All speakers had to submit their presentations to DIA for the Ljubljana conference by 1st October. So I innocently chose this title for a short presentation in the Resource Management session before we had global economic meltdown. Who knows what the economic impact will be on pharma over the next quarter.

No matter if you are cutting back or scaling your operations up, you have challenges ahead. How do you best meet and fully embrace change? Change needs strong leadership. You need to understand the impact that uncertainty and change have upon people and their performance. As a leader, how are you going to help your team through the emotional and personal upheavals?

The first scenario to consider was downsizing (or as it is euphemistically called, rightsizing). If you are faced with a 30% budget cut, staff reductions are inevitable. But before you start, are you getting the best from your team and processes? What is productivity like? How does that compare with other companies or countries? Tools like Six Sigma, Lean Six Sigma or business process mapping are being used in medical information to address this issue.

Are you collaborating with your colleagues across Europe and the US? There is still massive duplication of effort within medical information, with the problem of potential information inconsistency.

Are you doing the right things: what is your core business? How necessary are all the services that you currently provide?

What about outsourcing?

The same solutions are just as relevant when you have to rapidly expand your service or department. If you need extra headcount, employing permanent staff is not the only solution. Contract, freelance or pharmacy agency staff are short term solutions. Internal company secondments can also help you get over a peak of workload.

Lastly, automating services and global purchasing agreements can be ways to minimise your administrative or back office operations whilst maximising people resource to where it matters – the front line customer interface.

Company mergers and acquisitions give additional pressures. After the inital announcement, there can be a long period of hiatus where nothing appears to happen at the department level. Shareholder agreement and reshaping the organisation can seem slow. It can be months before the changes hit your level in the new company. What is the plan? Is it a case of best of both departments or is it a complete change, with most of one company leaving?

A manager’s priority is to secure the business.

No matter how good your knowledge management systems or standard response databases are, you lose a lot of company intelligence when staff are made redundant/let go. How can you protect against this? Is there adequate handover between people? From personal experience of both leading teams through mergers and being made redundant, you have to be proactive.

  • Keep on doing your best
  • It’s business, not personal: you may be the right person in the wrong place
  • Have a plan – do you know what you want?
  • Ask for help: from your team, your manager, your friends
  • Identify who you need to influence in the new organisation

In the months to come, we are likely to hear more announcements about staff cutbacks, mergers or takeovers. Are you prepared? Do you know how you provide value to your company? Do you have a great network to call upon? Are you maintaining your skills?

It seems inevitable that unemployment will rapidly increase along with a rise in inflation. With threats, come opportunities.

Are you ready?

Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement. Barry Le Panter