You Can't Hurry Change: How To Not Burn Through Billions

Fred Hassan: The fastest way to turn around the company in my opinion is to find a way to get to the frontline managers.  If one can get them to be a part of the change agenda, if one can get them to start to understand the strategy in simple terms so they can repeat the strategy without a PowerPoint, if they can internalize it and become ambassadors of the strategy to their people it is amazing how much energy and power gets unleashed. 

One of the more recent situations that I went into was taking over as chief executive officer of Schering-Plough, which is a very large pharmaceutical company that was going through very bad times . The company was facing a lot of legal challenges from the authorities, a lot of regulatory issues related to their products.  The largest products had lost their patents. The company was burning cash at the rate of a billion dollars a year.  

So at Schering-Plough we were able to not only bring our manufacturing problems under control by getting the frontline managers to work hard on quality, efficiency, compliance, productivity, we also got the frontline managers in the R&D laboratories to be a lot more effective in unclogging some of the problems we were having with products in the R&D pipeline and we got the people in the sales and marketing groups around the world to get extremely energized through the frontline managers’ leadership and focus on doing their jobs a lot better.  The sales representatives’ professionalism went up, their sales knowledge went up, and their ability to make effective customer calls went up and the company’s top line sales started to go up.  Once things started to move up in the right direction the turnaround was very quick and very dramatic. So keeping the frontline managers with you is extremely important as you go about executing on a changed agenda.

Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd

A rarity in the era of the rockstar CEO, Fred Hassan's success seems to be more attributable to his skill at putting out fires than igniting them.

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