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Working Together Makes Change Work

Screenwriters know there is a magic formula called “structure” that must be adhered to when writing a successful script. A key element is what occurs at the nine-minute mark in a film. That’s when the hero’s life undergoes a change that forces them to take action and regain their footing, which catalyzes the triumphant conclusion.

by Mark Lanfear
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Mark Lanfear

This change sets up the rest of the story. Wanting to see how the protagonist handles it is the hook designed to keep viewers on the edge of their seats.

Movie heroes often have to go it alone as they try to solve their dilemmas. In real life, especially today, managers who try to lead transformational change on their own probably won’t like the way their story ends.

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Why? Because, while the essential need to take action in the form of change can be communicated to an organization by individuals at the top, implementing it successfully at ground level means making sure stakeholder employees wholeheartedly buy into the new direction. Additionally, if action is needed, it’s not common that a single leader can handle the number of fronts that need to be addressed. The collective strengths of many leaders in the organization must address the challenges of implementing a new organizational direction. And the best way to do this is to create an atmosphere of collaboration driven by a common goal that is supported by cooperative leadership. In fact, collaboration may just be the single most important “superpower” when it comes to introducing and leading change in an organization—and getting it to stick.

I’ve heard countless stories of companies that, driven by a decade of economic pressures, have rolled out expensive, well-designed programs to reinvent the culture, systems, or methodologies of their workforces only to see those programs quickly fade away. Huge amounts of time and capital are expended to update employees on a new direction, but within a week or two, they’ve shrugged it off and gone back to business as usual. It’s a safe bet management didn’t take the necessary time to collaborate with the people most affected by change, to get them invested in the reasons for making the change in order to ensure that it takes hold.

Recently, the world of research and development (R&D) has witnessed a transformation made possible directly by the power of collaboration. Several well-known pharma companies, independents that ordinarily face the challenges of the development and clinical trial process alone, decided to join forces. They put their collective heads, brainpower, and workforces together—think of X-Men United—and worked in sync on promising new therapies for the good of all. The resulting shift in mind-set made possible by embracing collaboration has been dramatic where outcomes have been groundbreaking and transformed a once highly insular industry to meet the needs of the new marketplace.

By combining resources and splitting responsibilities for the early steps of research and testing, these companies have been able to significantly shorten the process of bringing new drugs to market. The efficiencies made possible by this unique partnership ultimately benefit everyone, from the manufacturers and scientists creating them to the doctors and patients who can’t wait for them to be approved. The status quo has been upended, and the world of pharmaceutical R&D may never be the same.

As professionals in the life sciences field, you are likely faced with leading change more and more every day. As fast as technological advances are coming, organizations’ structures shifting, and workforce planning evolving, leaders must keep pace at a rate that’s equally fast, if  not faster, to stay competitive, drive profitability, and honestly, just to ensure corporate survival.

Although it’s not the end of the world as we have seen at the cinema, when change becomes necessary in your company, it’s important to understand and communicate that it’s really an opportunity. With collaboration comes the chance for fresh thinking to emerge and disparate skills to be utilized, which can improve the way your company does business, often in unexpected ways and from unexpected sources. That’s why a reliable talent supply chain is so important. It can help ensure that you maintain a consistent business footprint, which is especially critical when you are faced with unexpected challenges that require cost-effective solutions.

A collaborative workforce is a must for those who lead change. Having the right people in place is without question a prerequisite. When it comes to identifying the high-performing talent you need for your labs and R&D facilities, predictive workforce analytics, a key part of labor market intelligence, can give you an accurate and all-inclusive view of the talent that can help reach your goals and objectives.

Leading change within life sciences, similar to filmmaking, requires collaboration. When meeting the challenges of 2015, known and unknown, having the right people—superheroes—in place also makes available their wealth of potential insights and opinions, which can be invaluable to anyone who is leading change and hoping to see it take hold. Going it alone may work for some Hollywood heroes. But collaboration is your most powerful tool and what’s most likely to guarantee a happy ending.