3 simple tactics to improve study program team execution

In a world that thrives on complexity, the secret to unlocking exceptional team performance can be achieved through simple, straightforward steps. It is the simple, pragmatic tactics that often yield the most powerful results. The aim of this article is to illuminate three simple but transformative tactics to boost team execution:

  • Creating a ‘single source of truth’ for tracking progress

  • Building a truly team-based operating model

  • Intentionally crafting regular opportunities for collaboration

While the context used here revolves around the pharmaceutical industry, these strategies are universal and can be applied across industries. Together, these three tactics form a triad of efficiency, enhancing team coherence, communication, and productivity, thereby improving overall execution and accelerating the journey towards successful outcomes.

Create a Single Source of Truth for What’s Done, What’s in Progress, and What Has Been Requested

In the context of large-scale projects like clinical trials, it’s critical to have a central, constantly updated source of truth. This source should account for all deliverables—those that are done, those presently underway, and those that have been assigned but not yet started.

The creation of such a dynamic record mitigates confusion and inefficiencies that can emerge in a cross-functional team setting. It enhances communication, fosters transparency, and hastens the decision-making process. As a result, the team can dedicate more energy to producing results and spend less time managing and disseminating information.

Imagine you’re part of a global pharmaceutical company’s team, conducting a pivotal clinical trial for a novel neurological drug. Your team comprises a study program lead, a portfolio director, a central monitor, a medical monitor, a clinical data manager among others. To ensure the successful completion of the trial, this cross functional group needs to be able to coordinate its activities efficiently.

You can use free tools like Trello or Microsoft ToDo to facilitate this coordination.  In this digital space, you can create lists corresponding to completed deliverables, ongoing deliverables, and new requests. Each individual deliverable, or ‘card,’ includes specific details, who owes what to whom by when. The platform is updated in real time and is accessible to every team member as well as view rights for stakeholders. Consequently, things like the Trello board can become a ‘single source of truth,’ promoting internal efficiency and expediting decision-making processes, thus improving the overall execution of the clinical trial.

Using something like Trello can become the go-to place for all the information, making it easier for everyone to work together and make decisions faster. This can lead to higher overall productivity.

Create a True Team-Based Operating Model

A team-based operating model is a way of working that highlights collaboration, joint responsibilities, and mutual accountability within a specific function or department. This approach encourages cooperation among team members, fostering a strong sense of unity and reducing any internal barriers or “silos” that can impede progress.

When a team-based model is put into action, it encourages each team member to feel personally invested in the overall success of their projects. This investment prompts everyone to bring their unique skills and insights to the table. As a result, the team can work more efficiently, solve problems more skillfully, and quickly adjust to any changes. This heightened level of teamwork and adaptability can lead to increased innovation and a more effective execution.

Picture yourself as the head of clinical marketing at a prominent diagnostic lab company. You’ve recently lost 40% of your team, a significant reduction in manpower. Yet, the expectations haven’t lessened; in fact, they’ve increased. Not only are you expected to meet last year’s deliverables based on a full headcount, but you’re also being asked to exceed those results.

To navigate this challenging situation, you could transition your team’s operations from a ‘segment by segment’ approach to a ‘shared services’ model. This means instead of each team member focusing solely on a single segment, everyone would share responsibilities across all segments.

The team could pool their collective skills, knowledge, and resources to work collectively on tasks previously assigned to individual segments. This approach can maximize efficiency, promote collaboration, and ensure the diverse needs of each segment are met by the entire team, thereby achieving more with less.

Intentionally Create Regular Collaboration Opportunities

This tactic involves deliberately creating opportunities for team members to collaborate, share ideas, and learn from each other. I’m specifically talking about in the context of regular team meetings.  However, instead of having regular meetings ‘discuss’, team members could join an open ‘meeting room’ with colleagues, all working on their individual deliverables, but able to quickly connect, collaborate, and problem solve with other team members without the logistical overhead of coordinating yet another meeting or back and forth emails.

Facilitating collaboration opportunities promotes a culture of openness and innovation, encouraging team members to share their expertise and perspectives. It enhances problem-solving capabilities and can lead to the development of more innovative solutions.

An asset strategy leader at a global pharma company could arrange regular ‘Working Sessions’ where representatives from different departments (e.g., preclinical, clinical, regulatory, and market access) collaborate as a team 2-3 hours/day for 3 days/week.  Although it sounds like a heavy lift (and it is), it takes the place of all the emails, all the chat messages, all the meeting schedule requests, and all the miscommunication:  Ultimately saving you time.

Improving team execution  is about building a culture of transparency, collaboration, and shared accountability. By creating a single source of truth, adopting a team-based operating model, and intentionally fostering collaboration opportunities, leaders can drive efficiency, innovation, and success.