Routine Visitor…

Routine is an unusual concept. Routine as a thing rather than as a description. I have a routine. I like my routine. I need a routine. I realised this week I have a routine. When it was broken.

I also realised that my routine of significance is daily or weekly. When I am at work, I have meetings scheduled all the time, and yet all sorts of other moments arise and we respond and handle as appropriate. Part of our daily routine is to address unexpected events when, or if, they appear amongst everything else we have planned.

No, I realised last week that I have a bigger routine – my day, each day, at work before my weekends. My days are interjected by coffee, by my exercise bike, by my time at work, by eating, by talking to my family, and by sleep. But each week day is essentially the same.

I get up, drink coffee, exercise, go to work, come home, exercise, eat, talk to my family and then work before I go to bed. I am engaged and inspired by my days. And above all by the people I work with during those days; what we do together and what we aspire to achieve together.

And then my daughter came to stay. My routine dissolved and dissipated. My days during her visit were as beautiful and spontaneous as she is. I did not know I had so many towels, or so little food. I did not know I could run out of hot water, nor mugs for coffee and tea.

I had no time to exercise at all during her visit. I was late to work and early to home. I ate much better and worked much less. I still managed to achieve my daily coffee quota, but I also managed to sleep longer (and better).

We talked and we sat. We told stories and we laughed. I introduced her to friends at work (who we met in a restaurant) and I pointed her in the direction of the best shops.

Whilst she was with me I was in that moment. Enjoying her company and answering her questions. Many of which were about me, and us, and what we are doing. The Big Deal and our new colleagues. She listened intently. She advised me, praised me and helped me. I made her breakfast and tea. I bought her dinner. She broke my daily routine. She gave me love and affection.

And as soon as she left the reality hit me. That moment was gone. She was gone. I knew my feeling was one of loss, but I also knew the only way I could have avoided that loss would have been for her not to have come. It took me a while to put everything away and to dry the towels. I was trying to get back into my routine. I was trying to get back to being comfortable.

So instead I decided to change my routine and stay uncomfortable. I deliberately did some things differently for the remainder of the week and I also did some different things. In and out of work. I felt better. I found I had something else to think about. I also found I thought differently about things.

I know I like routines. I like the consistency and I like not having to think differently about aspects of what I do. I am sure I am not unique in that. But I also wonder that sometimes us changing simple aspects of our routines – self-induced change – could be fun. Would be different. And who knows what it could lead to…

Cheers

Steve

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Great Days…

It’s a long way to the mid-west of the USA from the UK. I always fly to Chicago and make an onwards connection from there. I really like Chicago airport as a place – there’s a lot going on with lots of people rushing to lots of places, but there are also lots of cafes, and bars and restaurants. If you ever sit or stand anywhere for more than a few minutes someone will talk to you, or ask you, about something.

Spring is the best time to travel through Chicago. But as with a lot of US states, spring in Illinois can sometimes come and go in the blink of an eye. It can switch from freezing cold and deep snow, to warm sun and longer days in a matter of weeks or even days.

Summer travel through Chicago is at risk from thunder storms. Winter travel through Chicago is at risk from snow and ice storms. Autumn can be complex mix of late thunder and early snow. Spring is definitely the time to travel through Chicago.

And I did. On Monday. Daylight Savings started in the US on the Sunday. Summer time in the UK does not start until the end of March. But it definitely felt like summer had arrived in Chicago. My flight arrived on time. My transfer was smooth. My onward connection left on time. I arrived at my hotel early. The sun shone. Jokes were told. People smiled. It was a great day to travel.

I was on site in the mid-west for three days. The first I met people and groups. I dialled into calls and I met friends and colleagues in their offices. There were lots of other visitors on site. Some I knew well and others I met for the first time. There are always many new people to meet after a Big Deal. Meeting old and new people. Building relationships and renewing friendships is good. New ideas; new opportunities; new connections; new networks is very good. It was a great day on site.

My main purpose for the week as a leadership team meeting. Most of the team, plus a couple of delegates were in the room. We had remote connections and special guests by video and telephone. I always feel accountable for the meeting, and our time. I know the team feel they have to come because it is my meeting. I want them to come because we do good work and they get high value. I want them to leave looking forward to the next time.

My meeting agenda are a similar format. We see data and opportunity together. We work on owning and solving together. It can be intense. It is frequently inspiring. It is always engaging. I leave each day optimized. I depart the meeting energised. Both days were great days.

