Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Economic models, and how we work

No links, just thoughts

Today, my department received a presentation on a new model for international cooperation and harmonization of processes, raising issues, etc. We have three major sites worldwide in my group, and several satellite sites as well.

Just before this presentation, we were given an overview of the Companies efforts to promote Medicare Part D, by an individual from our government affairs office. All employees are expected to have at least minimal knowledge of the program, in anticipation of questions from family and friends that may come our way. To his credit, he was very upfront about the benefit to patients and the company by having hundreds of different plans compete for patients. Better to have hundreds of formularies to try to influence, than an all or nothing government formulary, was his message.

The contrast between these two presentations was thought-provoking. The Medicare presenter was part of the "commercial" organization, very articulate and polished, with a very persuasive message about the benefit of Part D to our company's bottom line. It's brilliant how patients' needs and the Company's benefits are perfectly aligned in so many issues. It's a great PR strategy, to always appear to be on the side of the patient, whether it be promoting "choice" Medicare coverage, or patient safety from counterfeit drugs (remember all those dying Canadians!) or on many other issues. More on that another day.

But the message about our department operating model was starkly different, in a political/philosophical way. Frankly, it was pure socialism in its design. It was all about centralized planning and control of processes, so groups or sites don't get too independent. It was stressed that we need to know how all the areas are operating, in light of FDA inspections that can occur anywhere in the world.

In a decentralized, capitalistic model of our department, we would all be given our goals for the year for output, and told to reach (or preferably, exceed) them in any way we saw fit, provided we didn't breach any laws. And I could not imagine anyone I work with would support such a model. This is a company and industry with an overwhelming (but not exclusive) alliance with Republicanism. But free market thinking just doesn't exist within my workplace.