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Culture is at the heart of performance The chief executive of Novartis Pharmaceuticals has a clear focus on culture to make a bigger difference for patients and the business, finds Liz Mellon

Paul Hudson joined Novartis as chief executive of the Novartis Pharmaceuticals business unit on 1 July 2016, having held a variety of regional, global and country roles in other pharmaceutical companies, including AstraZeneca. In his role as business leader, he is very connected with people and has always believed that how an organization works together has a direct link to the success of the business. Hudson explains his career choice and his approach to work: “I made the decision to join healthcare right after I graduated,” he says. “I chose to be in healthcare because I felt a real sense of purpose – every day, I’m reminded of the reasons I’m here and how I can make a difference in people’s lives. During my whole career, I have always focused more on how we do things, than on what we do. I strive to understand how an organization – a large organization – takes on a personality that makes you want to work there, where people feel empowered, trusted and can bring their best self to work. I want to reach a moment where what will differentiate us most beyond the quality of our science will be the organization itself – our character – and its ability to focus on a single mission.”

The biggest opportunity is around how things are done in an organization Novartis is a global company employing around 120,000 people with an annual turnover of around $50 billion and almost a $200 billion market cap. Hudson leads around 30,000 people in his Novartis Pharmaceuticals business unit, which is a key growth driver for the overall company.

So why did you join Novartis? “I joined Novartis because of its scale and reach –

offering the opportunity to have a greater impact for good. I knew we had a real opportunity to drive better patient outcomes while at the same time running a successful business and creating a great place to work. All the ingredients for success were there. We had wonderful people, clear strategies and great medicines, like Entresto in chronic heart failure and Cosentyx in psoriasis and spondyloarthritis. But I could also see that with so much change in the industry and the business itself, we needed to let go of some of our old habits to become more innovative and agile. I realized we had to focus on how we do things to capture a real competitive advantage and make a bigger difference for patients.”

What were your earliest observations? “I have always believed it’s how we work together that will enable us to achieve our mission at Novartis to discover new ways to improve and extend people’s lives. Despite all its excellent attributes, the organization I joined was too internally focused, too complex and risk-averse. Our business focused largely on internal targets instead of being close enough to the changes in the industry and the healthcare environment. We also had some unnecessary bureaucracy, like old processes that had been around for so long, people couldn’t even remember the reason behind their existence anymore. In many of these cases, bureaucracy was more about control than trust and empowerment. Also, in our efforts to be our best, perfectionism was getting in our way. People didn’t have the courage to take smart risks, and were scared of failing.”

So what exactly needed to change? “I saw our biggest opportunity around behaviours. Integrity is absolutely critical, but

Q2 2018 Dialogue

Dialogue Q2 2018  
Dialogue Q2 2018