Biotech Employees in Short Supply, a rant

The Boston Globe reported this past weekend “In the region’s booming biotech industry, workers are in short supply“, which is both good news and bad for me.

Good news is that my career prospects are always good.

Bad news is that I am hiring and building teams within quality.

also affect the quality of work as key positions become harder to fill and lower-level workers jump from company to company in search of a better compensation package.

For compensation package, read total cash. Sure there can be a difference on how good other benefits can be, but they all kind of get blurred together and I don’t think I noticed any difference between benefits packages until I went to a small startup, and I definitely knew what I was getting into there. The article later goes on to say some biotech is starting to offer some of the benefits seen in more computer-driven fields, but maybe folks should pay attention to how that is usually a trad to entice people into longer hours.

Notice the emphasis on lower level workers. Read that for “We don’t really offer good development programs and the only way to get promoted in this title-obsessed field is go to another company.”

According to the latest report from industry association MassBio, nearly 85,000 people work in the state’s life sciences sector, up 55 percent from 2008.

And sometimes you feel like you know all 85k, and have worked with most of them.

“You can’t walk two blocks around Kendall Square without receiving a job offer,” said Jeanne Gray, chief people officer at Relay Therapeutics in Cambridge, only half-kiddingly. “I get the sense that a lot of candidates know the market is hot.”

And she only made it 2 blocks because of the pandemic. Seriously, this joke has existed for over a decade.

About 16.5 percent of life sciences employees in Massachusetts voluntarily quit their jobs last year

Wouldn’t you if you keep getting better offers, often unsolicited from other companies and your current company gave you a measly 2-4% raise? Companies want folks to stay, start giving real raises commensurate with the market increase. As a manager, looking someone in the eyes (or vaguely at their eyes because we are both on camera) and telling the best the company can do is a 3% raise is pretty damn problematic. Especially if the employee knows how to read a SEC filing (if your company is public make sure you read these at every update).

There’s also a sense that employees are easily swayed by “title inflation,” a phenomenon that occurs when people climb the corporate ladder faster by bouncing around.

This is a problem in a field where title is everything. Where people where their MDs and PhDs as holy vestments. Where title is tied to autonomy and with ability to influence. This is a complex systematic problem, and few companies are even thinking of how to fix it, and probably can’t because the problem starts at the C-suite. No the problem starts with the regulators. See it’s complex, it starts in a lot of places.

I’m doing my little experiment here, I went to a company started by two incredibly earnest guys who had just graduated from Brown. Is everything perfect? Never is. But the experiment itself is fascinating to participate in.

the talent pool has not matured enough to fill key areas from the C-suite and clinical development, all the way through to the commercial launch of products.

Yes, expertise matters. However, we prize years-in-seat more than we should sometimes, and we do not spend enough time building talent. And let’s be honest, that leads to a lot of director levels who do not know how to actually do the thing they are supposed to do beyond the last time they did it.

This is definitely a ranty post.

GMP mistakes are costly

In the continual saga of companies making fundamental GMP mistakes, Gilead has recalled two lots of its coronavirus treatment drug Remdesivir because of the “presence of glass particulates.”

If only there existed international standards on visual inspection and there were a solid set of best practices on lyophilization.

Oh, wait there are.

But then Gilead has a multi-year track record in deficiencies in their testing and manufacturing processes. In all fairness, they are contracting manufacturing to Pfizer’s McPherson site…..oh wait that site got an FDA 483 in 2018 specifying significant violations of good manufacturing practices, such as an inadequate investigation into the detected presence of cardboard in vial samples.

We deserve better manufacturers. Companies need to take the quality of their products seriously. We are always improving or we are always one step away from the sort of press Gilead gets.

Harvard Business Review – Whitewashing business executives is their core business

In the latest edition of “Executive utilizes Harvard Business Review to whitewash their activities” we have Hubert Joly, CEO of Best Buy, who informs us that we should all

  • Making meaningful purpose a genuine priority of business operations
  • The “human magic” of empowered and self-directed employees
  • Admitting you don’t have all the answers is a sign of strong leadership.

Let’s see how Best Buy puts those practices in place.

It is hard to take the editors of HBR seriously when they discuss what a good company culture looks like when they whitewash corporate leaders with this sort of track record.

Probably Best Buy paid a lot of money for the reputation bump just before Christmas.

Toyota is a horrible exemplar

Just like the immense sins of Jack Welch and GE will always tarnish six Sigma it is past time to realize that the conservative, looking backwards to Toyota of much of Lean thinking is a mistake that limits adoption and more importantly innovation.

As a company there is much at Toyota that is just wrong. The 2020 recalls were significant, but frankly not the first year the company has been having major quality contorl issues.

But more important is the fact the company is a liar and a supporter of authoritarianism. As a promponent of the pillars of Lean thats just damn hypocritical. After the failed coup of Janaury 6th, Toyota pledged to no longer fund anyone who supported the attack against US democracy. As of June they are the top fundraiser to those Republicans, giving to nearly a quarter of the 147 GOP politicians who objected to certifying the election results.

Toyota is showing us who they are. A company that stands apart from the principles so important to the Quality profession.

Quality Profession Needs to Stand for Quality in Public Practices

The Quality profession either stays true to its’ principles and ideals, or it is useless. We either support transparency and driving out fear or we don’t. Then we become the shallow, and dangerous crutch of demagogues and tyrants. One of the reasons Six Sigma has immense problems it still has not successfully grappled stems from how it is centered on the tyranny of Jack Welch.

The ASQ’s Government Division has taken a great step recently by endorsing the adoption of ISO/TS 54001:2019 “Quality management systems — Particular requirements for the application of ISO 9001:2015 for electoral organizations at all levels of government”.

We should be demanding elections built on the foundations of good quality. This should be part of electoral reform requirements at the Federal level. We need to oppose attempts to restrict voting. We need to drive fear out of our electoral system.

The United States is a signatory of international standards of policing. And yet no state follows those standards. Federal law needs to respect our treaty obligations and impose these standards, and we need to hold states and localities accountable.

As a quality professional I spend the day figuring out how to truthfully measure results. Yet an entire party has gleefully adopted lies and disinformation. I strive to democratize leadership, to build a culture of psychological safety. And yet all around us we see demagoguery.

Our workplace cultures are influenced greatly by external factors. We cannot hope to drive lies and fraud out of our systems, to create cultures of safety, to build excellence when all around us is a disregard for those standards. For this reason the quality profession must be political. It must standard for truth, for fair standards applied equitably. For driving out fear.