Genentech's Yang: Keys to Being a Great Manager

Before you can achieve a high level of operational excellence, you've got to nail down predictability, says Dr. Patrick Yang, Genentech's Executive VP for Products Operations. Too many companies aim high at the start of operational excellence initiatives, Yang says, at the expense of planned, predictable operations. Predictability is fundamental to operational excellence, Yang says, a prerequisite to all endeavors.

Yang, who has been with Genentech for five years after a long tenure at Merck, shared his thoughts about sustaining operational excellence at the recent Global Pharma Manufacturing Summit in Schaumburg,Illinois. Genentech is known as an innovative and even "cool" company, Yang notes. It is also known for its in-house expertise, though it has roughly 30 contract manufacturing partners. "You can't outsource effectively if you don't manufacture it yourself," he says. You have to strive to maintain your internal capability, Yang says. In cases when it outsources, Genentech has at least one of its own people on site at all times. "It costs a lot of money but it avoids a lot of hassle," he says.

Biotech is on the cusp of change, Yang says. We are entering the era of the "industrialization of biotech manufacturing." That is, "competition is no longer coming from how unique we are, but how well we run our facilities."

The three core success factors that Yang always keeps front and center are "people, process, and technology" in that order, though he admits that the cost of each of these factors is usually in reverse order, with technology requiring the greatest investment.

For those who love lists, Yang shared his "Nine Behaviors of World Class Organizations":

  1. One set of numbers is used to run the business. Superiors and subordinates can not communicate the way they need to if they are using different figures and sets of metrics.
  2. Realistic and shared plans.
  3. A passion for accuracy
  4. A passion for simplification
  5. Effective performance management
  6. "Democracy"in planning, but "autocracy" in execution
  7. Never uncertain.("We always know what direction we're going," Yang says.) Always open.
  8. Embrace accountability and speak up.
  9. Engaged, knowledgeable workforce with clear roles and responsibilities.

"Great managers are great mentors, teachers, and friends," Yang says. They take the interest of their direct reports to heart. They coach their staffs, provide them with the appropriate business context and priorities for success. They tell them the truth and give candid feedback, as a friend would.

Yang also discussed the 10 essential qualities of great manufacturing leaders. They:

  1. Have a passion for operations
  2. Are always connected to reality-i.e., the reality of what is happening within their plants and under their supervision
  3. Have the ability to hire great people
  4. Have the ability to facilitate and teach
  5. Are trustworthy, candid, and predictable
  6. Have flawless follow-up
  7. Have an attention to detail-"nothing falls through the cracks," he says.
  8. Use great judgment
  9. Have emotional strength
  10. Have emotional intelligence


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