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YSC’s role was to work with the client on a forward thinking leadership programme for the Regulatory Affairs function to develop them into a high performing team.

Background

AbbVie is a specialty-focused, research-based biopharmaceutical company headquartered in North Chicago, USA. With 21,000 employees, AbbVie products are sold in more than 170 countries, with its best-selling drug Humira bringing in nearly $10 billion USD in 2012. However, AbbVie is far from a brand new start-up – it is the independent pharmaceutical division which split from Abbott Laboratories, a Fortune 200 global healthcare company, on January 1, 2013. In preparation for this split, the leader of the Regulatory Affairs (RA) function partnered with YSC in an effort to enhance the performance of his senior leadership team, which began in March 2011. This case demonstrates how a progressive, forward thinking leadership programme enabled the team to navigate this transition.

Challenge

The RA team had been on a change journey itself in the year prior to beginning its work with YSC. There had been turnover at the top as well as integration with another pharmaceutical company, Solvay. At the direction of the Head of RA, YSC set out to strengthen the relationships and bonds between the RA leadership team members, enhance overall team function and productivity, and embed collaboration and trust as the team’s core values. As part of this, YSC was tasked with helping each individual on the senior team to develop as a leader and to better understand the impact their behaviours had on fellow team members, direct reports, and cross-functional partners. In short, the ultimate goal was to develop the RA executive team into a high performing team.

Solution

Over the course of one year, YSC engaged on a variety of fronts in order to achieve the goals and needs identified by the leader and his team. In general, the process involved the team progressing through three major phases, with breakthrough learning occurring in the third phase. The phases were:

  1. Diagnosis/assessment of the leaders and team effectiveness,
  2. Goal-setting and defining the future state and
  3. Action learning and development. 

These phases often overlapped and even ran in parallel, as the team had to perform and manage the day-to-day concurrent with the transformation. What follows is an overview of some major activities in each phase, followed by key lessons learned.

Diagnosis/Assessment

YSC began by gathering confidential stakeholder feedback on each leadership team member to gain a richer understanding of each leader’s abilities and effectiveness within the organisation. Building on the feedback, we conducted an in-depth psychological assessment of each leader to better understand their unique strengths, development opportunities, and motivators. Because the RA team was leading a significant transformational change effort, we also examined each leader’s strengths and gaps as change leaders. This not only informed each person’s personal development, but it also highlighted key areas of strength to leverage as the leaders helped their own groups navigate the impending split of the organisation into AbbVie.

Goal setting and defining the future state

In parallel, YSC’s Effective Teams Survey was deployed on behalf of the RA team to gather quantitative and qualitative data to establish a baseline on the team’s effectiveness in such areas as focus, internal dynamics, and relationships with external stakeholders. These findings were utilised by YSC consultants, along with input from the leaders, to create specific and measurable leadership development plans with each team member. To help ensure leaders are modelling the behaviours identified in their development plans, each leader participated in three months of coaching aimed at addressing weaknesses identified in the assessment and to help sharpen their individual leadership capabilities.

After the initial work aimed at enhancing individual leadership effectiveness, the next step involved programs and initiatives focused on team collaboration and trust. To begin, YSC facilitated a 2-day team event where the senior team was introduced to the YSC Effective Teams Model and had the opportunity to explore how individual preferences and drivers impact team functioning. YSC facilitated a peer-to-peer feedback process that afforded the leaders a better understanding of how they were viewed by the other members of the RA team.

In order to accelerate the team’s progress, YSC utilised our PiXEL Digital Behaviour Coding process. Based in behavioural science, PiXEL is an innovative, impactful approach to improvement which combines quantitative and qualitative data with digital video playback to inform coaching and development for individuals and teams. More specifically, YSC consultants videod team meetings and, using a robust system of behavioural coding, analysed the extent to which leaders exhibited effective or ineffective team behaviours. Leveraging behavioural data and video playback, the members of the senior leadership team received 1:1 feedback and coaching to inform collaborative team behaviors going forward. The unique PiXEL Digital Behaviour Coding process enables an accelerated understanding of each team member’s individual impact on one another and the team as a whole.

Result

The depth of self-awareness gained and subsequent behaviour change was clearly evident, with follow up behavioural coding occurring at the 3 month and 6 month mark indicating improvements across team members. In addition, a second launch of the YSC Effective Teams Survey (9 months later) indicated an improvement in the team’s internal dynamics and functioning as reported by those inside and outside of the team. The survey also revealed that these senior leaders reported improved focus as a team, ability to execute, and improved relationships with external stakeholders. 

In addition to the quantitative findings, qualitative results were also realised. YSC consultants and AbbVie leaders noticed distinct and observable behavioural change in every team member that improved their levels of effectiveness. Team dynamics were also improved, as was the sense of collaboration and trust felt amongst members. Lastly, the team’s ability to operate as an effective unit was recognised by the larger organisation and as a result, the YSC PiXEL methodology has been recommended to other departments within the organisation.

Client Feedback

“The prospect of being recorded and coded was initially both intriguing and associated with a fair degree of apprehension. The experience however was profound. The chance to see yourself as others do can make even the most seasoned and hardened professional modify their behaviour and recognise that the little things we do and say along with the expressions on our face collectively tell a story. The experience was rich in opportunities to help each of us refine our “stories” and collaborate in a more positive and authentic way.”

Tracy Baskerville, Divisional Vice President of Area & Affiliate Strategy, Regulatory Affairs

“I found the YSC video coding process to be one of the best experiences in receiving feedback that I have had as a professional. If you are open to it, this experience allows you to see specific areas where you need to improve. There is nothing like watching yourself interact with your colleagues and having someone objectively observe and comment on your behaviour and style to help you immediately get on board with the areas you need to address. There are few professional development programmes that I have enjoyed during my tenure in the pharmaceutical industry – I have truly enjoyed this experience, and am fortunate that my management chose to make this investment in me.”

Tracy Rockney, JD, Divisional Vice President of Global Labeling, Advertising & Promotion, Regulatory Affairs

“Many of us spend hours a day in meetings and usually we don’t consider how effective we are in those meetings. With the YSC taping and coaching I saw which of my meeting behaviours got me the results I wanted, and which did not. As I changed some of my meeting behaviours I found that I was engaging with my team members on a new level. I could not have guessed that changing something as simple as my note taking style could get such positive results.”


Len Lescosky, JD, Divisional Vice President of Chemistry, Manufacturing, & Controls, Regulatory Affairs

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