Vowel Avowal

Natalie Salerno had loved her job as a field monitor  for a large international human CRO. However, after ten years of constant travel, she welcomed her promotion to Vice President, Global Monitoring Management.

The new position included many new responsibilities but entailed much less travel. At least, that’s what her new boss had promised. In reality, Natalie was right back to her old routine of leaving home on Sunday afternoon and  returning home on Friday night. After yet another year of wondering where home  actually was, Natalie quit.

Within six weeks, Natalie found a new position as  the director of monitoring for a mid-sized veterinary pharmaceutical company with a pipeline of exciting new products and several clinical trials already underway. She also had three managers reporting to her, and each of those managers had a team of field monitors who did the bulk of the travel.

What puzzled Natalie, though, was the fact that each of the company’s ongoing trials was significantly behind schedule and that most of the monitors complained of being overloaded. Given the size of the monitoring staff, and the number of investigators, something didn’t make sense. After meeting with her three managers and all of the monitors, Natalie knew what was wrong.

If she were to be successful in her new job, Natalie would have to replace one of her managers and about half of the field monitors. Before doing that, however, she knew that she needed to define exactly what characteristics and competencies each position required to produce superior results. That’s when she recalled some advice a former boss had given her about hiring: “Remember your vowels!” As Natalie repeated the grade school list, the job descriptions almost wrote themselves.

The right Attitude can transform almost any situation. A “can do” attitude frequently uncovers creative solutions to seemingly intractable problems. Treating investigators as skilled collaborators instead of wayward contractors will pay big dividends in site performance and data quality.

One team member with the right attitude can inspire the entire team, while one team member with a poor attitude can drag everyone down. Study subject retention often reflects owner attitude which, in turn, reflects the attitude of site staff. Attitude is inherent. It can’t be taught.

There is no substitute for Experience. In today’s fast- paced environment, new employees must have at least a basic understanding of the veterinary pharmaceutical industry and clinical trial conduct.

Company-specific processes and procedures can be learned on the job and protocol requirements can be taught at study training, but a new employee must be able to absorb that information quickly, speak the study “language,” and be productive from the first day.

Intelligent people know how to think on their feet. They can extrapolate from general instructions to specific solutions. They may not have all the answers, but they know how to phrase the questions. And, when confronted with a difficult problem, they don’t throw their hands up in surrender. Instead, they do their best to define the problem, determine its cause(s), and outline alternate solutions. Only then do they go to their superior for a decision.

Clinical trials are very complex. They involve precise requirements, myriad activities, multiple participants, frequent measurements, and mountains of data all swirling within a strict regulatory environment. Only the Organized survive.

Results matter. So, above all else, every team member must have an Unwavering commitment to excellence. “Good enough” never is. And leaving something half-finished just because the clock says it’s time to go home is a half-baked idea.

The development of a new veterinary pharmaceutical requires a huge investment of time and money. The return on that investment depends on the outcome of the clinical trial. Anything less than the maximum best effort by all trial participants shortchanges that outcome and devalues the efforts of all of the other members of the development team.

Natalie finished typing the job descriptions and emailed them to the HR director to begin the recruiting process. She knew that the next several months would be difficult because not everyone on her current team met her requirements.

However, she also knew that, if she just remembered her vowels, she eventually would have a team consonant with success.