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April 15, 2023

Podcast: Pharma needs change management to make tech more effective

Listen to a short podcast to understand how embracing, accepting, and managing change can make or break a new tech implementation.
pharma change management

Digital transformation is both a hot topic and a daunting prospect – while tech implementations can save companies money and time, some never offer a return on investment. A McKinsey study revealed that as many as 70% of digital transformation projects end in failure. The reasons include blown budgets, missed targets, and neverending timelines, whether the transformation is organization-wide or confined to a smaller group. Why is change so difficult? And how can teams use good pharma change management for tech transformation?

In this episode of Within3 Questions, we talked with Within3 VP of Product Commercialization and Training Natalie DiMambro to find out why some people and organizations struggle with change and how pharma teams can successfully approach new technology.

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Podcast transcript: Within3 Questions with Natalie DiMambro

Hi, and welcome to Within3 Questions, a podcast where we ask one interesting person three interesting questions about life, science, technology, and insights management. I’m your host, Sarah, and today our guest is Natalie DiMambro, vice President of product commercialization and training at Within3. Welcome, Natalie.

Natalie DiMambro:
Hi, Sarah.

Thanks so much for joining us today. So, when we were talking about the possibility of chatting with you today, you jumped right at the idea of discussing change management and how to enable that through training, and specifically in the context of introducing technology into a life science team or company. Just to jump right in with my first question, why are you passionate about the topic?

Natalie DiMambro:
Well, I’ve always been passionate about the human aspect with technology. So I’ve worked with technology companies for some time now, and I find that often the human element is underestimated, I would say. And although technology can do all of these magical things, it can change the world. Sometimes the humans aren’t there yet, and they haven’t been trained or they don’t really have an understanding of the skillset needed. Maybe they don’t just get it, you know, and they’re not ready yet to make that jump into whatever the next technology is. So, you know, as somebody who dabbles in psychology, I really believe that if you can get the human up to speed, so support with training and individualized training, not just, here’s a big training and everybody jump on board and take it. Really something where you’re identifying their skills gaps, where you understand their resistance to doing the whatever the thing is.

So maybe making the change or adopting the technology and then customizing the training to what they need. I think you can get there, but what you find is often each individual has such a nuanced difference in what they need that some of the broader trainings that are provided just, just don’t cut it. And so you, you have this underlying resistance or maybe almost a, you know, I’m not doing it hands full, you can’t see me, but my arms are folded and I’m not gonna do this thing because I’m, you know, I’m not there yet, but nobody really knows why. And I think we try to make these big generalizations about it. Well, it’s this, that, or the other, but usually it’s an individual need or, or, you know, underlying skillset gap that just hasn’t been addressed.

So to kind of pick up on that, and maybe to get a little, to settle into our, our therapist’s couch a little bit, why is change so difficult do you think, for people?

Natalie DiMambro:
Well, I think it goes back to one of those core amygdala responses, which is fear. And each, you know, person’s variation of fear is, is quite different. You know, there again, there isn’t one fear that everybody has and that’s why they’re not making the change. Typically, it has to do with a personal situation. So you could speak to one person who maybe doesn’t wanna, you know, do the, the new process or change the way that they’re working because they’re not, you know, maybe they were told they weren’t good at technology in the past, and it’s something that they feel insecure about, whereas somebody else may just like order in their work life because their home life is chaos, you know, and then somebody else could just, you know, have a fear of, of losing their job and they want to be good at what they’re doing.

And right now, I’m good at this, this new thing, maybe I’m not gonna be good at it. So it’s really an individual-based fear. But I, I do think with the kind of the new trend of, of more coaching style training where you’re working with each individual with that kind of counseling lens, you know, in your discussions, asking good questions and kind of getting to the root of where the fear is coming from, then you can address that particular instance with really a customized approach to whatever, you know, the, the change that is needed and, and the training that is needed.

So we’re talking specifically about the life science industry, about the pharmaceutical industry, and we hear a lot, or at least I read a lot, about how the industry is fairly risk averse in a number of ways. You know, there’s a lot of regulatory guidance, it’s a careful industry. How do you think that affects the way people in the industry approach change and particularly around technology?

Natalie DiMambro:
Well, I would say, and I’ve been on both sides of it, and when I was in the industry, there was a bit of fear that kind of ran through what you did every day. I mean, there are times where, you know, there’s investigations into certain practices and different companies, so you’re maybe afraid to try something new or something different because maybe you don’t know all the legalities around or the compliance regulations around whatever you’re working in. So you just pause because, you know, not making a decision or not moving forward is safer than moving forward and getting your hand slapped, right? And it can be much more than getting your hand slapped if it’s, if it’s a bigger offense. So I think in the life sciences industry, it, it does cultivate a sense of, I don’t wanna do anything wrong.

I don’t wanna get in trouble, I don’t want to make a mistake that’s gonna cost my team anything. And these are, these are big ticket risks. We’re talking about, you know, if you go down a strategic path and you don’t have the information that’s there or that’s needed to make a good sound decision, you could take your whole team and millions of dollars in a direction that’s, that’s gonna cost the company. And so, you know, that might be a change, and you’re getting an inspiration. I, you know, I think this would be a great idea, but if you don’t back that in some sort of grounded data or consensus, you are bringing on risk and that can feel really uncomfortable and rightfully so, because it’s a big risk for the company. So I think it’s set up to protect the team, you know? Right. So the regulations are there to, so that we do stay within, you know, compliance guidelines, but it, there is a sometimes a lack of innovation that can happen because there aren’t always guidelines around what’s the new technology we’re gonna use or what’s the new, you know, way that we can do, you know, social outreach if it hasn’t been done yet.

