Simply The Best (Practices)

By Malcolm Fleschner

Good ideas, innovations and best practices can come from anywhere in an organization, but their utility is limited without a strategy for distributing the ideas across the organization and driving implementation. According to John Kuchna, U.S. director of training and development for Paramus, New Jersey-based Yamanouchi Pharma America, a range of reasons keep best practices from being distributed across entire pharmaceutical sales organizations.

“One of the greatest obstacles in pharmaceuticals are the numerous legal and regulatory hurdles put in place to ensure implemented ideas are within promotional guidelines,” he says. “This delay in idea approval slows down the process and disillusions some reps about the influence they have. Candid discussions among managers and representatives are needed to predict barriers to implementation and corresponding milestones and timelines for progress. Too often great ideas get lost in the administrative pile of paperwork. As managers we have to make sure that innovation and creativity thrive and are supported in our districts.”

Asked what managers can do to facilitate the free flow of ideas, Kuchna references well-known research on motivation and retention. “The top two motivators for employees to stay with an organization are exciting work and a chance to grow and learn,” he says. “It makes sense that sharing of best practices helps to achieve these top two motivators. When one links the sharing of ideas to the greater team and company benefit, employees begin to see the affect of their ideas on the bigger picture. Many companies have teamwork competencies that aid in documenting such sharing. Sometimes we miss the fact that people like to be heard and appreciated. Keeping employees engaged is at the core of a manager’s role.”

Furthermore, Kuchna notes that sharing best practices offers other benefits, including:

  • providing a mechanism for managers to share talents, experiences, knowledge and wisdom
  • encouraging cooperative and collaborative partnerships throughout the organization
  • expanding career opportunities by exposing talent
  • inspiring loyalty and commitment in new employees and emerging leaders
  • accelerating learning and facilitating the smooth transfer of knowledge.

Rather than handling the idea transfer process on a case-by-case basis, Kuchna argues that managers should establish a step-by-step approach that takes best practices from the idea stage and navigates them through implementation.

“I like to set up a template of steps so everyone can track best practices consistently,” he says. “Too often we hear stories of best practices that are missing key steps for employees to learn the process. I like to use the following steps in my template:

1. Initiative
2. Objective
3. Resources used
4. Implementation steps
5. First and second call objective to the customer after the initiative took place
6. New perspectives gained

“When everyone is on the same page in terms of tracking best practices, the format by which it is communicated becomes more of a district preference,” Kuchna adds. “During the communication, ensure that opinions are respected and disagreements focus on the problem, not the person. In this way solutions can be offered that are process focused.

“It’s also important to remember that the follow-up is customer centered. Customers who get reinforcement within 72 hours of an initiative show far greater impact and retention. The template of steps reminds employees that best practices are first for the benefit of the customer. Have a set time during weekly conference calls for the review of best practices. As this becomes part of the district framework, it will become an expectation on every call. It also is critical to share learning while a best practice initiative is taking place, instead of waiting until the initiative is completed to review and share learning. Some of key learning takes place during the implementation.”