Culture eats strategy for breakfast

9bf2eea6-2bf4-479f-80a0-9d5ad21094cb-largeKEY THOUGHT: The culture within Biopharma companies may be driving away talented employees and leading to the decline of effective marketing.

A graduate student, from MIT, who is finishing an internship at a Cambridge pharma company recently reached out to me on LinkedIn to inform me why he wasn’t going to pursue a career in pharma marketing.  From his correspondence he seemed like a very bright young man, but what he discussed with me was, from the least, very troubling.


He told me of the days of back-to-back meetings with very little mention of patients as consumers, people. He said that patients were often referred to as “target audience” but that people within the team had very little thought about really helping people as opposed to getting them to ask for an Rx.  Although he was offered a full time position with a six-figure salary, he said that “there is more to a career than just earning a big paycheck”.  OMG! Blasphemy!


He also said that working in an office with virtually no privacy was “unsettling” and that he was receiving emails late at night and on weekends.  In our discussions I informed him that this was common within pharma and that “work life balance” was not a priority within pharma companies.

What is the lesson here?  Well, I know it’s only one person, but it’s a story I have heard from many people within biopharma companies.  Some 15% of an organization’s collective time is spent in meetings — a percentage that has increased every year since 2008. Which leads to a sad truth: [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=”null”]The average manager has less than 61⁄2 hours per week of uninterrupted time to get work done.[/inlinetweet] A recent CEB study found that 60% of employees must now consult with at least 10 colleagues each day just to get their jobs done, while 30% must engage 20 or more. I’m sure within pharma these numbers are conservative.


It shouldn’t take 10 weeks to add content to websites because of internal process constraints. Employees shouldn’t have to meet with 20 people to put patients first, but it’s happening again and again and yet all pharma can do is complain about the media coverage of high drug prices?  Mr Drucker is right…Culture eats strategy for breakfast .