Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The importance of putting values at the heart of a global organisation.

Pharmaceutical giants probably don't spring to mind when thinking of values driven organisations, so it was great interest that I learned of the changes that are taking place in one of the world's largest drug companies.
I first visited Novartis five years ago. Then it was an organisation, like most others, driven by a culture of profit and individualism and where "work-life integration" had replaced any notion of "work-life" balance. The company boasted that its Campus had several restaurants, a supermarket and a post office so that domestic chores did not force employees to leave early and thus the firm could maximise the length of the working day. The performance management structure primarily rewarded results. The only hint of what was to come was that there was a recognition in their appraisal structure that an individual getting great results through poor 'attitudes and behaviours' was fundamentally bad business.
Novartis PRP Matrix up to 2014
Five years on and, after six months of company-wide consultation, Novartis have just launched their new values. The 23 values that were neither known nor understood by their employees have been distilled down to six core principles, two for each of the three areas:
  1. Patient and Customer: innovation and quality;
  2. Team: collaboration and performance; and
  3. Self: courage and integrity.

The order of these values categories say much about the vision for the organisation for they put the needs of customer/patient first, and the needs of the team above those of the individual. The shift from a 'me' culture to an 'us' (team and society) culture is significant.
So how are these values worked out in the organisation? Well drugs companies do have a good story to tell. They do change lives. They do make the world a better place. Novartis invests billions in new drugs - of course they do it to make a profit, but without that profit there wouldn't be investment.

The organisation has shifted from valuing the individual to the team rather than the individual. Hence collaboration and team performance at the centre of the values structure. The clearest evidence of this shift is in the performance management matrix. The bonus structure use to reward results over attitudes and behaviours. From January 2015, that will not be the case. Results and values will have equal weight. 
Novartis PRP Matrix prior from 2015
The personal values of courage and integrity emphasise the need for individual employees to live up to their responsibilities and to operate within an agreed ethical framework.
Novartis is able to attract some of the world's greatest talent and they actively look to appoint high-fliers who have 'agility' i.e. who are able to apply their skills in different contexts as they around their global postings at two-year intervals. Interestingly, no one spoke of 'work-life integration', rather they had introduced more flexibility about working hours and locations (campus wide wireless VLAN).

The world needs ethical drugs companies.  
I shall follow Novartis' progress with great interest and wish them every success in this venture.

(I would like to thank the Talent Management team at Novartis Basel for their wonderful hospitality and for sharing their vision with a group of headteachers - priceless INSET.)

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