Some team members were at their first meeting of this team. One guest was at their last. We welcomed and we wished well. Everyone participated and everyone contributed. There were tears and laughter. Emotion and passion. Agreement and disagreement. Innovation and consternation.

Science is a social activity. Research is a social activity. Life is a social activity. Days and times I enjoy most are always with other people. People I love and people I appreciate.

Some of what we discussed last week will inevitably not change anything…I know that. But I also know for sure that some of what we discussed will change everything we do.

I was given three great days at work last week. I value my great days. They sustain me. And energise me. They stay with me.

Cheers

Steve

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Good Feeling…

I used to give a presentation…five years or so ago…about productivity in the pharmaceutical industry. I had a slide showing the number of new drug applications (NDAs) approved by US FDA year on year. The answer was 21. For a period of 5 years the number of NDAs approved each year was 21…give or take.

My message then? Precedent suggested the pharmaceutical industry would achieve between 20 and 25 approved NDAs per year moving forward.

My message now? I was wrong. Two years ago – 2012 – the number was 35 and in 2014 it was a whopping 41. The highest number since the halcyon days of the mid 90’s.

Everyone will have opinions as to why this improvement has happened…common themes range from biologic therapies and personalised medicine to increased innovation and rise of emerging biotech.

Me? I am just glad I was wrong, so proud of our industry and so pleased for patients. The quality of the new drugs and their impact on life-threatening diseases such as cancer, is nothing short of breath-taking.

I found myself thinking about my old presentation and this impressive recent performance last week when I was asked to participate in an internal ‘Town Hall’ meeting. We had two other internal presenters lined up…and I was lucky enough to see their slides before I finalised mine.

What I saw was as impressive as it was engaging, as moving as it was inspiring. I saw stories of new and investigational drugs that we are working with partners to develop. None are on the market yet, and all the presentations were exclusively internal, but the impact on me was palpable. This is what we can do. We can uniquely help our partners bring new medicines to patients.

We do many other amazing things as well, as we partner to improve health and healthcare more widely, but the stories I read were focussed on new medicines. And I was going to have to stand up and follow these stories in our Twon Hall meeting.

I read the slides and watched the videos a couple of times that evening as I looked for inspiration. And they were indeed inspiring. I felt so good about what we can do. I felt so proud of our teams and of our partner companies. But I also felt like I had no idea what I could possibly say when it came to my turn.

I went and made myself a coffee. A different room. A different view. And then it hit me. I dashed back to my computer and found the analysis I was after. I even left my coffee behind.

One of my colleagues had sponsored the internal research I was after, and searching for his name, combined with FDA, quickly found the email I was after with the data I needed. Five minutes later my slides were ready. Ten minutes later I was re-heating that coffee.

The Town Hall was everything I knew it would be. Our two presenters were amazing; their stories were emotional and inspirational. The audience was absorbed by both presenters and presentations.

And then it was me. Even now I am amazed by the information I was able to share. They were not my data, nor my work. I just put the numbers on the slide.

Of those 41 NDAs approved by FDA in 2014, we carried out work – in partnership with the innovator company – on over 60%…more than 25 of the 41.

I was stunned. I still am. Other companies may have done more, and others will have done less. But each new drug approved is a minor miracle. Miracles we help discover and we help develop.

I feel good.

Cheers

Steve

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Discussion Review…

I had my year-end review last week. It was slightly later than normal, but it has been a hectic couple of months. Last week was also very busy. I visited four sites in three time zones in five days. I met new colleagues on two sites and old colleagues on two others. At various times I was delayed, on time, cancelled, upgraded, downgraded, hosted, interviewed, engaged, fed and tired. The common themes were people, science, partners, business and coffee. Lots of coffee.

It was a great week. My first opportunity to meet with, listen to, and interact with some of our new colleagues…and to visit their sites. So many similarities but also some delightful differences. It is reassuring to see similarities…it is exciting to see differences. Up until last week we were competitors. Now we are colleagues. A week is a long time. There is so much opportunity for us all…as well as so much opportunity to offer even more value to clients who already work with us; to clients who don’t yet work with us but soon will; and to patients who will ultimately benefit from projects we help advance.

My visits to our old sites were rapid but rewarding. There is never enough time – even without flight cancellations – to see let alone meet everyone I would want to. But even a corridor chat is such high value…and so much fun!

Mid-week I was back in the mid-west. This was my annual performance management review…although formally it is a Performance Management Discussion. A distinction that is small but significant. A discussion implies much more of a two way conversation. A review suggests much more of a one sided assessment.

