Why big pharma may be​​ doomed

KEY THOUGHT: Pharma companies three on meetings. According to an article in MIT’s Sloan Management Review, the average manager spends 23 hours a week in meetings, up a whopping 10 full hours (!) since the Mad Men era. Some of those meetings are no doubt productive but conservatively at least a third of the time spent on meetings is wasted in irrelevant conversations, boring presentations, and meandering chit-chat.

Do the math. Meetings take up 7 years of your life. Time wasted in dumb, boring, unnecessary meetings! Consider what else you could accomplish in those 7 years! Think about how you could help patients or ensure that people who need your products get them. But instead, you’re flushing 7 years of your life down the toilet. Why? Because you (and the people around you) aren’t doing what’s necessary to keep meetings short and to the point and we all know nothing gets done in pharma without a meeting.

Then there are the corporate mergers taking place all around pharma.

Corporate mergers stress out employees. Some gather around the water-cooler, some are spending all the time polishing their CVs and interviewing [for other jobs], and some are so stressed they just call in sick. Studies cite one estimate that an average 5.7-hour chunk of productive work in an eight-hour day drops to less than an hour during a change of control. 

During mergers, the estimates of employees’ attention to their work drop by 60 or 70 percent as they are assailed by gossip and hearsay during a bid. This could be compounded by “self-centered behaviors, mental and physical illness and lack of motivation” triggered by prolonged bid-related anxiety, according to a 2005 paper.

One has only to access a Cafe Pharma board to see that companies in play have a LOT of distracted employees.

While we talk about digital conversion and meeting the challenges of a new healthcare environment nothing is being done to address the culture shift that’s needed in a big way. I often tell people that pharma people don’t get a cup of coffee without having a meeting on how much coffee and where to get it.

Pharma executives, for the most part, have ignored the culture change that is needed to prepare the industry to better compete. They are too focused on Wall Street and balance sheets that they aren’t aware that some of their best people are leaving.

If pharma is going to get out of the basement and attract top talent they need to change the culture from one of all day meetings to one where the focus is “what can we do to help patients?”