Novartis: International Teambuilding to Reduce Development Time and Increase Revenues

Challenge

New product development for leading healthcare products provider, Novartis, was accomplished through an international team, with members located in the US, Japan, the Netherlands, and Europe.

Ineffective international teaming and communication adversely impacted the product development cycle timeframe.

Novartis executives felt it was taking far too long to get products developed and teams were not communicating well. The average time for product development was 18 months, which was way off the normal time frame it should take them to develop the products.

Additionally, new product average monthly revenue during the first year of introduction was considered to be far too low at an estimated to be $20 million.

Solution

Global Dynamics Inc. developed a series of international team building and communication interventions that were administered to intact teams. GDI helped teams to identify objectives, action plans and metrics to improve meeting effectiveness, reduce the average time to respond to e-mail/voice mail/memoranda, and reach decisions more quickly and concretely.

  • Teambuilding - Team members learned the decision-making styles of all cultures represented, established compromise strategies and identified best practices.
  • Communication – Team members learned that the message sent was not always the message received. For example, when the Japanese team members said, “yes”, they really meant, “we will see”, without any commitment. When the British said, “Quite good”, they really meant, “A bit disappointing”. Processes were established to confirm mutual understanding and expectations.
  • Decision-making – Team members were exposed to important cross-cultural dimensions. For example, the entire international team began to recognize the importance of recognizing the individual (US culture) and group consensus (Asian culture) approaches to decision-making. Processes were established for all decision-making meetings. Rules were adopted to distribute documents in advance of meetings to allow time for consensus building cultures to review materials. Deadlines were mutually agreed to for feedback/modification in advance of the decision-making meeting.     

Results

The client said that the decision-making process evolved to one of collaboration and reported the following:

  • Teams functioned more effectively
  • Communication responsiveness improved significantly according to client
  • Decision time frames were reduced by 25%
  • The average product development cycle was consistently reduced by two months for all teams that experienced the interventions
  • Cash flow accelerated by $40 million, and in some cases, they were first to market, leading to a period of product exclusivity

These programs became a prerequisite for all company employees would were scheduled to participate on an international team. The program, which began as a remediation, became a pro-active strategy for inter-cultural problem avoidance and international team working success.