I did complete my self review ahead of time. That was a ‘review’ since there was only me involved…albeit with much input from others – some solicited and some freely volunteered. I tend to find my self-review hard to start, but of high value. I am my own worst critic – I am very good at identifying aspects and areas in which I have to improve. Over the years I have managed to become better at identifying aspects of my own performance about which I can feel pleased and proud. Nevertheless, I still tend to skip past those in my self-review so as to spend more time thinking about those areas that I want to do more in, or better at….or less of!

Ironically I also know from experience that in the actual review with my boss, my approach can veer to the opposite. It is great to hear recognition of any aspects my performance that have stood out…even more so if they are areas that I didn’t identify myself. I can find it harder to hear areas where – if I am able to improve – my performance and contribution would increase. Harder to hear but again of high value.

I have often had feedback that I don’t take feedback (good or bad) well. I don’t want to believe that’s correct, but I know it has to be true since it is the perception of those offering the feedback. I do always work hard to really hear and to really understand feedback. Both highlights and improvers. I listen, I consider and I seek to understand. I want to understand so that I can learn and improve.

Learning and improving. Growing and developing. Different projects, different people, different experiences and different opportunities. This is all essential to me. As long as I am learning and improving I am happy.

I was grateful for how much I learned in my year-end review last week…now to improve.

Cheers

Steve

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Done Deal…

The deal is done. Everything completed on schedule last week – Wednesday and Thursday to be precise. The big deal is a done deal. We are a new company. More specifically we are a new business within a new company. It was a busy week for sure. Early starts and late finishes each day. What felt like ten-fold more email sent and received, read and reviewed. Meetings, calls, texts and even one or two videos.

I was on site in the UK all week. On Monday I wondered how I would feel on Friday. On Friday I wondered what on earth was I thinking on Monday. Everything happened – best I could tell according – to plan. A lot of effort from a lot of people went into the plan for the week.

So how did I feel on Friday? I stopped thinking about the events and started to think about today. And tomorrow. That was the answer. I was thinking about tomorrow and next week and next month. I was thinking opportunity, new ideas, new analysis. I was imagining. I felt excited. I felt engaged.

I was also thinking people. We had lots of news about people this week. Some superb news about fantastic people who will be in amazing roles as we move forward. Exciting news about people I have not yet met – people who, I am certain, are also fantastic – who will be in amazing roles as we move forward. And some news about people I know really well who will be in amazing roles…but just not necessarily amazing roles with us.

I felt excited about the announcements as I sat on Friday. I also felt very positive about the people news…all the people news. I wondered why. Why not happy (for some) and sad (for others)? Why not pleased for some and worried for others? Why just positive?

Well, part of it is that I had seen and read lots of information. I even made sure I had time to watch the CEO video (twice). I listened to everything and asked questions. Part of it is because I can see the opportunities we have in front of us. Opportunities for us as individuals and as teams, but even more so the opportunities we have to partner even better and even more and even more successfully with all of our customers in all our client segments across our whole new company.

I can recognise how the combination of this overflow of information combined with the new directions that are open to us, is a powerful combination to help me engage and enthuse about the changes happening around us and to us.

But there is one aspect that I know made an enormous difference to me this week. It is the support of people. People I love, people I know and people I trust…and even people I don’t know…reaching out and asking how I am doing. It always makes me feel so positive. I feel great when people thank me, or congratulate me. I feel amazing when people ask me about me. It is all support, and we all need support.

And it can happen in the most unexpected ways from the most unexpected people. A call to my cell phone from someone who I knew was unbelievably busy. A word or two in a phone call from a sponsor and friend I was supposed to be engaging and exciting. An unexpected email. Social media connection requests from new colleagues.

And I felt good because I had fed forward. I sent notes, pictures; I rang, I texted and I invited.

It’s always the people…

Cheers

Steve

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Mixed Feelings…

I experienced mixed emotions last week. I was on site in the UK all week, and at various times felt happy, sad, anxious, excited, bemused and enlightened.

We are approaching closure of the Big Deal. The Shareholder vote is Wednesday. Wednesday is when we will know for sure. Wednesday will be a moment of change. At times of change, emotions can be high and feelings strong. We can feel the need to express ourselves, but frequently we don’t know how to, where to, or who to.

I recognised my own mixed feelings this week as I spoke with various groups and individuals. I heard these mixed feelings when I met with various individuals and groups…more interest, more questions and more requests.

