What’s Different Now

by Susan Nemetz, April 2020

In just one month, life for all of us has changed dramatically. This week, we learned that the new normal would extend at least through April, probably longer.

Thoughts and Observations

  • The concept of time is unfamiliar. Yes, the weekdays and weekends have merged. But the workday itself is also different. Although many of us had already been spending much time on video calls, this new, exclusively two-dimensional reality has a different energy and a different rhythm. Even when engagement is high (which, most of the time, it is not), stretching focus across multiple video boxes and a disembodied speaker is both alien and exhausting.
  • The personal and business boundaries have blurred. With everyone in the same boat, we cheerily accept kids, pets, and an unending supply of vacation background images. It is as if Instagram and team meetings had a baby and called it Zoom. Why didn’t we embrace our total lives before?
  • The creativity is inspiring. And I don’t even mean the inspiration based on science. Rather, I’m referring to the funny memes, videos, comics, etc. More now than ever, we need the laughs, and they are readily available.
  • The innovative, intelligent content providers in our industry are sharing exceptional perspectives. I spent a few hours Sunday morning reading/listening through many of them. When finished, I was clearer about the potential implications to clinical trials, regulatory timelines, financing strategies, IPOs, and commercialization scenarios.

    Although no one really KNOWS for sure, I felt better trying to step out of the swirl of information and just absorb it. I ended up creating a little database so that I could reflect and return (my version of R&R) as needed.

Leadership Reality

In addition to all the COVID-specific content, there are countless references on how to be a “strong leader” in these times. There are good and bad examples all around us, but how are WE doing with our own teams — especially if we also feel lost?

I remember a conversation with a leadership development coach early in my career when I frustratingly whined, “Why doesn’t the leadership ‘decide’ and tell the organization what to do?” I will never forget her calm and definitive answer: “Because they don’t know.”

I understand now that leaders don’t always have the answer. But doing nothing only exacerbates angst and wastes the precious talent within our organizations. Instead, our focus as leaders should be…

… to control what we can control;

… to create potential, future scenarios and plan towards them;

… to prepare for how the world of work may change (perhaps permanently);

… to look for — and spotlight — the silver linings, both personal and professional;

… to demonstrate compassion and flexibility. (That highly focused, perfectionist colleague is trying to oversee a second-grade homeschooling assignment while preparing quarterly earnings.)

Commercialization Focus

We will learn much more as we understand the impact of this crisis on clinical trials, regulatory timelines, companies that persevere to the other side, and new, virtual ways of working and interacting with customers. From my current, early-April perspective, I believe the following are reasonable areas in which to focus:

  • Commercialization Scenarios. Ensure your base case is sound and buttoned up — you may be creating multiple scenarios from that point. What were you planning as you entered 2020? Ensure the following are clear so that you can adjust them as needed: assumptions, timelines, data dissemination, budgets and forecasts, stakeholder engagement.
  • Opportunity Assessments. The value of your assets, no matter which stage they are in, will likely change. Ensure your methods of analysis are clear and prepare to update them, especially if there may be a financing, partnering, or out-licensing strategy in your future.
  • Virtual Interactions. It’s not just the interactions amongst ourselves that have changed — the ways in which we interact with our external stakeholders, KOLs, customers, influencers, and payers are also different. Some of this may show itself first in remote clinical monitoring or in virtual congresses; no one knows how it will evolve.

    But it will happen, and we all need to remain on top of the trends, innovation, and nimble startups that emerge. It makes sense to assign a team to stay on top of it and share with others.
  • Capability Building. The NemetzGroup e-conversation would not be complete without focusing on capabilities, processes, and improving how we work to commercialize our products! If your timelines are pushed out, focus on high-priority team development that could never get scheduled because everyone was “traveling.”

    It can be easy-breezy: passing the baton on the Zoom call for new topics; conducting show and tell on best practices; inviting one of your consultant partners to conduct a virtual lunch and learn; watching a TedTalk and sharing impressions. On The NemetzGroup team, for example, we have asked our Gen Z intern to teach the rest of us about… well… everything. This is our time to learn; let’s be creative!

Final Thoughts

I, too, am overwhelmed, worried, and so incredibly sad for those in our community that are suffering health-wise, economically, and emotionally. With an MD husband who cares for intensive care patients, I know well both the dangers and the debt of gratitude that each of us owes to our healthcare providers.

But other than staying home (which I do), I can only control what I can control, and that is to support my team members in doing the best they can to help all of you, now and beyond this difficult time. The patients who need the medicines our industry develops are depending on you. And, so am I.


Posted in All Categories, Decision-Making and Process, Relationship Building, Strategy and Planning