Industry Insights

McChrystal Group Industry Insights: Life Sciences

Employees in the life sciences industry aren’t provided with an explanation of the “why” and are not given the preparation time necessary to act on priorities set by leadership. A lack of appropriate lead time and notice to execute key priorities slows decision-making, creating obstacles to realizing organizational goals.

Due to regulatory pressures and increased competition, the life sciences industry is increasingly operating under a new set of challenges, many of which have become more pronounced following the pandemic. The rapid pace and complexity of the sector has forced organizations to rethink how they communicate priorities and the ways in which leaders adapt in real-time to ensure their teams are aligned around a shared set of objectives.

The challenges the sector is facing require greater adaptability to shorten the amount of time between identifying, communicating, and executing priorities. Giving employees adequate advance notice and lead time to execute priorities that are identified by leaders is of paramount importance to thrive, and yet this is a trait that the life sciences sector struggles with specifically.

McChrystal Group’s data shows that compared to other industries, employees in life sciences say they are 11% less likely to agree, and 30% less likely to strongly agree, that they receive appropriate notice and lead time from their management to accomplish important tasks and key priorities.

Employees in the pharmaceutical industry, which includes companies engaging in the development, production, and marketing of medications, struggled with this even more, as they are 23% less likely than employees in other industries to agree that they receive appropriate notice and lead time from management to accomplish important tasks.

As a result, teams have less lead time to prepare and respond to shifting priorities. The landscape will likely not change, so a leader’s job is to build resilient environments with as much buffer as possible to ensure their teams can execute clear priorities.

Drawn from field interviews and survey responses from thousands of workers from more than a hundred organizations across several industries, McChrystal Group’s database collected over the last decade presents a framework to underscore actionable insights, allowing leaders to engage their teams with intention and precision.

Why It Matters

Organizations that are slow to make decisions are 17% less likely to adapt their strategy to changes in their environment, our research shows.
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A lack of appropriate lead time and notice to execute key priorities will slow down decision-making and create obstacles to realizing organizational goals. Organizations that are slow to make decisions are 17% less likely to adapt their strategy to changes in their environment, our research shows.

Additionally, across all industries, only 33% of respondents agreed that decisions within their organizations were made in time for effective execution, McChrystal Group data demonstrates. Simply put, slow decision-making doesn’t just create tactical roadblocks, it presents an important strategic challenge for many organizations.

In a fast-moving industry such as life sciences, teams must make quick decisions with limited context, and it's up to the leader to determine what is necessary to move teams toward action.

Furthermore, siloed legacy systems are currently hindering productivity in life sciences. A host of disconnected processes leads to lagging lead time and slow execution. As life sciences organizations seek to integrate their various legacy systems into a more unified environment, leaders must ensure their team members are given proper timing and guidance to focus on important tasks — not simply urgent ones.

How We’ve Worked with Clients to Address These Challenges

Employees whose companies balance long- and short-term priorities are roughly four times more likely to say they receive appropriate lead-time in order to accomplish their work.

McChrystal Group partnered with a life sciences organization to support its prioritization efforts, as rapid growth in a highly competitive market meant the organization had more than doubled in size, and as a result, struggled to communicate across teams, meaning lead times lagged.

Less than 60% of employees within one team at the organization reported having enough time to complete their projects and tasks, a finding that surprised leadership. Additionally, only 42% agreed they were able to make the decisions necessary to do their job without receiving approval from their manager.

McChrystal Group conducted targeted sessions focused on arming mid-level leaders with tactics supported by data to understand their team members' engagement levels and positioning them to be able to drive positive change from their seats.

By working directly with leadership and helping the organization align around a shared strategy and definition of success, the organization was able to balance long-term growth with short-term priorities while better communicating with its workforce.

As a result, employees felt more connected and knew who to turn to for information when tackling an issue, leading to timelier decision-making.

Roughly two-thirds of employees said they knew how to get access to individuals outside of their day-to-day project team, and 63% of employees said when they are presented with a challenge, they can leverage colleagues outside of their day-to-day project team to think creatively.

The team said they were sharing things such as resources, challenges, successes, and most importantly, their priorities. With clarity around goals and objectives, employees were better suited to gather the information they needed from a variety of sources to make timely decisions.

Priorities were then better articulated and understood throughout teams and across the organization, leading to appropriate notice being given more frequently to balance both short- and long-term objectives.

This article is part of a series of industry insights utilizing McChrystal Group’s proprietary data to highlight industry-specific insights and strategies leaders can adopt to address them.

* Life science industries include pharmaceuticals, medical devices, genetics/genomics, and biomedical nanotechnology. 

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