Thursday, November 19, 2009


Teams are fast becoming all important in pharma marketing and business. Teams, in fact, are emerging as the important constituents of pharma organizations. In the earlier avatar, individual MRs/employee(s) were important and their behavior determined the business results. Today (and tomorrow), the team (and not an individual MR/employee) will decide marketing outcomes. Today's world is highly interconnected and interdependent. The media and communication systems are so advanced that each MR is not an island but the part of a closely interconnected marketing ecosystem. Hence, operating in the market requires team behavior. Team success = organizational success.I got the above image from here. In the above graphic we see the five Pandava brothers with Draupadi (the common wife). The Pandava brothers operated as a tightly knit team and fought a successful epic war against their couzins (the Kauravas). This event also saw preaching of the Bhagavad Gita (Song of the Lord) on the battlefield.

The Pandava team represents an interesting composition from the point of view of teambuilding. Although it was not binding, the Pandava brothers were glued to each other through thick and thin. They were together during good times and went through adverse circumstances together. They were together despite the Pandava team of brothers being of different temperaments. Their attitudes were different: Yudhishtra, the team leader, was the eldest with legitimate power. He had his weaknesses (like the gambling instinct) - yet was the indisputed leader. Bhima was the all powerful one. Arjuna was highly talented as a warrior. Nakula and Sahadeva were the obedient youngsters. In thier team work, we observe a commitment to the chain of command. This commitment was despite temperamental differences, and different viewpoints on issues. Hence, it is evident the Pandava brothers operated as a team because they had a basic commitment to stay together.

The times are different today. Hence, team building is a great challenge.


For team members to build a rapport, team play is vital. We can't get 5 guys and issue an edict that they are a team, and hence they need to co-operate and perform as a team. There are vital elements that create a team.

a) Team members should have individual goals intertwined with the bigger common goal.
b) Team members should communicate.
c) Team members should be very busy with individual and joint activities, events and programs so that there is no time for ego tussles.

Team members should play together to bond! When teams perform and get their well-deserved incentive holiday cum training program together, therein lies a great opportunity for rapport building. It is during such working vacations that certain traits of people get exposed. This in turn raises mutual understanding. Companies like Tetra Pak invest on team building exercises like joint rafting, raft building and short trekking expeditions of the team. Play together, pray together, and stay together!!

Teams and effective working operates on mutualism and win-win relationships

A danger in team work is I SCRATCH YOUR BACK AND YOU SCRATCH MY BACK type of relationships. Such transactions create a rift between organizational objectives and team interests. Organizations suffer due to such relationships. Systems that encourage transparency of data and independent auditing or checking systems can counter such relationships.

Earlier, a MR would be the knight in his territory. Pharma companies would depend on his attitude for success or failure. Today, communication systems forcefully create teams, team play and networks. The MR has to play with the team or get isolated. For eg., companies would get to know the stockist's (wholeseller) closing stock only at the end of the month based on the inputs provided by the MR. Today, there are top pharma companies who get this vital data at the press of the button on a daily basis (since data is updated on a daily basis over internet). Videoconferencing in companies like Pfizer has taken team building and communication to a new level. Mobile phone is used for important broadcasts, for eg., during the merger of Wyeth and Pfizer, 300 odd Pfizer sales reps listened to the MD's talk on mobile at real time (all together at once). So communication systems have rendered the MR a team player rather than a solitary reaper in the market.


A bane of pharma marketing is unionism by MRs. Most of the time, unionism does not help either the pharma marketing organization or the careers of MRs. Effective team play with the help of advanced communication systems is a robust barrier to unionism.

Unionism takes roots for two main reasons:

a) collective bargaining power
b) security

Team work based on advanced communication systems, transparency, and data gathering, can put an end to the unionism trend. It will certainly help isolate the strongly union minded personnel.

When reward systems (for incentives and commission) are in place and given based on performance, transparency, communication, team play, and robust data gathering - influence of prejudice decreases. Facts and data get the front seat. This makes people work for rewards. And in turn the trend of unionism is bucked.

Punishments and rewards

It is human nature among the powerful to punish wrongdoings. Powerful people take delight in handing out punishments! And unfortunately, on the other hand, good works are taken for granted. Special recognitions and rewards are not put in to the system for strengthening desired behavioral outcomes. The emphasis is only on punishing unwanted behaviors. The net result is insecurity seeps in and unionism gets strengthened.

When team work and team play is on a steady note based on robust data gathering, systems, communication, and transparency - business outcomes are positive. This bucks any trend of unionism.

The answer to many a pharma marketing challenge is building teams. This is imperative in the context of modern communication and data gathering systems.


No comments: