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Leading highly complex projects

Friday, April 11, 2014

On 21 March 2014 Dr. Pete Harpum, Client Director at Mannaz presented at the EBCG 4th Annual Pharma PPM Toolbox conference in Zürich, which is the largest pharma project and portfolio management conference in Europe.

Pete Harpum, Affiliate Professor at the Grenoble École de Management and Client Director at Mannaz, presented on “Project Leadership competencies: separating fact from fiction”. With reference to project management in very different industries, Pete Harpum discussed the difference between complicated and complex project management. Recognising that most drug development is not only complicated but also highly complex, Harpum discussed how this influences on demands for new project leadership skills.

In his presentation, Harpum presented data from the recent Mannaz research survey “The Business Value of Project Leadership”, where we interviewed 45 practitioners from 30 international companies on how the organisations maximise the business benefits from the projects they initiate. Harpum showed how an enhanced focus on the critical soft skills of project leadership can help bridge the uncertainties of complex project management, and the positive business implications for the development of highly capable project leadership in the life science industries.

The presentation was very much in line with and reinforced by common trends on the conference. We heard both Astra Zeneca quoting from Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, that “Great Science and an organization tuned to rewarding the right behaviours – not structural factors such as company size will ultimately drive renewed R&D[1]” and Head of Project & Portfolio Management at Abbott, Christoph Hüstebeck presenting on “Being a Successful Project Leader” focusing on the responsibility vs. accountability as a project leader, and what are the main behaviours of a project leader. He ended his presentation with a quote from Winston Churchill:

“To every person there comes in their lifetime that special moment when you are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to you and your talents…what a tragedy if that moment finds you unprepared or unqualified for work which could have been your finest hour.”

This was also evidenced by the Mannaz research survey. The “Monday morning project managers”, who, Monday morning, is told that they are now manager of this or that project, and they have no or little experience, competences or resources to effectively carry out that task.

Throughout the conference we saw and heard an increased recognition of the importance of competence development to strengthen the right behaviours to drive successful biopharm project delivery.

To watch Pete Harpum’s full presentation from the EBCG 4th Annual Pharma PPM Toolbox conference, please follow the link:

To hear more about the research survey, please contact: Lasse Piester-Stolpe, Business Development Director Tel.: +45 4517 6000 [1] Quote from Ringel, M. et al. Nature Rev. Drug Discov. 2013, 12(12) 901-902