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How We Measure Success and Impact

Posted on February 20th, 2017 by in Pharma R&D


The start of the year is usually a period of reflection on what I achieved last year and what to focus on in the months ahead. It is also a time when we can receive feedback from our peers and stakeholders. Many industries go through some process of recognizing excellence and impact. Perhaps one of the most notable and high-profile processes is in the film industry. There has been a range of award ceremonies in the last few weeks that will culminate in the Oscars at the end of the month. Through the variety of award ceremonies, industry contributors from artists, directors and other roles that are involved in making the production come to life receive feedback from peers, customers and from some elite members of the industry. The votes from the Academy determine the winners and nearly-winners for the famous Oscars.

Within the industry we also have a range of different ways to acknowledge the contribution of scientists, investors and great innovations. Industry associations and learned professional associations regularly recognize individual contributors, products teams and even companies. Recognition for successful implementation or delivery is a powerful way to reward people. However, as with the Oscars, some of this recognition is in the eye of the beholder, and the nearly-winners or even those not on the list may have made significant contributions that may be overlooked.

Overlooking talent and impact made by team members creates tension and a disharmony. This can be a problem for creating innovative products, processes and ideas. As with creating a film production, the process of bringing a new medicine to life requires a large and complex team, all of whom are vital to the overall success. In my view, to be successful in the most cost-effective way, we need all members of the team pushing the same direction with a goal of creating the “production”. Perhaps we can learn from the film industry how to be more inclusive of many aspects of the R&D process in setting rewards and the recognition that is due? I am sure this will be something other than a “Red Carpet” procession for many, but it is something that the leaders and managers of teams should perhaps consider.

In setting up plans for the reward and recognition of individuals and teams in the production, I would also suggest giving some careful consideration to how you measure productivity. The old maxim of ‘you get what you measure,’ is an important aspect to consider in how you develop your evidence of productivity. In the medicines development arena, it takes a long time to bring a product to the marketplace, and these lag measures are not appropriate for many involved in the “production” of a new medicine. The increasing complexity of the medicine development process with a range of different stakeholders, suppliers and buyers means success in gaining market access is not guaranteed even on completion of the process. The recent failure of Ibrance to gain a successful NICE recommendation was not a surprise for the manufacturers (1), which perhaps raises some questions and learning points about the process.

Adaptability is the key to survival, and perhaps we should think more about how we adapt to different situations in all phases of the medicines development cycle? This may be how trials are conducted, how pricing strategies are developed and a range of other activities all needed to bring products to patients. With the focus on personalized medicine and approaches to focus innovation on the right patient at the right time, dose and duration of treatment, it seems we will need to find different ways to tackle development that are suitable for everyone involved. There is an inherent tension in the system here of doing things at scale and doing the right thing for the right situation.

If we get what we measure, then what can we measure that will be helpful? I don’t think there is a simple answer, but some quantitative and qualitative measures may be of value. What we do is often easy to measure, compounds made, Phase 1 initiations and a range of other metrics are very familiar measures. However, perhaps it is time to bring in some more qualitative measures about what was learned; how the experience valued people involved in the process might be another approach. There could also be a focus on the principles of the new International Standard for Human-Centered Organizations, the ISO 27500 (2). This standard outlines several principles that Human-Centered organizations adhere to and include using a systems approach, making individual differences as an organizational strength and developing usability and accessibility as strategic business objectives.

During the award season, perhaps taking some time to consider the Principles of a Human-Centered Organization can be integrated with how to measure the productivity of ourselves, our teams and organizations might be a new way to look at what we achieve.



All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.

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