At AstraZeneca, part of our business strategy is ensuring that we are a Great Place to Work and one way in which we achieve this is by simplifying our business. Pushkala Subramanian, Vice President Simplification Center of Excellence at AstraZeneca, provides her latest thoughts on the challenges simplification brings and provides tips on how to overcome them.
AstraZeneca strives to be a great place to work, and encourages employees to embrace a simplification mindset. But how do you get 60,000 employees excited about something that has the risk of negative interpretations? After all, doesn’t simplifying lead to scary considerations, like cutting costs, losing jobs, and reducing things? Well, yours truly was tasked with this challenge, and after an adventurous learning experience, I’ve compiled a few tips for young professionals, experienced leaders, and everyone in between – on how you can transform one idea into creating movement within your organization, if you believe in it.
- Be bold, and set an inspiring goal: If it sounds crazy or has “never been done”, chances are, you’re on the right track. Think about how you can give people something back. It’s hard to rally any organization by taking things away from employees. In our case we wanted to give time back to employees. We thought big—could we encourage employees to save one million hours by simplifying—before we thought—wait, is one million hours even possible? It was. It came down to 30 minutes per week for employees which made it more personal and more attainable.
- Build a network of influencers: If no one cares about your idea, it is either an early indication of lack of value or you haven’t yet articulated a compelling value proposition. We learned quickly that engaging a few leaders who shared the same passion in our idea went a long way in getting things done.
- Stay nimble with a focused team: It is easier to be agile when you are not too big. We formed a 5-person team, which is 0.00008% of the size of the organization. We stayed focused on a few actionable things and delivered outcomes early on, and on a rolling basis. Success bring credibility and gives people hope and encouragement to join the movement.
- Value the small ideas: They can have a big impact. In the spirit of simplification, one of the markets decided to stop sending emails on the weekends, another market declared a day of “no meetings allowed”. One of our sites deployed badge-free entry into the parking garage. Imagine the employees’ excitement when there was no more traffic getting into the office! Small changes like this enhanced employee confidence by allowing them to feel the impact, spark their belief, and contribute to the movement
- Be pragmatic and resilient: No matter how good your idea is, it’s practically impossible to have everyone behind you upfront. Don’t delay your take-off trying to do just that. If you are passionate about the idea and you have the support from the few influencers, take the risk, do it and learn from it.
When we started, it was a challenge to make simplification tangible and show the impact of change. This experience showed that you can make an intangible idea tangible. Within a year, employees supported this idea and freed-up two million hours! That’s a movement we are proud of—simple success.