Eleven and Twelve…

2011 has been and gone. It was – without any doubt – a year like no other.

On January 1 last year there was well over 2000 employees in R&D in Sandwich with the majority directly working on, or supporting, research projects. On January 1 this year there will be more like a third of that number, with relatively few directly working on research projects.

I started the year responsible for hundreds of colleagues across R&D impacting on projects from idea through to Proof of Concept and beyond. I end the year responsible for myself.

In 2011 I had personal goals and development goals. I was involved in succession planning and talent management. My calendar was full, opportunity was immense and challenge was plentiful. In 2012 there is significant ambiguity…but breathtaking opportunity.

The turn of a year always seems to be a time to take stock, to look back and to contemplate. I believe in looking back, but primarily in order to guide the future. There is nothing I can do about what happened in 2011. There is everything to do to influence what will happen in 2012.

But what have I learned from 2011? What can I take forward? What can I apply? Well the one fact about 2011 is that I am now a year older. Everything else is opinion, assessment or judgement. That having been said, I learned a great deal in 2011 about myself, about the importance of resilience, about the benefit of family and friends and about the significance of my work.

There are many things I regret about 2011 but there is nothing I resent. Regrets are all personal – moments I would handle differently if I had chance again; decisions I would adjust in light of what transpired. Resentments have no place and no validity. None of the decisions or actions from 2011 were personal. Many impacted me but none were about me or because of me. I leave 2011 as a better leader, a better person and a better friend, a better father and a better husband than I was at the start of the year.

I am unsure what 2012 will hold for me. There is fluidity and ambiguity. But I feel excitement and anticipation. I have my moments of doubt of course – like we all do – but they are only fleeting.

I know I will stay in pharmaceutical R&D – I have worked in pharmaceutical R&D for 26 years…that’s not an accident. I know that whatever I do it will involve other people – I get so much energy, stimulation and satisfaction from the people I work with. I know that whatever I do it will absolutely be consistent with my family and my family life – they are everything to me. I know that whatever I do I will feel like I am growing and learning as well as adding value and impact – I refuse to allow events of 2011 to in anyway lead me to tread water.

So I know a lot already about what I will do in 2012…I don’t know specifics just yet…but I feel good and positive. Ours is an industry of incredible importance full of significant challenge and amazing opportunity. Pharmaceutical R&D is unrecognisable today from even 5 years ago but the key to success is unchanged. A great idea with a great team. Projects that deliver new drugs are – by definition – a great idea, but they also always have a great team. Projects that fail are either a great idea with the wrong team or the wrong idea with a great team.

In 2012 I will find great projects to work on and great teams to work with….

Cheers

Steve

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About Steve Street

I have worked in R&D within the Pharmaceutical industry for over 29 years. Up until April 2012 all of my career had been with one company, but that has now changed. I left that company and took up a new role on May 1, 2012 - still very much within the Pharmaceutical industry and again based in the UK. I have been blogging every week now for over 9 years but only on an external site since January 2012. Email updates of the blogs can be requested using the ‘follow’ option within Wordpress. The blogs are only ever my personal view of what I see, think and feel. I am delighted if you agree and find value; happy if you disagree with my views and overjoyed if you feel motivated to comment. Most of all I am simply grateful that you read. Cheers Steve
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34 Responses to Eleven and Twelve…

  1. Alan Poirier says:

    Steve – so Happy to see your spirited blog will continue !
    As in the past – looking forward to more great ideas – as you continue to be one of the leading thinkers about R&D productivity. Please don’t stop.

  2. davidranderson says:

    Hi Steve,
    Glad you’re still going to do your blog, albeit in a new place.
    2011 was a difficult year for a lot of us, myself included. So, what did we learn? We can measure our character by the obstacles we face and how we fare against them. There were lots of obstacles last year, for sure.
    You won’t really influence 2012; as you said yourself you’ve only got yourself that you’re responsible for. You won’t just influence, you’ll create 2012. You’ll choose the teams you either create yourself or join up with. It’s a very different feeling than taking something and managing it for someone else.
    In any case, I’m looking forward to reading about your journey in 2012 here on your new blog.
    -Dave

  3. Mike Miller says:

    Steve,

    I can only echo the comments and insights that others have already shared. Change is happening all around us and each new insight, advance or discovery brings new opportunity. Your demonstrated ability to make opportunity a reality will certainly be fulfilled in 2012. I wish you and your family all the best and look forward to your future blog posts.

    –Mike

  4. Karl says:

    Steve,

    Your words certainly resonated with me as did many of the replies. Best of luck to your good self and all our former colleagues for 2012.

    Karl

  5. rob evans says:

    Steve

    I can only wish you every success in 2012, I was in a similar position this time in 2010 and yes it does give you the opportunity to reflect and reassess with a mind that is cleared of the constant demand of work allowing you to focus on yourself and your family. Opportunities are all around us, we just do not see them for we are looking elsewhere.

    Good luck

    Rob

  6. Michael Hinsky says:

    Steve,

    Looking forward to continuing the “great conversation” and to getting your fresh perspective of the industry and of life from the other side of the fence. Your comment about refusing to use past events to allow you to tread water resonates well with me…the current flows, we sink or swim!

    Best of the new year and I send well wishes and positive energy to you in all of your future endeavors!

