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Monday, December 3, 2012

Pharma Drama

Met up with a former colleague today and chatted about merger drama that exploded after I left so-and-so company. I have heard of similar stories playing out again and again for two decades. Mergers are one of the most wasteful, inefficient, and pointless activity in the pharmaceutical industry. I doubt Pfizer had done any real work at all in the past quarter century besides the endless, exhausting of reorganization. Yet they all keep doing it like lab rats running in the wheel, for no better reason than keeping Wall Street stock analysts happy. Wall Street, who doesn't know the first thing about R&D, is running the show. No wonder productivity and success rate have been dropping like an airplane with both engines blown out.

A few years ago, when mega company bought medium company, everyone was soothed with comforting announcements: We will let you run it as you've always run it. We don't want to disrupt your operation. We want you to run like a well-oiled machine just like before, that's why we spent so much money to buy you.

Before the sound of the microphone dissipated, the backstabbing had already begun. The head cashed out and made his exit. A few others near the top saw the writing on the wall and bailed. Like a boat with a few holes in the bottom, water began to leak in. The vacuum left on the top layer ignited the ambition and hunger among the middle managers like honey on flypaper. A great jostle began.

To make things worse, the mega company gave the medium company a couple of smaller companies to absorb into its structure. Here, they said, you guys get together and figure it out yourselves. This was like throwing a couple of alligators into an already frenzied snake pit. I wonder whether the mega company did this intentionally, just to see who would survive the snake pit and become the last man or woman standing. For the next five years, departments were broken up and shuffled, territories were consolidated and re-shaped, the org chart --- oh the infamous org chart --- was drawn and redrawn and drawn and redrawn again. Bosses came and went. Today you reported to Ms A, tomorrow you might be reporting to Mr B, and the day after? Both.

It is no surprise, then, people at the bottom of the totem pole were overworked, confused, and exhausted, but nothing got done.

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