To the power of seven

Head of Corporate Training and Development at Pfizer Paul
Mallinson explains why he introduced the famous ‘habits of effective people’ to
the UK subsidiary

We have been using FranklinCovey development programmes at Pfizer in the UK
for more than five years and they are still having consistent and beneficial
effects throughout the organisation. However, we stumbled across the solutions
by chance.

In the1990s, on the way to the US, l was looking for something to read at
the airport and picked up Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective
People. After reading it, I contacted a FranklinCovey facilitator to discuss
the possibility of doing some work on culture change at Pfizer.

It was important that I fully understood the whole learning process, so to
start with I attended the two workshops, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective
People and The Four Roles of Leadership, which enabled me to observe the
experience at first hand.

Personal development

The strength of the programme is that it goes deep into personal motivation
and effectiveness, facilitating organisational change by starting at a personal
level. The philosophy of the course is to teach people to change from the
inside, within a framework of universal, timeless principles.

The material focuses on a work/life balance and aims to improve both the
professional and personal sides of the attendees’ lives. Thus, part of the 7
Habits course is to develop a personal mission statement, which encourages
individuals to think about ‘who they are and where they are going’ in life, and
to look at both short-term and long-term goals. The course teaches a
‘whole-person’ approach where personal and professional goals and events are
not mutually exclusive and making improvements in one area will have positive
effects in the other.

Another key message of this course is the paradigm shift – encouraging
people to see what can be done rather than focusing on restrictions. A powerful
way of illustrating this was to learn to juggle three balls.

At first, many participants might not see the point in this, or may
immediately feel they are not capable of doing it. But it taught us a simple
but important lesson. We were taken though the practical skills and steps needed
to learn to keep three balls in the air, and by focusing on the goal and by
adhering to these steps, we were soon able to keep three balls in the air at
the same time. The lesson was that if you allow yourself to see things
differently and are proactive and prepared to apply yourself to a task, with
work and perseverance and by focusing on the objective, the task is achievable.

Time of change

One of the key benefits of the FranklinCovey solutions is that they can be
adapted to suit different needs and requirements, because they are based on
core human principles. We recognised the potential of the material in key
business areas such as corporate culture and leadership. When I introduced the
personal development philosophy at Pfizer, the company was re-evaluating its
culture and in the process of developing its own values. Many of these values
were echoed by what we found in the Covey systems. Perhaps the most important
thing is that the 7 Habits is not just a theory – it is a pragmatic way of
making principles and values live and of sustaining long-term behavioural
change.

Once we had experienced the programme, I worked on adapting the course
material to suit Pfizer’s structure and specific requirements. To begin with,
the courses were offered at management level, with the aim of exposing the
business’s top teams to these new methods and models. Often in large companies,
change is not normally an easy thing to implement ,but the simplicity and
applicability of the FranklinCovey material meant that managers were soon
singing the praises of the solutions and senior management bought into the
programme from the outset. Realising the potential of the material to improve
productivity, the senior sales management team cascaded it down to every level
in the sales force and as a result, most Pfizer sales teams are now living the
principles of the 7 Habits.

We also used the 7 Habits course for team development. With guidance from
FranklinCovey, we set up courses to provide ‘experience learning’, with
delegates including their own material and models. I’m please with the way we
put our programme across – it is very challenging and this personalisation
gives the sessions added power and relevance.

More than 500 people have now attended Pfizer’s internal 7 Habits programmes
which, as a licensed and trained facilitator, I now run. People in any part of
the business can nominate themselves onto the programme as part of their own
personal development plan; line managers have access to a full catalogue of
training courses, to build skills, knowledge and abilities and to improve
behaviour; and of all our learning solutions the 7 Habits is by far the most
popular. This is largely due to word of mouth recommendation as those who go on
the course find it not only enjoyable but also invaluable to their improved
work performance.

Positive change

The underlying principles behind the programme focus on the inner desire of
individuals themselves to become more effective. In addition to imparting the
knowledge, FranklinCovey provides the tools for building effective leadership,
empowerment, planning and communication. Although these sound like business
buzz-words, the course provides a simple yet powerful framework which can bring
lasting personal and professional benefits.

The atmosphere on the courses is normally excellent, with people sharing
ideas and experiences. A general desire for self-improvement and to help fellow
group members to do the same is demonstrated. While our courses provide the
knowledge and the tools, they also encourage each individual to use and manage
these solutions to the best of their capability. Responsibility is in one’s own
hands but the 7 Habits steer individuals in the right direction.

Paul Mallinson is Head of Corporate Training and Management Development
at Pfizer Limited.

Verdict

Because Pfizer operates in a fast-moving and ever-changing industry, return
on investment in such training can be hard to calculate precisely. However, it
is obvious to me and senior management that the impact the principle-centred,
behavioural training solutions have had can be judged by the effects on key
competencies. For example, the sales teams that have been through the 7 Habits
programme are among the best performers in the business.

The popularity of the workshops is another qualitative measure of the
benefit of the programme. The majority of colleagues who have attended the
course and put the 7 Habits into practice at work and at home, say they have
seen definite improvements in their personal and professional life.

As a large and complex business, one of the cultural difficulties at Pfizer
is how to develop sustainability of ideas, when people and structures are
constantly changing. For this reason, the 7 Habits training is a never-ending
process. Several people have gone on the course more than once and benefited
more the second time. The continued use of the principle-centred learning and
development system contributed to our top ranking in the Sunday Times survey.
The task now is to maintain awareness of the 7 Habits course and its principles
in the face of continual change, and to add a new level of personal development
by increasing uptake of the Four Roles of Leadership course. This applies not
just to those in senior positions, but all who need to have leadership.

Like many organisations, we are finding that employees must have the ability
to be self-directed and self-led. Because in today’s world, command and control
hierarchical systems are increasingly irrelevant. This is ultimately what the 7
Habits are about – teaching people to be proactive, to lead themselves, to be
highly productive and effective, and to positively influence others.

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