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A Global Team Declares

Its Global Priorities

Case Study #7 graphic.
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The Challenge

The global head of research and development at a pharmaceutical company was in charge of a reorganization. Although this leader was based in the U.S., the company headquarters were in Asia, and his team was spread across the U.S., Asia, and Europe. As he made new hires and brought his whole team up to speed during an active reorganization, he wanted to ensure this new global team clicked and worked well together across physical and cultural distance.

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The Work

For the first day the whole team would be together in the same room, Jo designed and facilitated a one-day in-person offsite focused on the area of Leading with Clarity of Vision. In the weeks leading up to this important gathering, Jo interviewed each member of the team to establish a rapport and to uncover key issues and talking points. While it takes more than a day to cultivate relationships, the team got a solid start.

At this meeting, the team identified their top strategic priorities. They also created their Rules of Engagement, establishing norms like how they would communicate with one another and how they planned to navigate conflict. At their second meeting, they created metrics and a KPI dashboard to measure how well they’re doing as a group. What’s more, they noticed some obstacles: a lack of meetings to connect and talk strategy, and a tendency for their group to work in isolation from other important stakeholders in the company.

Over the next year, Jo worked with the team in the area of Mastering the Art of Results, sitting in on meetings to observe how they worked with each other. She also designed and facilitated quarterly two-day offsites to make progress on key strategic initiatives.

As part of the area of Lead with Clarity of Vision, this team chose to carve out time for meetings with a new focus – time to “step back” and think together about more complex issues like strategic R&D investments, their global communications strategies, and key HR issues like succession planning and retention. They also established new meetings with important stakeholders inside the company to increase communication and coordination.

“Our team has gelled as hoped and now implements ideas in a very organized way.”

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The Result

Previously, the company’s timeline to develop new products had lagged, in part because the R&D team had no set criteria to decide which projects to fund. They made a 10-point go/no-go checklist based on their strategic priorities that ended up increasing the quality and speed of their decision-making. As a result, the team moved four promising drugs through the pipeline faster than ever before.

Thanks to the Rules of Engagement, team members were able to surface disagreements in a more generative way, so they could dig in and work on the issues instead of letting them fester into unproductive working relationships. Inspired by the changes this framework made possible, two team members turned around and took the practice to their own teams — and also worked on refining how their teams (which had been siloed in the past) could better work together.

Historically, this team had been in conflict with the commercial side of the business. Now, as a result of regular meetings with other teams and the CEO, they’re seeing greater alignment and buy in across the organization. Since the team has clarified its global priorities — and makes a regular habit of communicating them to others — they see less divisiveness and conflicting priorities at the regional level.

Lastly, when Covid shut down international travel, this global team was better prepared to develop novel ways to work together effectively across the miles.