Innovator Article

Rx for Managing Innovation & Change
Custom Program Offers New Approaches for Genentech Leaders

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The marriage of the pharmaceutical and biotech industries has been a fountain of innovation, delivering a steady flow of revolutionary treatments for patients with serious or life-threatening conditions. Today, the drug industry faces many challenges to its business model and research and development productivity, ranging from healthcare reform price pressure to increased competition from generic medicines as many branded drugs lose patent protection.

Against this backdrop, companies are putting a premium on management talent as they navigate these uncharted waters. South San Francisco, Calif.–based Genentech, which founded the biotechnology industry in 1976, uses human genetic information to develop, manufacture and commercialize medicines. In March 2009, Genentech became a member of the Roche Group, one of the world’s leading healthcare groups in the fields of pharmaceuticals and diagnostics. Genentech now serves as headquarters of the Swiss giant’s U.S. operations.

About 16 miles southwest of UC Davis, Genentech’s 100-acre facility in Vacaville, Calif., is one of the world’s largest plants for the large-scale production of pharmaceutical proteins from mammalian cells. The highly regulated, state-of-the-art plant, which employs about 700, is licensed by the FDA to manufacture Avastin, Herceptin, Rituxan and Xolair.

Looking to bring the plant’s management team together to develop common skills and learn ways to accelerate and manage innovation, Genentech called on the Graduate School of Management. The firm has been a GSM Business Partner since 1998.

Alumnus Scott Zimmerman ’04, associate director of the plant’s Business Operations Support Group, reached out to partner with the School to craft a customized executive education program. He sought to tap the expertise of internationally renowned leaders in organizational behavior and innovation management who he learned from while earning his UC Davis MBA.

“We wanted to be more thoughtful with our training and development dollars for our leadership team,” said Zimmerman. More often than not, he said, plant managers who attended professional conferences in their fields haven’t been able to share that knowledge with others effectively.

On February 17–18, the 40-member extended leadership team of Genentech’s Vacaville plant spent two full days together at the School. Professor Andrew Hargadon, director of the UC Davis Center for Entrepreneurship, led sessions on managing innovation and creativity, building networks and using entrepreneurial strategies to help Genentech become more flexible and agile. Professor Kimberly Elsbach followed with role-playing exercises to help the managers sell new ideas to employees. Driving home these concepts, Professor Donald Palmer focused on ways leaders can motivate and build a commitment to change.

“We’ve been challenged to reinvent ourselves and look at optimal ways of getting our work done, the ways we are organized and the way decisions are made,” said Daniel Burton, training and development manager for the Vacaville plant.

“We are constantly challenging ourselves to be more innovative, to motivate people and sell new ideas up or down the organization,” he explained. “We can’t promote new ways to be more efficient without having people follow us.”

How to Sell an Innovative Idea: Drawing on her research in perception management, managerial influence and the practice of persuasion, Professor Kimberly Elsbach had Genentech managers develop and refine “pitches” to sell innovative new ideas that would improve agility at the Vacaville plant.

Putting the idea into action, Senior Manager Elizabeth Kelly (left) sways Neil Barratt, associate director of operations finance, while Principal Engineer Jesse Bergevin (top photo left) pitches Mark Pedersen, a process engineering manager.


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