North Highland with MSD

Performance Improvement in the Private Sector

MSD UK (hereon MSD) are the UK arm of global pharmaceutical company Merck, whose purpose is to tackle the world’s greatest health threats and improve the lives of their patients. As a result of operating in a highly regulated industry, MSD had developed an overly risk-averse culture and complex Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) environment which pulled employee time away from commercial activities and sometimes even dissuaded them from attempting them entirely.

MSD have previously tried to simplify the SOP ecosystem but struggled to realise their target benefits due to challenges with organisational silos, working at pace and risk-averse culture. Using our hypothesis-driven approach to performance improvement, North Highland (NH) worked with MSDs Compliance team to reimagine the SOP landscape to deliver the following outcomes:

• Simplify the SOP landscape. Our team streamlined the SOP process, reducing the drafting timeframe from five months to five weeks (77% reduction) and the approval timeframe from three weeks to ~36 hours.

• Improve the user experience. We improved the end-user experience through simplifying the SOP landscape and reducing the number of SOPs from 51 to 24 (53%). Scaling the new SOP format reduced the length of the documents by 30%, with simplified language making them more user-friendly. This combination of improvements delivered a simpler user experience working through SOPs, re-iterated by end-user feedback: “Within 15 minutes I had completed the process… using the newly streamlined SOP and received e-approval… it used to take me a couple of hours!”.

• Shift the culture towards SOPs. These quantitative outcomes, alongside the collaborative approach, user engagement and change management activities began to shift the culture towards a more balanced approach to risk management, reduce employee frustration with SOPs and improve compliance: “SOP simplification has enabled us to remove unnecessary or confusing process steps and refresh the engagement and awareness of end-users… thanks to the clear framework and outstanding support required.”

• Establish the compliance team as strategic partners. By project close, 11 new SOP owners had been identified, trained, and taken ownership of driving the streamlining of their SOPs. Overall, the number of SOPs owned by the compliance team was reduced from 90% to 17%. This provided the compliance team with the capacity and capability to step into a strategic enabler role, shaping the business vision for good compliance and risk management and driving continuous improvement in this area. The compliance team are now sharing the SOP Management Playbook and lessons learnt with their peers globally.

North Highland’s approach to performance improvement combines process improvement techniques with design-thinking, behavioural change, and iterative delivery, enabling sustained adoption of new processes and ways of working by focusing on the people impacts. Working together as one team, we delivered sustained change by transforming behaviours and mindsets through co-creating and testing new solutions whilst upskilling MSD to ensure sustainability into BAU.

“This is an incredible outcome… both the way it’s been achieved and the breadth of impact it’s had across the business” David Peacock, Managing Director, MSD UK

View the North Highland profile in the MCA Members Directory.