Dear Colleagues! This is Asrar Qureshi’s Blog Post #718 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 email@example.com for publishing your contributions here.
These articles take some insights and the title from INSEAD articles by Ayman Jawhar whose links appear at the end. The original articles are not about pharmaceuticals.
Product Management is considered a given in pharmaceutical companies, or is it? Majority of the 700 odd pharma companies operating in Pakistan do not have a product manager. They are doing business all the same, in fact, some are doing very big business. Then what is the difference that a product manager brings, or can bring to business? Is it only to entice more customers? Is it only to increase the unit sales anyhow? Is the fight about market share worth it? The market is not static, it is elastic, and it keeps expanding as more products come in, and more prescriptions are issued. Could anyone imagine that omeprazole or cefixime or ceftriaxone would become multibillion rupee brands? Was all the promotion about these products ethical? About ethics, I shall quote one recent example here and leave the rest of the discussion for later part. A product with the name ‘DIGAS’ drops for children has recently come up with an attractive campaign supported by a well-designed TV commercial. The TVC promises instant relief with natural ingredients. It is a marketing scoop in the marketing jargon. With the classic Gripe Water almost out of scene, there is a huge vacuum to fill. I once downloaded several vintage American and European posters of some old, known products. They all made ludicrous, unauthentic claims. This is exactly what is being done by the nutraceutical products these days. We move on anyway.
Let us look at ‘Product Culture’ and what does it comprise of. Culture is usually considered to have four main elements, and we shall look at these in some detail with reference to Pharmaceutical Industry.
Every trade has its jargon, so have the PMs. GOLY, GOLM, CAGR, MS, Cash Cows, Trajectory, Mindspace, RTD, CME, are just a few examples of the acronyms and terms that are used by PMs every day. With digital technology coming in, some more terms have also come in. The use of particular words and phrases creates an invisible barrier between those who know and those who don’t. The psychology behind jargons is to keep unrelated people away, feel a sense of belonging to a certain group, and to feel important. PMs are not alone in this, almost all professionals are doing it.
The problem, however, is that it stifles open thinking, and the proponents keep revolving in the same circle. Even within the industry, PMs belonging to bigger companies deliberately discuss things in a way that the juniors and those from smaller companies look at them in awe, which is what they wish to achieve.
There are numerous rituals and micro-behaviors that are used to create and sustain a certain environment specific to PMs and Marketing guys. The meetings are scheduled frequently, and these are given exotic names to make these feel important. Morning huddles and scrum meetings besides, there are business development meetings, product development meetings, strategy meetings, debriefs, meetings with vendors, and so on. This is all part of work and there is nothing wrong with having these meetings. The only problem is that the meeting becomes all important while the outcome remains elusive.
Another very questionable norm of PMs is late sitting. There would be hardly any day they would leave office on time. One major reason is that the actual work time of the day is lost in meetings, hence the need for late sitting. I know PMs who leave office around 9pm in routine. Some sit as late as midnight, and the irony is that they feel proud about it. We know that the highest number of hours are clocked in by the law firms and accounting firms’ staff in the US; they work even up to 100 hours a week. There is no doubt that they spend several miserable years to become comfortable later. PMs are usually not included in this list, reason being that it a creative job unlike legal and accounting work which is labor-intensive. Another point to ponder is that senior PMs are more involved in it as it shows they have such huge responsibility on their shoulders. What happens to quality is no one’s concern.
Grandiosity has become a norm of late. The launch meetings, strategy meetings, annual conferences are focusing more on the show value rather than the impact. The events are bigger, choreographed, with lot of artificially created aura to mesmerize people at least for the time they are there. Participants are also encouraged to vent out at the musical evenings. PMs are the key organizers.
The third main component of culture is values. Corporate values have become part of a corporate display along with vision and mission. Despite consistent efforts, the assimilation of values into work ethic is rarely achieved.
PMs consider themselves part of head office, which they are anyway, but they use their position to exploit field people. It is customary to dehumanize the frontline worker who goes out day in day out, rain or shine, summer or winter, and works to generate business. The credit mostly is taken by the strategy designers, the PMs. The values of collective responsibility and teamwork are flouted every day.
Emotional branding has become order of the day. Every PM tries to touch an emotional cord with promotional themes, slogans, and materials. FMCG are the worst as they do it absolutely unabashedly. Our internal value system or the corporate values do not come in the way of these things; when it comes to business, all is fair.
To be Continued…….
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