AstraZeneca: Scaling Simplification

By Hayagreeva Rao, Julie Makinen
2017 | Case No. HR45

How can a huge global company simplify its operations? AstraZeneca, a 60,000-employee pharmaceutical giant, faced a “patent cliff” starting around 2012, and saw revenue and income fall sharply for several years running.  CEO Pascal Soriot outlined several major goals for the company, including achieving scientific leadership and renewed growth, and making the company a great place to work. He suspected that complexity was holding AstraZeneca back. But how could he encourage scientists, the drug manufacturing operation, and even sales reps around the world to simplify the way they worked, without creating a new bureaucracy tasked with making the company less complex? This case traces the decision to form a small Simplification Center of Excellence and how the small team that ran it sought to encourage simplification throughout the enterprise in 2016 and 2017.

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Learning Objective

1. Analyze what factors lead to business complexity and consider how a corporate simplification campaign might work, considering approaches driven at both the grass-roots and top-down levels. 2. Assess what kind of people should be enlisted for an effort like a simplification drive. What skills should they have, and would it be more effective to hire insiders or outsiders? 3. Consider how companies like AstraZeneca can keep up momentum for change efforts like a simplification drive? What are effective ways to motivate employees? 4. Understand what obstacles exist to sharing “best practices” on simplification across markets and business units.
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