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I would like to bring back the Team in this discussion; and with a lot of emphasis.
We were not extraordinary. A tiny few might have been much above others, but generally we were a bunch of average guys. However, our achievements were certainly Extraordinary. Without taking away anything from the leadership of Tariq Umar, I still emphasize that a lot of it would never have been accomplished without ‘the Team”.
The credit of team building also goes to Tariq Umar. He hired the right people, trained them and transformed them into leaders. I can personally claim that as Area Manager, I conceived, initiated and executed so many small-scale business activities that would shy some of the marketing managers today. I and my counterparts felt empowered and that made us highly engaged and motivated to have a go at the apparent impossible.
Apart from being empowered, we worked like a team. One problem with empowerment at times is that people make their own silos and fiefdoms. We didn’t have that. We met frequently, developed personal rapport, had fun together and supported each other.
Hoechst was growing at a maddening pace at that time. We were leading in several products and of course our competitors were following us and attacking us from all sides. We had to defend our position and make further gains. It was a high-stress time. Our relationship as a team, team gatherings and fun activities helped us to reduce stress to bearable levels.
My observation is that the understanding about the importance of team has not continued in the Pharma Business the way it should have been.
Three trends have evolved in the area of team handling and team building.
- Over-direction. The senior managers tend to promote the culture of do-as-you-are-told. They stifle new ideas and even discourage exchange of ideas among peers. Following the cue, the middle managers also adopt similar practices. As a consequence, the team members are not nurtured and developed. Either they survive in a retarded state or run away.
- Laissez-fair. The expectation communicated from the top is do-what-you-have-to but bring the results. The word most often used is “manage‘. Everyone asks a level below to ‘manage’ without telling what and how to do. Even the poor medical rep is asked to ‘manage’. This practice also leads to poor or no development of team.
- Customer Focus. Customer is always important but somewhere this thinking has emerged that if you have extreme customer focus, you may be able to reduce the team factor substantially. The theory is that the corporate should have direct relation with customers; team is not important. It is a flawed concept because corporate is just an entity; it has to be represented by people. If the corporate wishes to extend its reach in the market, it needs a ‘team’ to do so. Or it can choose to go online entirely. We however know that Pharma business has always been and understandably will be personal-selling dependent.
Pakistan Pharma business growth is a living proof of the importance of team. All major companies went through a major spurt of growth when a stable, performing team worked for a number of years.
Hoechst grew ten times in as many years, starting from 1986. It was the power of team work. The team reigned supreme in Hoechst, and Hoechst reigned supreme in the market place.