When is a High Sense of Urgency a Liability for Pharmaceutical Companies?

We are definitely living in a “Just Do It” global economy that rewards action and speed of execution.   This sense of urgency is reinforced by our instant access to new information on the internet and capabilities such as high speed trading on Wall Street.  Service providers and advertisers reinforce this need for speed and create universal expectations with offerings to get it done faster, quicker, and in less time.  In fact, we can’t seem to get things done fast enough, all in the name of taking advantage of a fleeting opportunities and staying competitive.

Almost nothing of importance in the pharmaceutical industry happens fast yet an incessant sense of urgency almost seems to be a badge of honor and is often applauded by Wall Street.  There seem to be a pervasive need to get things done quickly at pharmaceutical companies to create a competitive advantage (first to market) and potentially increase the commercial opportunity (more time left on the patent to market the product).

But, is having this sense of urgency always a good thing? Let’s take a look at four areas where an indiscriminately managed sense of urgency can lead to inferior, if not disastrous, results for a pharmaceutical company.  A reckless sense of urgency in research, manufacturing, commercialization, and employee development all carry significant potential liabilities.

Looking for quick hits in discovery research, rushing products through clinical development and even quickly killing product candidates early in development can all lead to disappointing results, even for products that might have otherwise done really well.  Missed therapeutic applications, overlooked safety issues, and product failures in late stage clinical trials can be symptomatic of making urgency and speed a priority in research.

Manufacturing operation with a heightened sense of urgency may be able to get up and running quickly or increase production output but run the risk of operational errors, increased waste, and fostering damaging quality issues.

Similarly, when commercial plans and tactics are deployed without due processes in an effort to get it done or to make a change quickly, marketers run the risk of medical-legal compliance liabilities, market miscommunication, misdirection of the sales force, and potentially slow adoption or even instigate rejection of the product by the market.

Also, when individuals who have accelerated promotions to higher levels of corporate responsibilities before they are truly ready, they are probably not thinking about the potential liabilities of premature advancement. Unfortunately, the realities of their inexperience can quickly catch up with them,  resulting in mistakes and poor decisions that have increasingly greater and longer lasting impacts on the company and the people who report to them.

I’m not suggesting the pharmaceutical industry and executives abandon this sense of urgency but rather to apply it discriminately and manage it carefully.  Not everything should have the same heightened sense of urgency and those that do require a commensurate high level of attention to detail with a disciplined, realistic assessment of expectations and potential liabilities.  Somebody needs to be asking; “Are these timelines necessary and realistic?  Why? And For what end result? “  With these timelines; “What are we missing here?” and “How do we mitigate the risks?”   mike@pharmareform.com

  • Mike

    This is very typical in the pharmaceutical arena. I have been a rep for 14 years and this attitude of urgency has never changed. What I have seen over the years is financial
    mistakes made because decisions were made about the present and not future results.

  • http://www.pharmareform.com Mike Wokasch

    Mike,
    Thanks for taking time to comment. Unfortunately, doing things quickly also provides a convenient excuse if it goes wrong. Until the “badge of honor” for fast action goes away, I’m afraid an indiscriminate sense of urgency will be the norm at pharma companies. mike@pharmareform.com