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Pharma management during a crisis: lessons learned for Covid-19 | #corporatesecurity | #businesssecurity | #


When I started working in the biopharma industry 20 or so years ago, I didn’t think I would need to become an expert in crisis management. Yet during the past decade, I have found myself leading the corporate response to three very different existential crises in three different regions.

Despite the unique aspects of each situation, they share important commonalities that shed some light on actions and attitudes that can help guide and improve corporate leaders’ response to the coronavirus pandemic, in the United States and globally.

Upheaval in Egypt

When revolution struck in 2013, I was in charge of Novartis Pharmaceutical’s operations in Egypt. As Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood were overthrown in a military takeover and Morsi was jailed, random violence was exploding everywhere. There was no lockdown because there was no government. As people continued to go to work, the biggest issue for Novartis was accounting for its people.

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How can you take care of your team against the backdrop of random violence? When all indicators pointed to the imminence of the crisis, I hired an ex-police colonel to be our corporate security officer. During the upheaval, his leverage helped us set up an emergency infrastructure to send messages to and gather responses from 2,000-plus employees spread across Egypt. After every violent incident, this two-way system, which included voicemail, let us determine within two hours where everyone was and if they were safe. This simple, practical system allowed management to maintain contact with all employees. And perhaps more importantly, this communication in a chaotic time made the staff feel safe and cared for.





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