Dear Colleagues!  This is Asrar Qureshi’s Blog Post #717 for Pharma Veterans. Pharma Veterans welcome sharing of knowledge and wisdom by Veterans for the benefit of Community at large. Pharma Veterans Blog is published by Asrar Qureshi on WordPress, the top blog site. Please email to for publishing your contributions here.

These articles take some insights and the title from INSEAD articles by Ayman Jawahar whose links appear at the end. The original articles are not about pharmaceuticals.

The second argument from Ayman Jawahar is that product management is not a role.

[Quote] Decouple product management from outdated organizational theories, and stop thinking about it as a role – instead, think of it as a culture. [Unquote]

Product managers have a defined role in pharmaceutical industry, and they are supposed to remain confined within that role. The role requires that the product managers take up a product and finds ways to increase its business, its market share, its profitability, its visibility, and its competitive edge. These roles are perfectly aligned with the standard, and this is how it should be. Why then Ayman insists on culture?

It is a common situation; the business is taken as the responsibility of marketing and sales. The corporate boldly shows that it has decided to achieve xxxxx million-rupee business in the current year. And when it is achieved, corporate–wide celebrations take place. It is true that the marketing/sales aka product managers/sales managers are the frontline troopers battling it out in the marketplace, but they can only win if they are supported by the whole corporate; this does not happen. No other function is aligned with business growth the way it should be.

In one of the more progressive corporates, various functions were asked to write down how they would support the achievement of business targets. Their first response was that they are support functions only and they will do what is asked for. They could not even think about their role in business. When they were pressed to think, they came up with some ‘safe answers’ such as quick hiring by HR, and periodic fund releases from finance.

This is where we are in Pharma, and this is what Ayman is pointing out. Having a culture of product rather than just a manager means that the entire corporate is aligned towards business; no one has any other business except supporting the corporate business.

The problem runs deeper actually. For so long, the business has remained the property of marketing/sales that the other departments do not support them due to rivalry. Marketing/sales should also share the blame. When they won, they took the credit, and implicated other functions if they did not grow as per plan or lost. Both outlooks are counter-productive and must be corrected. Marketing alone shall never be able to achieve big business without support from all functions and must share the credit with open heart. Similarly, other functions should not be criticized unnecessarily and the reasons for non-achievement should be identified objectively.

Pharmaceutical industry is among those industries in Pakistan who have been most reluctant in embracing change and new ideas. The funniest argument given in this regard is that pharma industry is highly regulated and cannot change. It is a half-truth. The regulations do apply to most functions of pharma industry but do not stop to adopt new thinking. The regulations are guidelines which advise about the framework, not the content. For example, if the management wishes to change HR practices, or finance working, or even marketing ideas. There are boundaries which must be observed. Let me bring a common example. Many medium to large pharma companies have installed SAP ERP software to organize their working. In its entirety, it covers all functions, such as production planning, production, quality control, supply chain, HHR, marketing, sales, and so on. SAP forces that current practices be replaced with the best practices. The companies suffered and suffered during the installation process but carried on all the same.

In order to build a ‘culture’ of product rather than just a role, following steps may be considered.

  • The senior managers should be exposed to new, evolving concepts through a mix of sessions, trainings, and cross functional forums which are led by the chief executive.
  • The managers may be incentivized to follow modern trends.
  • Inclusivity should be promoted.
  • Corporate objectives should be made part of everyone’s objectives. These should be included in the KPIs and assessed accordingly.
  • The hiring managers should include in the list of required capabilities – the knowledge and will to learn and practice new ideas. Besides IQ and EQ, SQ – Social Quotient representing Social Intelligence, and cross-cultural flexibility should also be looked for.
  • Product managers should become part of corporate, not just marketing, learn from diverse teams, expand their knowledge and skills.
  • Chief Executives should make their corporate ‘the learning organization’ and orientate it towards learning-practicing-learning cycle.

The sum up is that the job of product manager, as we see it now, must be redesigned to become an all-inclusive role, rather than a standalone function.

To be Continued…….

Disclaimer: Most pictures in these blogs are taken from Google Images and Pexels. Credit is given where known; some do not show copyright ownership. However, if a claim is lodged at any stage, we shall either mention the ownership clearly, or remove the picture with suitable regrets.

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