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Using an Agile Framework for Strategic Execution

Karen-Leigh Edwards is an Associate Director, External Manufacturing at Biogen Idec, Cambridge, MA and a member of the MIT Executive MBA class of 2015.

Often we are tasked with strategic goals that when it comes to implementation seem monumental and destined for failure.  The line between magnitude of scope and immediate need under a tight timeline frequently needs to be balanced during execution.  An incremental approach to the goal with focus on the immediate need sets up a framework that establishes the strategy (intent) while linking that strategy to organizational activities.  Upon meeting the immediate need, the framework can then be expanded in an iterative manner to cover the scope of the goal.

Recently I worked on an assignment which involved the technology transfer of a commercial product from external contract manufacturing organizations to an internal manufacturing facility.  Engulfing the immediate need for this transfer was the strategic goal of establishing the facility as a center of excellence for manufacture of products spanning the full range of drug development i.e. from clinical phases to commercial.  The scope of this initiative was wide as each clinical phase has differing manufacturing and compliance requirements and would require flexibility within the system, necessitating establishment of suitable processes.

Recognizing that the immediate need for the commercial product transfer needed to be implemented as soon as possible to fit a tight timeline, a framework approach was utilized whereby a commercial technology transfer process was established.  Lessons learned from the commercial process would provide real-time feedback which would then be funneled into the next iteration addressing product transfer at another stage of the development process.  With constant feedback into the iterative process, robust technology transfer processes for each stage of drug development can be established thereby creating a center for excellence and recognizing the strategic goal.

The key to successful implementation lay in a few areas:

1) Formation of the appropriate team with a clear scope and plan, including deliverables, for the project

2) Knowledge management from all pertinent groups (external and internal).  The appropriate team design was guided by the type of activities to be executed

3) A modular approach to implementation of the framework enabled several activities to take place in parallel to avoid compromising the timeline

4) The use of functional sub-teams to focus on the details around execution of activities while the main team focused on the project timeline and issues impacting timely execution

5) Effective communication and an open network was employed by the team leader to align and coordinate technical sub-teams as well as colleagues external to the facility

The open network was essential as creativity was required in the early stages of process to ensure execution while facility processes were still being built.  However, at the sub-team level, owing to the focus on timely delivery of goals, close networks were necessary for effective operation of these teams.

The next time you are faced with the challenge of implementing a strategic goal with wide scope, break it down.  Think about an iterative approach to addressing the scope of the goal and to coordinate resources.  The foundation of success at any stage will lie in the appropriate formation of the team(s) and effective communication.

What is your prefered framwork for strategy execution?

Originally Published: MIT Executive Insights Blog
Author: Karen-Leigh Edwards