“You say tomato, I say tomato,” were lyrics in a popular 1930s Gershwin song highlighting variations in dialects (to-may-to vs. to-mah-to). Nearly a century later, regional differences exist across dialects – and even within the terminology used by global companies. Even ours.
With several early development laboratories across Covance, Labcorp’s drug development business, quality metrics reporting and tracking varied from country to country and even from site to site. Sarah, a quality management systems manager, was tasked with helping to launch a new quality management system (QMS) software platform that all sites could use so everyone could “speak the same language” when it came to tracking quality metrics.
Based in Harrogate, the largest Covance site in the U.K., Sarah had established a reputation for meticulously tracking client concerns and ensuring teams were meeting expectations as the early development laboratories helped their clients explore the nascent phases of a molecule that could eventually become a life-saving treatment. With her new project, she and a global team set out to find the sites’ variations and unite the labs across Covance’s global early development department.
Connecting and collaborating globally
The first step involved determining how each laboratory currently reported quality issues and tracked metrics. Collaborating with a partner in the U.S., Sarah worked to unite key stakeholders and understand their approaches.
“We found that each team worked in different ways and had different terminology, or we used the same term but it would mean very different things between our groups,” explained Sarah. “It was an eye-opening experience and we had to focus on what we needed, rather than what we wanted, so we could have a single approach and find a common way of thinking.”
Taking on a stretch assignment
Sarah had extensive experience tracking quality issues, creating action plans and implementing process improvement, but managing this software launch represented a first for her career.
“It was a very ambitious project,” explained Sarah. “It’s not something that I would usually be involved with, and the project really did push me professionally. Looking back, it was really beneficial to me to develop as a person and to be challenged this way.”
Earning recognition for her efforts
Sarah’s achievements were recognized when she received several nominations from her co-workers and global team members in the Covance 2019 Global Chemistry Solutions & Early Development Employee of the Year Annual Awards. Sarah received the change agent of the year award.
One nominator wrote, “Her ability to draw on her interactive and collaborative skills during the difficult discussions with various group leaders with opposing views was often displayed.”
Now, as a result of her team’s efforts, 4,500+ employees across the Covance global R&D laboratories within early development, chemistry solutions and Covance Central Laboratory Services are using a new quality management system (QMS) that has received a lot of positive feedback.
Changing roles during a global pandemic
As Sarah completed the first phase of the project, she transitioned to a new role in January 2020 as senior team leader for the Good Laboratory Practice/Good Clinical Practice (GLP/GCP) Quality Assurance Group at the Harrogate site. After working remotely with global colleagues in her previous role, she was looking forward to working in person with a local team, but the pandemic quickly changed her leadership strategy.
“I really enjoy coaching, mentoring and helping people develop, but it has been really challenging to accomplish this in a remote fashion,” explained Sarah.
However, she isn’t deterred by the pandemic and continues to find new ways to foster collaboration and connections in her role.
“I’ve found it’s important to have regular team activities and keep up communications, even if it just a quick check in to make sure people have what they need. To get people talking, we have some quiz activities and also try to inject some humor as well. I’ve had great support from my manager and team members. Everyone has worked to adapt to these new conditions and be flexible – and we are making the best of it.”
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