Acorn Coaching and Development

Improving business performance

GlaxoSmithKline

Acorn help GSK senior site managers at Montrose scale up and down

Operating primarily in the highly regulated, high reliability pharmaceutical and foods sectors, GSK’s senior site managers face many tough management issues. GSK is also a very highly scrutinised business, balancing the often conflicting needs of many stakeholders in a very public way. As well as producing a profit for shareholders, senior staff have to consider very high profile environmental, welfare and political issues.

  • Pharmaceutical-generic

Background

Manufacturing in the pharmaceutical industry is highly competitive and volatile, because it is at the mercy of market forces. Acorn has worked with senior teams to develop their ability to adapt and change for long-term survival, by sustaining high performing teams.

Acorn has worked with a number of site leadership teams at executive and director level, on different issues, at GSK sites across the UK and, for this case study, we have selected to look at our work with the team at GSK’s site in Montrose. 

Requirement

GSK Montrose is one of the GSK’s eight manufacturing facilities in the UK and in recent years has found it necessary to scale its operation both up and down due to rationalisation and reorganisation of the global manufacturing and supply network.

Acorn was invited to create a management development programme that would help the senior leadership team manage rapid change. 

Acorn worked with the Site Director's team to support their development as a cohesive leadership entity to the site during a period when GSK’s UK manufacturing operations were under review as a result of a recent merger. 

The aim was also to help the site leadership team communicate complex issues and messages to diverse stakeholders, especially the workforce, unions, local community and GSK’s executive board.

However emerging issues and developments created a series of challenges which required rapid and hugely different responses through a turbulent period of some years when Acorn continued to support the leadership team.

Delivery

Acorn’s initial coaching of the leadership team focused on:

  • Integration of the newly appointed Site Director as team leader
  • Downsizing and cultural change in the team’s leadership
  • Transition from a governance-focused committee to a strategic and performance-focused leadership team
  • Understanding of buy-into and up-skilling for the team’s new role and direction

Generation of a site leadership team (SLT) code of conduct highlighting the standards of behaviour and interaction required to be a successful team at this level.

When this phase of work was nearing completion, GSK announced the intention to sell the site with a contract to continue to supply GSK. Consequently the SLT was charged with transforming the performance and culture of the site to make it more lean and agile, increasing attractiveness to potential buyers and bolstering the site’s potential to prosper in a more commercial environment. Acorn continued coaching the SLT to:

  • Build confidence and understanding of the new direction of the site
  • Minimise disruption from changes in team personnel as individuals made decisions about their own career
  • Enhance the capability of the team to interact confidently with potential purchasers and corporate functions involved in the sale
  • Engage in effective dialogue with staff and union representatives to deliver quality consultation and communication with the workforce
  • Define and promote the leadership behaviour required at all levels of the site to support the site sale and deliver on corporate objectives
  • Develop the coaching and influencing skills of the SLT members to enhance their leadership effectiveness with their own functional teams

In addition, Acorn designed and commenced delivery of a site-wide culture change and leadership programme tailored to the needs of the site and supporting transition to new ownership. One-to-one executive coaching was also made available to the team members to assist in their effectiveness in changed roles and where necessary assist in the swift resolution of career choices

The site sale process proceeded to a point where a buyer for the site was found, a large corporation with compatible pharmaceutical interests. The day the deal was due to be signed (new company flag ready to be unfurled and celebratory cake ready to be cut) the buyer pulled out. 

The official GSK corporate policy remained to secure a sale of the site but now further significant downsizing and the possibility of closure seemed increasingly likely outcomes.


Coaching

Acorn’s coaching of the SLT now focused on:

  • Maintaining the cohesiveness and motivation of the SLT
  • The SLT maintaining effective dialogue with staff and union representatives to deliver quality consultation and communication with the workforce
  • Generating and sustaining leadership drive and vision to engage staff in a period of heightened uncertainty, maintaining performance and safety focus
  • Updating SLT sponsorship of the culture change programme to reflect the changed circumstances
  • Building the SLT’s strategy, relationships and confidence to be more effective in influencing decisions about its future

After a prolonged period of uncertainty, a decision to close the site was announced. Acorn’s coaching of the SLT continued:

  • Maintaining the cohesiveness and motivation of the SLT
  • Generating and sustaining leadership drive and vision to engage staff in the long term plan of rundown to closure, maintaining performance and safety focus throughout
  • Building the SLT’s strategy, relationships and confidence to be more effective in influencing decisions about the higher-level planning and co-ordination of the closure
  • Minimising disruption from changes in team personnel as individuals made decisions about their own careers

As run-down of the site’s production capability progressed to a near point-of-no-return, GSK announced a reprieve for the site as a slimmed-down, flexible manufacturing asset with a strategic role in the manufacturing network to ensure security of supply of critical active ingredients in a range of GSK products.

In addition, strict performance targets and re-alignment schedules were imposed by the new Site Director. This led to the team experiencing a high degree of change and challenge in a short period, made more difficult by the fact that the team make-up had been changed and new relationships had not had time to mature - particularly with new Site Director.

Acorn’s coaching of the SLT was approved to continue under the new leadership and was focused on:

  • Accelerating development of effective working relationships with new team members
  • Integration of newly appointed Site Director as team leader
  • Enhancing the cohesiveness, collaboration and motivation of the SLT
  • Generating and sustaining leadership drive and vision to engage staff in the challenges and demands of the new situation, particularly re-alignment schedules
  • Reviewing progress and attainment of key milestones to identify and celebrate success, build confidence and anticipate future demands or pinch-points

Performance Management

Performance management was initially arranged through the commissioners of Acorn’s involvement, the Site and HR Directors, identifying the team’s developmental needs and observing to what extent the team’s dynamics and individual behaviour shifted to address these needs

Once the team coaching process became established, all team members contributed to the identification of the team’s needs (with final decisions and priority established by the Site and HR Directors in consultation with Acorn) and fed back to the commissioners the value they experienced from the coaching intervention.

Outcomes

Catalysing the shift from ‘old culture’ management-by-committee to a focused, dynamic and commercial approach

Development and maintenance of an effective leadership team through a period of unprecedented upheaval over an eight-year period

Ensuring the team’s ethos and leadership effectiveness was maintained through changes of leadership and key personnel

Implementing a culture change programme that maintained its relevance in spite of the changes in the site’s fortunes, and unleashed the capability of staff across the site to engage effectively with the challenges thrown at them

Ultimately supporting the productive survival of a manufacturing facility providing direct and indirect jobs that are a cornerstone of the local economy

Demonstrating capability to enhance team performance that has now been employed by other sites across the UK facing elevated challenge


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