Joseph Jiminez joined Novartis in 2007 as Head of Consumer Health, in charge of the over the counter business. He had a background in consumer packaged goods was a complete novice to the pharmaceuticals industry. Six months later he was appointed to lead the pharmaceuticals division. He was an unlikely choice, neither a scientist nor a physician, but the company wanted somebody with a fresh perspective. They were facing what's called a 'patent cliff' which occurs when a patent expires and generic drugs flood the market. In the Novartis case, the drug was Diovan (for high blood pressure) and in 2011/12 patents would expire reducing the revenue contribution from Diovan from 5 billion pa to 1 billion pa.
HBR published an article by Jimenez in its December 2012 issue, reflecting on how he went about averting the impact of the Diovan 'patent cliff'. Jiminez went on to became CEO in 2010.
At this stage I'd ask you to put aside any negative views you have regarding profit generation in the pharmaceuticals industry and look at this article for its business lessons.
One of the key lessons identified by Jiminez was the need for a fresh view - in this case it was provided by Jiminez himself. There is no doubt that a fresh perspective is extremely valuable. But don't just look for an outsider to come in and solve all your problems. As Jim Collins pointed out in Good to Great, 10 of the 11 CEOs of the 'great' companies came from within the organisation. And if you are looking for a fresh perspective, try a story listening approach by collecting examples from within your organisation and taking decision makers through a sensemaking process. The insights from this process are often significant. We wrote a whitepaper about using story-based approaches to create insight back in 2011.
Jiminez also identified one of the common patterns in organisations… "one of the key problems in transforming organisations is creating a culture where people are comfortable to speak up". Jimenez points out that it took considerable effort to make people throughout the company comfortable telling him what they really thought and that this was a significant part of this success.The article finishes "it takes a great team aligned around a common purpose to work through the challenges and deliver this." Great advice, but definitely much easier said than done.