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Worked with Genentech (and Roche) as part of Blue Oxen Associates in 2010 and 2011. Teamed up with Kristin Cobble, Rebecca Petzel, and several others.

The project evolved and pivoted throughout. The initial question was how Genentech Informatics could be more proactive in supporting its customers (Genentech employees) in working more collaboratively and effectively. We structured a proposal that would enable us to run multiple experiments in parallel and track what worked and what didn't. However, even though Informatics was paying for us and all the support, we had trouble recruiting internal clients, largely because of time. It seemed like we were a solution seeking a problem.

So we pivoted. We decided to focus on Informatics itself. The leadership team identified global collaboration as its biggest challenge, so we decided to take an internal project that was working well and study it to determine what was working and what could lead to improvement. We used a combination of interviews, ethnography, and data analysis. Among our many conclusions and recommendations was disproving the leadership team's hypothesis that global collaboration took a physical toll on its participants, largely due to timezones. We discovered that this was not the case. Those working on the project had structured things intelligently so that most of the work was localized. There were three managers across the project and the world responsible for bridging the different teams. They did this effectively, and their bosses were cognizant of the timezone toll and supported them in working through that.

We were going to support Genentech in implementing these best practices across Informatics, but then our client got promoted to CIO of all of Roche. He asked us to join his consulting team to lead a division-wide change initiative, focusing especially on culture. We set this up and successfully facilitated a large first- and second-tier leadership team kickoff meeting in Basel, Switzerland. Unfortunately, just as we were getting ready for the followup work, the CIO suddenly resigned for personal reasons, and the project got canceled.

Design Approach

  • Enrollment is the number one challenge. (Applied here, even though we had C-level buy-in.)
  • Invest in storytelling / delight. (Lesson learned from Wikimedia Movement Strategy.)
  • Observe behavior, and make meaning of the data together
  • Participatory design process
  • Experiments framework — test and pivot. We never got to use this with Informatics stakeholders. However, it worked very well with Informatics itself.
  • Test and pivot. We did apply this
  • Mindsets / behavior framework

Lessons Learned

  • Very strong client. Healthy culture, tremendous leadership at all levels, tremendous at execution. Joy to work with.
  • Disconnect of leadership, even when it's really, really healthy
  • Transparency takes many form. The open website was barely accessed — people were too busy to track. But the meaning-making calls were well-attended and the emails had extremely high open rates. Salesforce Chatter was widely used, even though they had had the tool long before we used it.
  • The importance of sleep. Our performance at the big Basel meeting definitely suffered because we chose to power through rather than sleep.
  • Really strong team and team culture paid off. (Again, lesson learned from Wikimedia Movement Strategy.)
  • You control what you control. This was going so well, then circumstances derailed it before we could follow-through with the work.