By Jill Benko
Launch can sometimes seem like a holiday gift you can’t wait to open. But before you unwrap or unbox that amazing present, a lot of sleepless nights, courageous conversations and negotiations have occurred.
Now don’t get me wrong, throughout your career, you may only experience one launch and all its magic, but some training professionals have been in the right place at the right time to experience this exciting yet exhausting period multiple times.
Imagine for a moment you are at your favorite amusement park in the front seat of the car on the incline of your favorite roller coaster. You know you are safe – all things considered – but you feel as though you have no control over what is about to happen on that first descent (despite watching the YouTube video multiple times beforehand!).
Now think about how you feel on a merry-go-round, where all you do is go slowly round and round and wonder if there is an end in sight.
I bring up both analogies to say that a lot of what happens during the entire launch process can bring about excitement, anxiety and a feeling of spinning round and round with little to no control, wondering when it will end!
Recently, I had the opportunity to lead the training efforts of an amazing transformational launch. This is my third launch in as many years that I have led. Every launch experience is unique and should be experienced as such.
If you have ever been on the receiving end of a complete response letter (CRL) from the FDA, it fills the organization with angst, anxiety and can sometimes feel like all is lost. But the good news is, more often than not, it is not! It really gives everyone on the launch planning team a minute to catch their breath, hit the pause button and re-analyze their launch preparedness plans.
While some may want to do a complete overhaul, it is up to us in training to drive the idea that more time enables us to sharpen our plans, not change them. A great example is perhaps supplier partner selection for a for a production company, or when a hotel was running behind in the previous launch timeline. With more time, the organization can be afforded the opportunity to conduct a full request for proposal (RFP) process versus just settling on what is available.
At every turn, the word I bring to my meetings and presentations is “flex-ability”. A lot of what is expected from us in training is not in our control, and we must be comfortable working in an environment filled with ambiguity and sometimes a breakdown in, or lack of, communication.
So, what are some of the lessons learned? Nothing here is rocket science, just tips or tools to store in your toolbox. Anyone who works or has worked with me in training has heard me say that I start with the end date in mind and work backward. It helps to define milestones for tracking and accountability.
I also identify with key stakeholders what three main goals or objectives we want our learners to walk away with after the launch. I always think in buckets of threes! We can’t ask learners to be good at everything if they aren’t focused on anything.
Sometimes, we need to give our marketing partners these gentle reminders too! A great example, if we go back to when the FDA hands your organization or product a CRL, is now there is more time to develop more material. But let’s remember that sometimes more is not more and can often cloud our training objectives for launch planning.
These two points lend themselves to define and lead the launch planning and all the components for training. Unlike a plan of action meeting or sales training class that typically has finite dates, one of the most challenging aspects of planning for a launch in training is uncertainty. You are building the proverbial plane while flying it, with a lot of cooks in the kitchen, all at the hands of the FDA! You are now tasked with building contingency plan from A to Z. And speaking of contingency, you may also need to juggle onboarding new field members all while planning the launch meeting.
How do we stay focused and productive when everything around us feels like mass chaos? We focus on where we can win and lead (with or without authority) by demonstrating that we are the masters of our craft…training deliverables!
Here are my top five tips and tricks to get you to the finish line – or the starting line depending how you look at it – during your launch season:
It is up to training to help them see the bigger picture. Remember my earlier example, asking the leads what are the three outcomes we want the learners to leave the meeting being able to do Day 1? If the entire team can’t consistently say and repeat the same three outcomes, then we must step in and guide the workstream to a compromise and solution.
In summary, leading a training workstream can be an exhausting process. But it can also be one of the highlights in your training career.
It is all in how you approach the people and the process. If you remain flexible with both, the patients will ultimately win.
Jill Benko is director, multi-brand lead commercial training and development for BioMarin Pharmaceutical. Jill is also a member of the LTEN Advisory Council and was named a 2023 LTEN Member of the Year. Email Jill at email@example.com.