Live from eyeforpharma Philadelphia 2019— Dean McAlister, SVP of Client Relationship Development at STEM Healthcare, led a panel - "Lost in Translation: Why Your Teams Don't Execute Your Strategy" - of pharma executives focused on exploring the gap between strategy and execution. 

Here are a dozen soundbites from the leaders in the room:

“The easiest strategy to execute is always the one you drive yourself—free of vendors upstream and of shifting expectations downstream. But in this day and age, those solo opportunities are few and far between. Gone are the days of sales teams acting in a bubble—lines are blurring between medical teams, marketing functions, payer and reimbursement groups, and countless others.”

—Mina Makar, SVP US Respiratory an Infectious Diseases, AstraZeneca

“Today’s successful launch is multi-functional—bringing together disciplines from payer to sales and from marketing to medical. In this day and age, you’ve got to build a schematic to bring the strategy to life and keep it on track. The market is now so complex with countless functions crossing paths, so keeping the trains on time is more critical than ever.”

—James Brewer, Director of Global Commercial Operations, Eli Lilly

“One way to solve for dysfunction is to add high function. Finding and elevating top talent and replicating learnings from their experience has proved to be a key to success.”

—Dave Giles, National Sales Director, Neurology, Autoimmune & Rare Diseases at Mallinckrodt

“Our company recently offered a voluntary early retirement package that led to around 3,000 employees leaving. What that left was a vacuum. We lost experience—not intelligence. We had folks step away who had survived hard times, learned from mistakes, and come out stronger. We’d added smart new talent, but without the experience we’d lost, we found ourselves not knowing who to go to.”

—James Brewer, Director of Global Commercial Operations, Eli Lilly

“Be humble enough to know that you don’t know everything, be smart enough to bring top talent into the organization, and be wise enough to listen to it.”

—Dave Giles, National Sales Director, Neurology, Autoimmune & Rare Diseases at Mallinckrodt

“The minute you lose the trust of your people is when execution falls apart. That’s when individuals take matters into their own hands and go off-strategy. You owe it to your people to stay two steps ahead of them all the time. It’s critical that those who depend on you remain confident in you.”

—Mina Makar, SVP US Respiratory an Infectious Diseases, AstraZeneca

“Recently we got some disappointing news around an otherwise promising label. The reality was that it sent ripples throughout the organization. Two other key brands had to step up to pick up the slack because in the end, we’re still accountable to Wall Street. The most critical action in these situations is to ensure we adjust expectations accordingly through a single source of authority.”

—James Brewer, Director of Global Commercial Operations, Eli Lilly

“Here’s a crucial point to remember as platforms like Workday and others platforms enable more employee voices to be heard—using them to share inspiration and motivation from powerful patient stories to real-world successes from the field is great, but they’re not an open forum to debate strategy.”

—Mina Makar, SVP US Respiratory an Infectious Diseases, AstraZeneca

“Remember: it’s never that you are failing, it’s that we are failing. The first question to ask in an organization that’s missing the mark is for leaders to ask themselves is this: are we executing the strategy flawlessly? If we’re not, there’s no sense in shifting the strategy—we can’t yet conclude it’s not working.”

—Dave Giles, National Sales Director, Neurology, Autoimmune & Rare Diseases at Mallinckrodt

Closing Question: What wisdom would you impart to the next generation?

“The tactics we employ have to align to a strategy, and it must be measurable. There’s so much opportunity through the lens of incentive compensation. If we say that the customer is the core of our strategy, but your incentives are built around brand sales, you’ve got a disconnect.”

—James Brewer, Director of Global Commercial Operations, Eli Lilly

“If you’re going to be successful in the future, you need to know each and every stakeholder in play. You need to understand the real needs of payers, KOLs, patient advocates, IDNs, and countless others.”

—Mina Makar, SVP US Respiratory an Infectious Diseases, AstraZeneca

“Here’s my final advice: Keep the strategy simple. Focus on a few key priorities. Keep employees engaged. Remember, it’s a leader’s job to keep your workforce delivering optimally.”

—Dave Giles, National Sales Director, Neurology, Autoimmune & Rare Diseases at Mallinckrodt

About the Author:

Drew Beck brings more than a decade of broad healthcare experience to GSW in his role as the Director of Innovation. He has enjoyed working for big healthcare names including Eli Lilly & Co. and GlaxoSmithKline in Global Marketing and Pharmaceutical Sales roles, but his start came from hands-on work in patient care in Emergency Medicine. This foundation has given him a deep understanding of both patients and healthcare professionals. In his current role, he combines all he has learned from this background with insights into current market trends to help clients drive the future of their brands.