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Archive for March, 2015

I’ve been wrestling with something and would really like input from you, my commercial biopharma readers.

It has to do with the misperception of the training department as something less-than-strategic in the commercial organization.

You know the drill. Financial problems? – cut training. Tactical needs? – throw it over the wall at training. Got a rising corporate star needing a ticket to punch? – put him or her over training.

Training is often viewed as a “servant” organization, without a business-value-adding identity – and we who are in the field often struggle to articulate its strategic role in the corporation.

We have an instinctive understanding of the value of T&D, but how to articulate it in the language that a C-level person would embrace? Can it be summarized in one punchy sentence?

Here’s one concept I’ve come up with so far…

Training Development value

Training’s mission is to develop the present and future leadership of the company – not only via training programs, but also through the rotation of high performers in the training department, which serves as a crucible and a sieve to create better corporate leaders.

And as Jim Trunick (formerly of Allergan) once pointed out to me, part of that mission (which is irreplacably in the hands of T&D) is imparting and reinforcing corporate culture.

Corporate executives are often quick to cut or devalue “training.” But creating and equipping leaders at every level is perhaps the conversation we need to embark upon – because that’s all about strategic business value.

What do you think?

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I’ve seen a lot of things impact training and development departments over the years. But, by far, the most disruptive force I’ve seen derailing any kind of strategic direction is regime change.

regimeYou know what I mean – leadership change at the top.

One huge cause of regime change is M&A activity. After almost 19 years in the industry, I’ve seen far more mergers and acquisitions than I care to remember (and far too many displacements of good people in the process). What tends to happen is that everything grinds to a halt – and depending on the relative size of the two companies involved, sometimes any kind of strategic advance freezes up in both companies as the details of the merged companies get hashed out.

Programs carefully defined and well-funded die on the vine. Turmoil replaces structured implementation. Sometimes there are 12-18 months of questions-without-answers, plus (once the merger/acquisition is finalized), another 6-9 months of shuffling the deck until some new departmental order emerges.

That’s a lot of lost opportunity.

Not only does this create a lot of uncertainly among those within these departments, but it can cause quite a bit of havoc for vendor/partners who work with either or both companies involved. Funding tends to dry up; training programs move into a holding pattern; and, for some vendors who only have a few major clients, this experience can turn into a revenue death march. I always urge my vendor partners to try to have no fewer than 4-6 steady clients just because of this reality.

But mergers and acquisitions are not the only cause of regime change. Sometimes someone is brought in from outside T&D to run the department (often, in this scenario, the T&D department is viewed as a stepping-stone to corporate advancement). And what is the new leader charged to do? Why, change things up, of course!

Change structure. Change people. Change direction. Change strategy. Change message. And sometimes – well, sometimes it’s needed, and the right person is tapped to implement change!

But, many are the tales I have heard of leaders taking over a department who do not have the training background and experience to implement and carry out an effective T&D strategy. Big consulting groups are paid to create roadmaps, plans and programs are overturned, and then…2-3 years later…the cycle repeats itself as leaders are re-shuffled and another round of regime change begins.

These dynamics may not change any time soon. But perhaps what we need to do is elevate the corporate conversation around T&D – carving out training’s role as a strategic asset, not just a “servant” department meant to take on whatever tactical tasks are thrown over the wall by Sales or Marketing.

What strategic roles and responsibilities can Training and Development embrace (and effectively communicate) in the organization that will make it more of a valued strategic partner that transcends the latest regime change? Your thoughts?

(here are some interesting insights from Lisa Dreher of Ferring in the latest edition of FOCUS magazine, on Having a Seat at the Table)

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