You know, there has to be regulation to help guide you through the process so it can, it can feel like it’s much easier just to do what you know how to do and not take the risk.

Yeah. And there’s a cost to that lack of innovation too.

Natalie DiMambro:
Right? So what, you know, what are you missing by not taking the risk? Well, you, you can be doing things the same old, same old way. And that we find that a lot with our clients. Like I’ve worked with clients individual teams, medical affairs teams, that just, this is how we’ve always done it. This is how we’re going to do it. And then when you start asking a few questions, you realize like, wow, there isn’t a lot of time, you know, and time is money. They’re, they’re running ragged trying to do the things in this kind of archaic framework where they could be streamlining and, and doing something different. They’re just nervous or they’re just fearful about, you know, not doing it right or maybe costing the company money if it doesn’t work out. So I think our job as partners is to really reduce that risk.
And as you reduce the risk, I think the fear, and I’ve seen the fear subside just as well. And so you’re kind of moving in these smaller, incremental steps towards a path doesn’t feel as big, it doesn’t feel as massive, and you’re learning along the way.

So as a trainer, I like this approach because it is a continuous learning, you know, yet we’re all, you know, some of us are middle-aged and we haven’t learned everything yet. There is plenty that I am learning every day, especially in the field of technology. If I embrace that, you know, culture of learning viewpoint, I know that I can maybe move forward, but I need to be able to learn something new. I need to be able to find out what I don’t know, what are the risks, and then find partners who can help, you know, let’s make a plan that actually reduces the risk versus doing something really big. And then, you know, not really having all my ducks in a row internally, or not having buy-in from my team to adopt the new way of working, or the new software or the new technology. So there are things to think about, but if you have a good partner, I do believe that you can work that out ahead of time and make a plan for adoption that is reasonable, and that does reduce your risk.

I guess just one bonus question. If you had to give one recommendation on how somebody in a position like this who’s working in medical affairs or elsewhere in the industry, how can they change their mindset around change? How can they take a new approach?

Natalie DiMambro:
You know, I think it’s, it is a personal pursuit because it is first, you know, the first step is that awareness. If I notice that I’m kind of clamping down and not changing or doing anything different, and I’m in, in kind of a fair state, I do need to do some personal work to figure out why, you know, what is going on in my life that has me in this, in this, you know, rut almost, or in this place of paralysis, which is like analysis paralysis, we used to call it. But you know, in that personal pursuit, you then start to kind of exhale and maybe you think, okay, well maybe I, you know, I’m, I need more information in this area or that area. So I would say first, do the self-assessment. Figure out where your skills gaps or learning gaps are, and identify why you are resisting this direction moving forward.

And then if you do notice that there is a skills gap or some training that you need around a topic, engage partners, especially technology partners, we’re, we love to, you know, show you different ways and things that we’re working on and how it can help your business. You know, there’s plenty of resources online. I take a lot of online courses from my home because I feel like I, I wanna keep my, you know, knowledge fresh and, and up to date. So I’m always learning the latest and greatest about AI and what’s out there. And then sharing articles with other people and, and creating that, again, a culture of learning with your small work groups or your teams at work. I think that can be very useful. And then you know, finding the third step would be just finding a plan that feels risk less risk for you.

So incremental steps, you know, small changes every day can be a, a bigger change or transition by the end of the year. So it creates a milestone list or, you know, an adoption plan if you’re bringing on a new technology, work with your partners and your team to hit those milestones and, and make it attainable, attainable goals. I always think of, I used to have a book club with a group of friends and we were all really busy and it was stressful to have this big book club and it was, you know, some big book we had to finish. And so we used to say, well, it’s a book club with attainable goals. The first week we’re just gonna buy the book. Next week we’ll read, you know, the first chapter and talk about it and just make it so that it’s something we can all do.

So it’s not, so, doesn’t feel so stressful and, and so extra, you know, in our, in our every day. So I learned a lot from that concept. And I think applying that to how you approach something that’s big and new is an easy way to make incremental changes. And then I would say I’m adding a step four. I said there’s three, but step four would be look back on what you’ve accomplished and make sure to honor those big milestones of change. So, you know, this week I’ve done this every week for the, you know, next few weeks I’m making this change. Be sure to check in with yourself, your team, and acknowledge, wow, we’ve come a long way. Cuz I think we all forget to do that when you look back on what you’ve done in a year or six months or a quarter, you know, we often are just critical of ourselves, right? But if we look back and say, we’ve, we’ve really done, you know, things differently here, this is really great. We can do this and remember we’ve done this before. And then that gives you the confidence and the know-how to, to go further and to make new changes in that experience of we can do this, we’ve done it before, we’re gonna be okay, let’s, let’s make a good plan.

Well, super helpful, super actionable. Thank you Natalie for joining me today. If people want to connect with you, where can they find you on LinkedIn?

Natalie DiMambro:
Yes, you can find me on LinkedIn. I am often reading and posting articles around the same topic. And you can connect with me through email there as well. And always happy to also offer training around technology and technology adoption particular to your teams through our team here at Within3. So look forward to hearing from you all out there and thanks for including me in the podcast, Sarah.

Absolutely. And thanks to everybody listening as well. Join us again soon for another episode of Within3 Questions. Until then, you can visit us at or follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn. Goodbye for now.

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