This is often what change is all about – strong and, at times, confusing feelings. Everything ranging from delight to gloom…from frustration to joy…from relaxed to engaged. We all handle change of course – big or small – but we all handle change in different ways. There is no right way or simple way, although there are a few watch outs.

Information is paramount. The more information we can read and hear or give and share the better. There is almost no limit to our appetite for information regarding change. Information about people, teams, timings, and colleagues. Reasons, insights, observations and conclusions. Everything helps.

I consciously try to pass on as much information as I possibly can as soon as I get it. I also read everything that is communicated, connect to every Town Hall or telecom, and watch every video. In short, my desire for information is insatiable.

Support is crucial. We all need support in change. Some more than others and some less. And it is almost impossible to predict which. I always steer clear from making assumptions about how anyone else is feeling. I try to avoid anything along the lines of “you must be feeling good” or I know you are feeling bad”. If I want to find out how someone is doing I ask them. On the other hand if they don’t want to tell me then that’s fine as well.

I look after myself by seeking out people to talk to about how I am feeling. Friends and family. People who care about me and who I trust. People I know will support me. People I know who will support me even when I don’t realise I need their help and advice!

Times when we are under stress is often when we revert to type…revert to our preferred style of operating. If we are naturally more ‘command and control’, then that is what people will see. If we are more ‘logical and analytical’ then logic and analysis it will be. When we are under pressure we have less time to consider our options in any situation and as such we tend to react more intuitively. Again this is a watch out for me – another place where my friends and family, allies and mentors can and do help me. They see me and know mem and they are willing and able to hold that mirror up to me.

We are all passionate about our work, our colleagues and our partners. We work on important and significant projects. We are all committed. We are desperate to succeed and we always want to make a difference. Our future – and that of our partners – will include even more opportunities for us to do even more amazing work. This will all come, and it will come soon enough. In the meantime we continue to work, to support and to help…our colleagues, our partners and ourselves…

Cheers

Steve

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Meeting Midwest…

I have never really understood why a certain part of the USA is called the Midwest. Moreover, I am not really sure which states constitute the Midwest. And yes. The second statement may well explain the first.

But I do know some things for sure about the Midwest. It can be brutally cold in the winter. It can be amazingly hot in the summer. Air travel is notoriously unreliable all year (see above about weather). Most everyone you meet is incredibly hospitable.

I was in the Midwest last week. All of the above applied (apart from the summer weather). I was delayed so long at Chicago airport that I could have researched the definition of Midwest…but rather I caught up with email…and sleep, whilst making sure I didn’t miss my eventual flight departure.

I was in the US for meetings with one of our partners, and also to visit a couple of our research locations. It was an excellent visit. Tiring and cold. Engaging and rewarding.

I often end up calling in remotely to meetings. It is virtually impossible to be present every time…no matter how much I would like it to be so. Being present in person is very different and, last week, allowed me to schedule additional high value meetings. Relationships underpin everything we do…and are one of the most rewarding investments we can make. Team meetings, one-to-one meetings, breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings are priceless…although they do make for long days.

I say a lot in these meetings. It’s a long way to come to not contribute. But I always make sure I listen more. A lot of what I say are questions. Questions can be a great way to contribute whilst still being able to listen and learn as much as possible. My big desire when I meet with partners is to understand what they want…their priorities, their focus. The number one focus for their company in 2015. Whatever that is, our role is to help them achieve and deliver.

It is often the same thing. To deliver their projects and portfolio. It is never to save money. Or to invest in technology. But it always involves growing and developing people. Money and technology are important parameters of course, but the priority is only ever the projects…and the people. The project performance defines the success of the year. The people define the success of the company. We work to deliver the projects. We work with the people.

At the end of the week, I visited one of our Midwest sites and was invited to have lunch with the joint Integration team. We are only a couple of weeks away from the crucial shareholder vote on the proposed merger of our two companies. Integration planning is well underway…and well on target. It is exciting, and I was excited to meet the teams. As I walked to where lunch was scheduled, I wondered what I was looking for, and what I would find.

I sat down next to one of the senior leaders from the other company, I observed the lunchtime scene. Engagement. Laughter. Deep and animated conversations. I had seen what I was looking for. Situations were being resolved. Opportunities were being seized. Potential was being created. Enthusiasm was rampant. People were passionate. And people define the success of any company.

My own conversation was superb (for me at least). I shook hands with a leader. I heard thoughts. Listened to ideas. Recognised leadership. Saw vision. Was inspired by science. Left lunch happy. And felt hungry for more.

I was still happy as I travelled home that evening. I am still hungry this morning…

Cheers

Steve

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