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Project Management in a High Performing Life Science Organisation

The chances are that if you work in a Pharma/Biotech organisation, you will be looking forward to a time when products now in development are transforming patients’ lives, as well as enabling your company to grow and build on its continuing success. What are most important things a company can do that can make this happen? Hire brilliant minds? Certainly. We need innovation, not only to transform current ideas about disease treatment, but also to make fragile new ideas work in practice. Get more funding? Again, of course. New ideas take major investment to get them through the development process.

But in the medium-sized or large company, neither of things are the real cutting edge that will drive you to success. Rather, it’s your capability to synchronise all of the efforts of many professionals, consistently and efficiently, that makes winners. It is your project system that does this.

How does project management operate in a high performing organisation? Here are some examples:

Proper sponsorship / clear vision – Projects are defined clearly in charters that clarify their place in the business. Senior leaders communicate expectations about roles and behaviours, not just time / cost metrics.

Planning – The whole team is involved in building plans. The sophistication of planning systems is appropriate to the size of the organisation; but some key principles are followed: experts departments are consulted to input realistic times and costs; they connect their own plans to the project plan; one copy of a plan is shared centrally and copies are not fired around as email attachments!

Risk management – Risk analysis is often a solo effort by the project manager. But high performance means at least two things: the whole team is engaged; experts all contribute their specialist advice. Secondly, response to risk is expressed in firm actions, owned and taken on by individuals. High priority actions are fully considered as part of the senior leaders’ agenda.

Decision making – Significant decisions – particularly those relating to key projects ongoing –  follow a disciplined process, with experts at senior to junior levels all having a part to play. The process for a decision is understood – who will be the decision-maker (not always the most senior leader) and the timetable for consultation, analysis, and so on.

Learning – Last in the least but no way least – as this is very often badly done in our sector – regular reviews in projects identify continuous improvement actions; both in technical/tactical matters and in communication and team behaviours. Projects as they close trigger thorough lessons-learned analyses, subsequently incorporated into routine operations.


How does this sort of performance develop in an organisation? It is not achieved simply by setting up structures – matrix organisations for example; neither simply by designing ‘perfect’ project processes.

We use our High Performance Organisation model to describe some critical elements that senior leaders need to consider – and action on.

It’s not so easy for busy managers to assess and balance all of these elements – we can help you to do so, and develop high performance project management with a minimum of expediture!





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