Written by Ian C. Read (in collaboration with Jeff Cohen)
Excerpt from Leader to Leader article Volume 2021, Issue 101, Summer 202, Pages 23-29
I became chief executive officer (CEO) of Pfizer, a top five global pharmaceutical company, in a crisis, one that became painfully public seven months later when Fortune published the article, “Inside Pfizer’s Palace Coup.” At that time, Pfizer’s portfolio of early and later stage products was not highly productive, our cycle time to bring new products to market was far from industry leading, our stock price had dropped significantly, and we faced extraordinary pressures from all our stakeholders to make significant improvements, not the least in terms of financial performance. We had strengths but lacked the courage to confront reality and the confidence that we could work together to overcome anything in our path. Fortune described the Executive Leadership Team (ELT) in late 2010 as falling apart and riven with mistrust and while I might not have used the same words, I knew our turnaround had to begin with my ELT. A turnaround of a Fortune 50, 160-year-old company is not easily done, and the new CEO has to hit the ground with clear ideas of what is most critical to do well. There are many measures of the success of Pfizer in the last two years, none more powerful than seeing the talent we put in place take smart risks and achieve the extraordinary delivery of the COVID-19 Vaccine in record time. The sustained use of the four principles below made my ELT the driver of our successful turnaround, and in the near future, could do the same for you.
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