Team of the Year: Our Finalists Tell Their Stories

April 28, 2005
We began with more than 20 nominations and narrowed it down to eight, including one non-industry team from FDA. Their inspiring stories may signal the end of old-fashioned top-down management.
The road to continuous quality improvement is never easy, especially for an industry as heavily regulated as pharmaceuticals. However, as the old Chinese proverb goes, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step." Teams at drug manufacturing facilities all over the world are shaking off the inefficiencies of the past, opening up communications and breaking down organizational barriers to improvement.This first Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Team of the Year competition celebrates their efforts, their achievements, and roads not yet taken. Twenty-five teams from 20 pharmaceutical companies, large and small, entered the competition this year. From this group, 16 semifinalists from 11 companies were selected and interviewed to get a better idea of the reach, results and focus of their work, and its impact on team spirit.Each team had a great story to tell, and it was difficult to select the eight finalist teams who will now compete for two awards: One is for large-scale projects, for teams that have been involved in sweeping, facility-wide programs at larger organizations. The other will honor a team that is implementing a program at a smaller facility, or a focused, limited-scope effort at a larger plant. We will announce the winners in May's issue. Helping us make that call will be our editorial board members as well as Light Pharma consultant Scott Tarpley, Future Map, Inc. CEO and team building expert Cynthia Palka, and J&J quality expert Penelope Przekop.Although FDA's PAT Team is not involved in manufacturing, it was considered based on the sheer difficulty of its undertaking and the impact that it may have on the industry. Two of Pfizer's Kalamazoo teams were considered as one, as were three of Novartis' Suffern teams, given the close integration between teams at those sites. BMS's Indiana Tech Ops covers two sites, but sees itself as having one big team.Anyone who rolls their eyes at the term "team building" and the artificial exercises involved, or scoffs at "soft skills" in general, will see things very differently after reading the stories of these eight finalists. In fact, their exercises and initiatives go right to the heart of "people issues," often just the things that bog down improvement efforts at any facility.FDA team members danced together and even manufactured product during training. Teams at Baxter, BMS and Novartis played simulation games. And, rather than taking things for granted, these eight teams all celebrate each small victory and learn from each defeat along the way. At BMS, for example, every time a facility goes 100 days without an accident, a celebration such as a cookout is held, where management works and serves the staff. These eight stories may also signal the end of old-fashioned top-down management. Managers at these teams don't just click through PowerPoint slides and issue directives from on high. Instead, they work side by side with team members, listen to their concerns, and empower them. Here, in their own words, the finalists talk about their achievements, challenges and what they believe their legacies will be. We hope that you find them as inspiring as we did.Large-Scale ProjectsSmaller-Scale Projects