How to Manage Effective Leadership when Change is the Only Constant - Pharmaceutical Technology

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How to Manage Effective Leadership when Change is the Only Constant
A disciplined approach to changing behavior can achieve change agility.

Pharmaceutical Technology
Volume 36, Issue 11, pp. 89-90

Key steps for leading through change

Below are some specific leadership tips for change agility in the "new normal."

Communicate about the change. When major changes occur, such as a merger or an acquisition, or process changes related to QbD, questions run through everyone's minds. Leaders need to lead from the start of the change to help people understand what is happening, why it is happening, and what it means to them.

Address your personal reaction to the change. Regardless of whether you are the CEO, a quality assurance professional, or a front-line technician, when change occurs, people in general can experience a range of reactions (e.g., exhibiting active or passive resistance, or being enthusiastic about the change but unable to develop specific action plans or stay motivated) (4). All reactions are natural and valid. Ultimately, the goal is to become change-resilient and create the best possible outcome for you, your employees, and your end users—the patients. Leaders often need to attend to their personal reactions to a change before they are able to help others.

Support your team through the change. During times of change, leaders must focus on the business while also tending to the staff. Successfully leading in the new environment requires helping team members by first gauging their reaction, then matching your coaching strategy to those reactions.

Focus on key priorities. Change can naturally lead to rumors, gossip, and other distractions among staff. Effective leaders need a plan to keep employees focused on current and future priorities and to ensure that staff members feel successful about what they are accomplishing. By focusing them on a few short-term priorities within their control, management can provide structure in the midst of uncertainty, hence ensuring that the change succeeds and that productivity and morale remain high. Make it a point to catch staff members "doing it right" so that the focus on priorities is a positive and motivating experience for all.

Retain key staff. It is the good swimmers who are most likely to jump ship. This reality creates real risk for any business. Leaders know that it takes more than compensation to keep their best performers engaged during times of change. With an average industry turnover of 14%, during times of stability, and the pharmaceutical industry's current talent shortage, losing focus of key players in times of change is not an option (5). One-on-one communication with their immediate supervisor that is personalized and career oriented can offer a strong positive influence on a high-performer's decision to stay.

Track and resolve issues. Change creates "noise" in any system or process. Leaders can gain tremendous loyalty from their teams by tracking and resolving (or escalating) questions and concerns.


Leading through change involves more than good project management and encouragement. Leading through change is about helping staff perform in new ways quickly and consistently to achieve new results, and helping them to be ready for the next change that will come more quickly than they might expect.

*Results achieved by Continuous Learning Group clients.

Tracy Thurkow, PhD, is partner of the Continuous Learning Group,
, Karen Gorman is senior partner of the Continuous Learning Group,
, and Paula Butte is senior partner of the Continuous Learning Group,


1. T.J. Galpin and M. Herndon, "Welcome to the Big Leagues of Change Management," in The Complete Guide to Mergers and Acquisitions: Process Tools to Support M&A Integration at Every Level, T.J. Galpin and M. Herndon, Eds. (Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco, CA, 1st ed., 1999), pp. 42–54.

2. Right Management, "Ready, Get Set...Change! The Impact of Change on Workforce Productivity and Engagement," in Leadership Insights, Right Management, Ed. (Right Management Inc., Philadelphia, PA, 2009) pp. 11.

3. M. Beer and N. Nohria, Harvard Bus. Rev., 133–141 (May–Jun. 2000).

4. J.M. Smith, When "It" Happens! at Work: 5 Action Steps to Make Change Work™ for You (ChangeMatters LLC, Morgantown, WV, 2nd ed., 2009). pp. 77.

5. M. Duggan, DrugTopics, 154 (8), 21 (2010).


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