Manager, Nippon Roche Pharmaceuticals, Japan
Nippon Roche is a pharmaceutical division of the global
Swiss healthcare company, Roche Group. Masazumi Sato has worked
for them for the past 15 years, rising to the role of manager of
a marketing and sales team. In the 1990s, Nippon Roche struggled
in a difficult business climate, fighting fierce competition, stagnating
market growth, and fundamental industry realignment. Understanding
and meeting the needs of customers was seen as a critical element
to establishing advantage in this environment. So Nippon Roche launched
the Super Skill Transfer (SST) Project in 1998. This initiative
focused on leveraging and integrating the tacit knowledge developed
by the firms front-line medical representatives (MR) in their
engagement with medical doctors.
- Tacit knowledge captured and
shared with every employee through stories
- Strategic learning to the desktop,
- Strategic, enterprise learning
driven by changes in corporate strategy, goals, new products
- Manager and employees as knowledge
and learning activists
- Tacit knowledge insights collected
across multinational divisions of Roche Group
- e-Knowledge for secondary marketplaces
is a profit center
Capturing Core Beliefs and Effective Practices.
Earlier efforts had failed to improve sales through training or
capturing best practices. In observing high-performing MRs, leadership
observed they learned by doing and by improvising to create solutions.
So Nippon Roche brought 24 of its best performers together for a
six-week process of exploring the fundamental questions of their
mission and ideal roles.
In the process, these high performers revealed their
core beliefs and captured in stories and metaphors the tacit knowledge
that was key to success. Management used satellite TV as part of
an integrated platform to share explicit and tacit knowledge throughout
the enterprise. The benefits have gone far beyond sales process
innovation to continuous innovation throughout the organization.
Pervasive Knowledge Systems.
In the past five years, Nippon Roche has built upon the success
of the SST initiative. It has created a pervasive knowledge management
system that is used by employees at their desktop, laptop, PDA,
or other interactivity platform. Employees can access, seamlessly
and easily, a vast range of insight on their products and their
application. Moreover, the customer relationship management (CRM)
component of the portal provides each MR insight on the past history
and preferences of individual medical doctors, information that
is critical in problem-solving and solution-creating sessions with
the client. Finally, the MR can use the system to interact with
Sato or other experts to brainstorm solutions and possible approaches.
The knowledge system captures syntheses of the best questions, discussions
and insights, which can be searched and accessed by Sato or other
MRs using intelligent agents.
Widely understood, internalized tacit knowledge
is the key to Nippon Roches success in the Japanese marketplace.
Continuous, rapid changes in the marketplace require this knowledge
to be synthesized, updated, and shared with far greater speed than
in the past.
Guided and Energized by a Knowledge and Learning
Activist. Satos role is that of knowledge and learning
activist. He personally interacts with all of his MRs and encourages
them to share progress and insights with the knowledge systems and
The importance of tacit knowledge is understood throughout the
team. Sharing of insight is an indicator of personal performance
that is evaluated and accounts for 20% of an individuals compensation.
Enterprise Learning for Everyone. When Nippon Roche
changes strategy or introduces a new product or service, Sato and
his MRs have a personalized learning program pushed
to them via the enterprise knowledge management system. In addition,
MRs can elect a variety of personalized learning experiences to
extend their skills. The MRs can engage these materials anywherein
their offices/ work area, conference and meeting settings at Nippon
Roche, at home, or in other settings. They also can choose a variety
of modes of presentation/ engagement text, graphics, and/
or audio presentation. Many of the MRs choose to listen to materials
using headphones during their long train rides in the morning and
evening. The MRs can also engage Sato, other MRs, and other key
resources to ask questions or suggest additional insights. New product
launches typically are accompanied by group meetings or video conferences
to build commitment and to discuss implications and implementation