronger integration across critical functions – i.e. Clin Dev à Marketing/ Commercial tends to be a key one.
  • Management of external expectations

Common Traps:

  • Change can drive dysfunctional behavior
  • The perception of gaining or loosing power is easily created
  • The shift in priorities/resources can create turf/territory issues
  • People can retreat to functional/technical domains as a defense mechanism
  • Too much focus on internal organizational dynamics can cause leaders to become disconnected from the external environment
  • Conversly, too much internal turmoil can drive the focus to only the external environment.

Heads Up to the Senior Team:

  • Communication – be clear about and actively communicate the strategic direction, rationale and near term priorities.
  • Maintain awareness and manage the “dualistic” role of the Senior Manager:
    • Functional Manager – keeping the day-to-day of their individual piece of the pie moving forward and delivering on their functional prioirities.
    • General Manager – hold the “big picture” strategic perspetive.  Understanding  and valueing the interdependence of the functions.
  • Act without functional Ego and drive this behavior down into the org’n.
  • Grant competence/knowledge/expertise to others in their own functional area.  Maintain (soft) functional boundaries.
  • Act as a single body, unwavering support of all decisions especially as relates to shifting resources, focus and attention to areas as/when needed.
  • Be models of discipline, accountability and execution.
  • Learn to behave more like a Leader and less like a Scientist: scientists are advocates of their own best thinking; Leaders are advocates of other’s best thinking.
  • Maintain focus and effectively allocate attention across an increasingly complex business – e.g. planning and managing multiple programs/projects in multiple stages of development.
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