    Michael

  7. Nick says:

    “I don’t know the future. I didn’t come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it’s going to begin. I’m going to hang up this phone, and then I’m going to show these people what you don’t want them to see. I’m going to show them a world without you. A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you…..” Neo, The Matrix

    I think you are going to be just fine Steve, ‘look forward to more posts

    All the v best for the New Year

  8. Jefry Shields says:

    Thanks for the update and positive outlook – great to hear from you and even better to start the year with the smile on my face that reading this blog entry gave me my friend.
    Cheers,
    Jefry

  9. Leslie Sloan says:

    Steve,
    I am so glad that you will continue your blog, as it would have been very quiet on Sunday mornings without it. I have smiled, agreed, disagreed and occasionally laughed out loud reading your blogs, and find myself looking forward to them every week. I know we will cross paths again, even though I am not sure how or when. Take care and be well you will be missed immensely!!!

  10. Rob Spencer says:

    Hi Steve, and Happy New Year.

    Thanks so much for the note and link to your blog — I’ve been out of touch with the Pfizer universe for a long time (except for the amusing crowd of Pfizer Refugees on the Mystic-to-Boston train which I travel now and then). I didn’t know until now that you, too, had gotten the chop. I guessed that as a Sandwegian you would be automatically cut, but then with your excellent history and seniority you might have negotiated some other form of work. I can also guess that such a deal might have involved a Stateside move, and knowing your wonderfully strong family ties, that would incur too much strain and risk.

    From here on it’s all good news. I know of no one pfired who is not now happier, more worldly and relaxed, than before. A little poorer perhaps, or with a hellish commute (that train crowd), but overall a strong move for the better.

    I’ll offer a different suggestion (now there’s a surprise!): leave pharma. Cut the cord, don’t look back, no regrets, no what-ifs. You’ll know that I started this line of thinking a dozen years ago when I did the “end of the genome” prognostication which has held up quite accurately. Add baby-boomer demographics and economic patterns and it becomes certainty. Stay away from epigenetics, RNAi (already dead I think), reagent production, sequencing — anything linked to pharma. Here’s why — not in a negative sense (though there’s plenty of logic there in addition to the finite genome stuff) but in a positive sense of what you and I and all of us have to offer:

    Our pharma R&D world was populated with exceptional people — all well educated (best schools, Masters and PhD’s abounding), civilized, etc., and also exceptionally well trained and experienced in fair-open-data-driven business leadership. The rest of the world is very different and can hugely benefit from our approaches. I find in my new world of software design and business process consulting that the people around me are very nice, hard working, and sincere, but simply don’t have anywhere close to a scientist-manager’s depth on
    — approaching problems by the scientific method (hypothesis & data driven, brutally objective)
    — quantitative matters (not only unable to do anything more complex than an NPV but no
    intuition for truth and scope in mathematical thinking)
    — managing uncertainty and complexity. We get this because Mother Nature is irreducibly
    uncertain and complex; we don’t fret about it but have learned to plan & manage in such
    a world. So many others I work with now desperately keep trying to simplify the world
    (thereby wasting energy & doing incorrect things), rather than seeing how it’s all Ok and
    just takes comfort with chaos and some risk-management tactics.
    — formal training and experience in management. I am always staggered by
    how many managers just wing it. Taylor, Sloan, Deming, Maslow, Herzberg, Hamel, Pink
    are unknown to them, so they repeat the mistakes of the past endlessly. Pfizer gave many
    of us a superb management education that has huge value anywhere else.

    The other great thing about leaving pharma is the satisfaction that comes with feedback. The projects I work on now get personal, direct customer feedback in 4-10 weeks — that’s how fast we move new material into consulting or software and get it out to customers. So I can create something, do 2-3 cycles of customer-based optimization and have a mature product done in 6 months, pleasing customers and earning real money. That is so much more satisfying than pretending that intermediate metrics (CANs for example) mean anything!

    • Steve Street says:

      Rob

      Really excellent to hear from you and many thanks for such a thought provoking and – dare I say – provocative comment. It is great to hear more about what you have been up to and the experiences you have had outside of Pharma. As you and I have spoken about, one of the defining aspects of Pharma R&D is the fact that the cycle times are measured in years or months – there are definite attractions of a world where cycle times for feedback measured in days or weeks! I am not sure I am quite ready to leave Pharma just yet but who knows…

      Cheers

      Steve

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  13. Alexander Polinsky says:

    Hi Steve,
    Thank you for connecting me to your blogs. I think your spirit is in exactly the right place. You have more than enough assets – your intelligence, your knowledge of pharma, your managerial talent, your understanding of human behavior, your family and your friends – to be IN CONTROL of shaping up 2012.
    Man, do I miss arguing with Rob Spencer… He is partly right: in the list above only your knowledge of pharma is industry specific, I am sure you will thrive with the rest of it in any field. However, your knowledge of pharma is probably your largest and most unique asset, so – stay with us in biopharma, there are plenty of opportunities here.
    Looking forward to your next posts.

    • Steve Street says:

      Alex
      Excellent to hear from you – and I loved the line about Rob…he is such a lateral thinker isn’t he?
      I really apprecaite your comments and observations – very helpful indeed.
      Cheers
      Steve

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