Over the years we have found that one of the most fruitful and fun ways to help our life-sciences clients achieve their growth goals and optimize their delivery options is through custom workshops. But they had an unexpected side-effect…

Initially, we used these workshops to gather information to help us better tailor our advice and consulting services. However, we started to notice that something beautiful was happening in these workshops: team alignment.

Getting all noses in the same direction?

The more this happened, the more success we’d see our clients having in the next steps, in implementing new practices and policies and actually seeing growth. There is a saying in Dutch, “Getting all noses in the same direction.” Sounds funny, doesn’t it? But you get the picture: it is all about having the team stand behind the chosen direction the group is moving toward. If the entire team understands and agrees on a direction, having discussed possible challenges, the process and outcome can be smoother.

Without team alignment, any new project is likely to fall into one of two traps: the new offering or direction starts to operate in a silo, isolated from the people and things it needs to thrive, or it just fails outright.

We learned that team alignment doesn’t usually happen by itself. It does take some work – but it’s worth it!

Lessons Learned about Team Alignment

  1. Set the stage for fun!

One of the reasons our workshops are successful is that they are fun, (inter)active, energetic and full of laughs and lively conversations. We create an environment for people to share their thoughts and feelings, encouraging and emphasizing the importance of getting everyone’s input and perspective.

Of course, that’s not to say it all goes down like a spoonful of sugar. The conversations can get intense. We ask tough questions about our clients’ life-sciences businesses and their company goals. Which brings us to…

  1. No shine without friction

The first step to solving a problem is always awareness of the issue. Because we do extensive research and investigation before each workshop, we often know in advance how and why the team members aren’t in alignment. We can see when there is no singular plan – and we make creating one the core of the workshop experience, with clear post-workshop action plans and support.

So, yes, we ask the tough questions. We encourage the team to air out their dirty laundry. And you should, too. Sure, there can be some moments of ugliness in this process – but not nearly as ugly as the growth-sinking state of denial. Your team is clever and experienced, and even if they’re not talking about it, they probably have an inkling of what the problems are. It’s only by talking about them, though, that you can get past them, with total team buy-in.

In our workshops we call this the “middle-of-the-process pain.” What you’re feeling here is the pain of non-alignment. This pain tends to arise in the middle of the day, feels difficult and tense, but this is part of a process. As Kieran Canisius says, “No shine without friction.” Don’t be afraid, avoid or procrastinate; let the pain surface and discuss it.

  1. Ready, Set, Facilitate!

To achieve team alignment, it’s helpful to have a facilitator. Someone who can challenge the team members and different factions, playing devil’s advocate without fear of repercussion. This needs to be someone with a higher-level overview, who isn’t mired in the details and has the oversight and authority to keep everyone on course.

Of course, and this is the tricky part: this person needs to be both confrontational and relentlessly positive. That “painful middle part” can be disheartening without someone setting the right tone, reminding everyone that the whole team is moving forward. Preventing individuals from getting stuck in the details or a negative/defeatist mindset, but without shying away from the friction. Trust the process.

At Seuss Consulting we are always learning and growing. Our workshops have evolved, as has our understanding of the importance of team alignment and how to create it – whether the task is expanding geographical coverage, increasing client acquisition or setting up outsourcing partnerships. We have seen teams come out stronger than when they went in, and that every aspect of the business will benefit from these more deeply forged bonds and new level of mutual understanding.  We know that there are not always easy roads and easy answers. We are, however, sure that we can align noses, teams and business success.

As life-sciences consultants, it’s our task to help both specialty and full-service CROs as well as small to mid-sized pharmaceutical and biotech companies grow – whether that’s though vendor selection, business development or expanding your business through a bridge to Europe package. Call us at + 31 (0) 20-2900016 to learn about our dynamic workshops

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