Case of GSK China - Building World Class High Performance Team

Building a world class high performance team around a new market model

(Excerpt from Book “Team Quotient: How to Build High Performance Teams and Win Every Time” by Douglas Gerber)

GSK (GlaxoSmithKline) China was faced with rebuilding its pharmaceutical leadership team (CPLT) from scratch, and completely transforming the team processes while implementing a new market model. They accomplished this in four stages over two years:

Stage 1: Build out the Team

Stage II: Start Functioning as a High Performance Team

Stage III: Transforming the Team

Stage IV: Moving to High Performance

In 2012, GSK in China enjoyed the status of being one of the pharmaceutical powerhouses, with many of its drugs achieving strong penetration with doctors and in hospitals while enjoying high market shares. However, 2013 was the Chinese Year of the Black Snake, which intimated that there would be both turmoil and transformation. Indeed, this year precipitated a major change in how GSK China would operate. In a move designed to drive reform of the industry, in 2014 Chinese authorities investigated GSK China’s operating practices and levied a record fine of £297 million or $465 million. GSK, however, was allowed to retain its license to operate and trade in China.

Given the challenges, the first action was to rebuild the Leadership Team. The first step involved conducting interviews with key CPLT members to understand their perspectives and challenges while building a relationship with them. The idea of creating a ‘World-Class Team’ was greeted with a mixture of hope and skepticism. Some aspired to the idea while others were wrapped up in their own departmental or functional challenges.

Next on the agenda was observing the CPLT in action for a day-and-a-half. The following was the prescription for the team;

  • Focus on big decisions and those things that will drive the Vision and strategy

  • Need for feedback and trust, and deeper relationships

  • Engage in more Fun, recognition, and celebration

  • Employ stronger naturally integrated collaboration

  • The team was still too dependent on the leader and needed to build a durable CPLT Identity

  • Continue focusing on patients and the commercial challenges

During its offsite, the CPLT wanted to further deepen its relationships and trust. Additionally, the team deployed a new form of feedback on contribution to the team: Each team member would provide feedback individually to as many team members as possible about their contributions to the team. This allowed the CPLT to go deeper and strengthen the aspect of one-on-one feedback.

Over the ensuing months, the CPLT started to build its Identity and feel good about itself. In 2015, the CPLT had trimmed its monthly meeting times to half a day. The change in spirit and substance was striking and it felt as if a cloud had been lifted. There were smiles, friendly banter, humor, and a family atmosphere; deeper relationships developed and trust emerged. Participation, although not perfect, had vastly improved, and there were even some healthy challenges to others’ statements. There was an alignment of some key areas, such as the strategic deployment of priority initiatives. Decision making had improved. The team was now focusing on the big thing that mattered.

At the end of the day, we reviewed the TQ HealthCheck that revealed that the team had just crossed the line into High Performance! Moving from a new team with daunting challenges and no real Identity, to crossing over to High Performance in just a year and a half, was a remarkable achievement.

Douglas Gerber is Founder and CEO of Focus One, a consulting firm that helps leaders create High Performance Teams. After 23 years as a corporate executive, he developed a reputation for building successful teams. Later, as a consultant, he has personally worked with leaders from over 70 companies to develop their own winning Teams. Drawing from his own extensive background and 10 years of research, Douglas innovated the concept of “Team Quotient” (TQ). He is a thought leader in the area of team transformation. Learn more about Douglas and his upcoming book Team Quotient: How to Build High Performance Leadership Teams that Win Every Time on

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