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🎥 GSK’s Strategic Culture Shift: The Inside Story

GSK Canada’s Nicole Stuart (HR Country Head) and ORCHANGO’s Edmond Mellina (President & Co-founder) co-presented at the Strategic Capability Network on June 23, 2022.

They shared the story of GSK Canada’s strategic culture shift amidst a rapidly changing environment.

ORCHANGO has been collaborating with GSK since the fall of 2020 – first, at the country-level via our culture transformation services; more recently, at the business-unit level via our team intervention, leadership counselling and facilitation services.

Story hook

Summer 2020… The Pharma sector was shifting rapidly, and GSK Canada had to become significantly nimbler. The agility imperative was particularly critical for Oncology, a business unit of strategic importance. 

Meanwhile, GSK Global had just announced its Future Ready ambition to “split into two companies: a Biopharma company […]; and a new leader in Consumer Healthcare.” 

While the global organization was merely entering the planning stage of this multi-year transformation, the Canadian division had to make its own culture shift happen – ahead of the other countries.

Adding to the complexity: the COVID-19 pandemic was still in its early phases; the workforce had just been reduced significantly; a new Country President was about to be appointed; and senior management had talked about agility before… 

How did GSK Canada move from talk to action? How did they sustain the effort? How did Canada lead their change while remaining aligned with GSK’s global transformation?

The passenger airplane analogy

Nicole continues setting the stage for the story by sharing a video in which Jayne Paterson − GSK’s Business Unit Head, Oncology − explains why she advocated for culture change. Then, Edmond and Nicole discuss the airplane analogy that guided their thinking and actions throughout the culture transformation…  [duration: 5:51]

The Emotional Case™ for change

To stress the power of emotions, Edmond shares research data from the Corporate Executive Council and a quote by famed neurologist Dr Donald B Calne. Then, he talks about the importance of building the “emotional case” for change − not just the business case. That explains the picture Edmond used to kick-off his first working session with the Pharma Leadership Team (i.e. GSK Canada’s C-suite)…  [duration: 3:30]

Culture modeling & activation

Edmond explains how to use a culture modeling process to move from talk to action. He highlights the various levers available to activate the culture shift − stressing leadership as the most critical one. Then, Nicole describes the culture model that GSK developed through the process… [duration: 7:02]

A culture contract from the C-suite…

Edmond starts by discussing how an executive team can effectively demonstrate its commitment to culture change by borrowing the very first page from the Agile Movement in software development. Nicole explains how GSK’s Canadian C-suite applied the guideline. The clip ends with Edmond describing the series of Decision Hackasprints that helped further demonstrate this commitment…  [duration: 6:22]

HR as steward vs. leader

Nicole explains how critical it is for HR to see itself as the steward of the culture shift − and let leaders lead…  [duration: 2:08]

Advice from two GSK executives (along with a Oh-Canada! end to the story)

Nicole starts by sharing the feedback GSK’s Global CEO Emma Walmsley provided about Canada’s culture shift efforts (hint: the Canucks were way ahead compared to the rest of GSK!). The clip ends with Jayne Paterson (Business Unit Head, Oncology) and Nicole sharing their advice for fellow executives embarking on a similar culture shift…  [duration: 4:47]

Some of the feedback we received about this co-presentation

Edmond and Nicole, thank you again for your contribution to today’s event.  I know we are awaiting formal feedback and will share it when it is available, but I wanted to reach out and let you know that I personally loved the interplay and energy you both brought today.  The story was compelling, the technology was great, and you both offered many ideas for our members to consider. − Suanne Nielsen, Co-President, SCNetwork

Great feedback! Thanks again to both of you. − Mark Edgar, Chair Programming & Board Member, SCNetwork

It was totally satisfying. − Participant answering the survey’s question What could have been better about any aspect of the event?

I can’t think of anything! − Participant answering the survey’s question What could have been better about any aspect of the event?

What Nicole had to say about our work with GSK

GSK Canada hired ORCHANGO during the COVID pandemic to help with a significant culture change.

Edmond was our consultant, guiding myself and our top leadership team throughout the transformation. His expertise, knowledge and passion were contagious and energizing. He provided the necessary insights, direction and guidance to ensure we were successful.

Edmond has an openness that allows for easy, two-way communication. His willingness to challenge us and share his experience ensured a smoother transition to the new culture. When we experienced challenges or hit barriers, Edmond was there to help us check-and-adjust – so that we could hit our milestones and achieve our end goals.

The transformation was critical to the business and our employees. At the end, employee engagement was an astonishing 85%. We successfully embedded the mindsets and behaviours that our business needs to thrive amidst a rapidly shifting environment.

I highly recommend Edmond as a partner for three main reasons. First, the knowledge (frameworks, tools, etc.) and deep experience he brings to the team as an outside-in expert is invaluable. Second, his passion for change leadership is contagious and when facing significant change, you need energy to fuel the activities. Third, his level of commitment and personal drive to see our leaders, employees and company grow and succeed.

For me personally, Edmond acted as educator, supporter and challenger. It allowed me to fulfill my role as steward of the culture shift and ensure the transformation was the best it could be, and I was the best I could be. I learned and grew through the experience.

− Nicole Stuart, HR Country Head and member of the Country Executive Board, GSK Canada

As ORCHANGO's editor, I post news and related articles about our firm on both our website and LinkedIn page. I also manage our YouTube channel.

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