Past People…

It is the end of another week. A week of calls and conversations; meetings and moments; highs and lows; energy and emotion. In many ways…a typical week. In so many other ways…a unique week. Next week will be different. And the week after. But some weeks stick in the memory more than others. This was a week I will remember. Any week with announcements and ‘short notice’ meetings is the same…I can still remember those weeks from years and years ago…let alone days ago.

In truth, and as is so often the case, what I can really remember is people, what people said, how people responded, how I felt. I can’t quite remember specifics of when…or even why…but I do know where I was, who I was with and where my family was.

And this ‘selective memory’ applies whether unfolding events involve amazing and delightful news, or surprising and disappointing news. Our memories help us…and this is good. Our memories remind us that our friends, our people and our families are as permanent as they are important. I find it rewarding and reassuring that I can remember who I was sitting next to…rather than what year it was.

And I always learn from these weeks. I have learned about myself and about what helps me. I have observed others, I have admired what they do, and I have tried to learn from them.

Ours is an industry where success in any aspect and of any sort cannot be guaranteed…no matter how hard we work or no matter how much we want it. But we can – and should – do everything possible to maximise probability of success. For example, we should continually analyse our own past performance (and that of our industry) to identify activities associated with failure…and we should definitely not do these! And we should continually identify activities that are associated with success…and we should absolutely do these!

And this approach applies to our science, our teams, our partnerships and our people every bit as much as it does to ourselves. We can’t ever change what has happened. We can always change what will happen next.

Any action that any of us take in a particular situation is only ever done with the best intention at that moment. Outcomes can often be what we want, occasionally even better than planned, but sometimes they are not. Each of these outcomes present opportunity to learn. They have to be. What did we think would happen, what did happen, why, and what will we do differently next time.

It may be the scientist in me. It may just be what I have learned. But asking and understanding. Seeking information and background. Trying to appreciate what was decided…and done…and said…and why. I know it helps me to understand. I want it to help me to learn and to improve. I need to avoid past mistakes and I have to encourage future opportunity.

Sometimes I ask. Sometimes I read. Sometimes I just sit and think. I always find people I trust – in and out of work – to check my learning and to get different views. What have I missed? What have I mistaken? I ask and I listen and I reflect. This approach doesn’t always works – or at least it isn’t always obvious how much it works. But this approach always helps me. And it never harms.

So whilst I accept our past performance as individuals, as teams or even as an industry, does not predict future success; I am certain that learning from our past performance, and applying that learning, will always predict greater future success




About Steve Street

I have worked in R&D within the Pharmaceutical industry for over 30 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 10 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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2 Responses to Past People…

  1. james says:


    Great blog! It reminds me of a book I recently read, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (which I highly recommend). The author was a scientist earlier in his life. He makes the point that, under the scientific method, an experiment is not “failed” because it doesn’t achieve the expected outcome. We can still learn from it – perhaps even more than if the experiment had “succeeded.”

    As if is in science, do it is in life. The kind of after-action learning you describe is something for us all to emulate.

    All the best,


    Date: Sun, 19 Apr 2015 09:14:26 +0000 To:

    • Steve Street says:


      Great to hear from you and many thanks – both for the comment and the book recommendation. As I look back myself, one of the things I have learned is that a recommendation from a friend is so much more likely to be of benefit than a random selection.

      Trust you are well and i look forward with great excitement to see and hear ‘what happens next’



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