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Case Study: Global Teambuilding at Chiron Biopharmaceuticals


When Carl Pelzel took on the role of Senior Vice President, Global Commercial Operations at Chiron Biopharmaceuticals, he immediately realised that the US and European divisions could be working much more effectively together.

The rapid evolution of the company from its start-up beginnings in the US 20 years ago, to become a global industry leader with operations based across Europe, had given rise to a ‘them and us’ attitude on both sides of the Atlantic.

Although both halves of the company were working very effectively and profitably in their own right, there was an apparent lack of collaboration and information sharing across the organisation as a whole.

To re-establish a shared agenda, Chiron’s senior management team decided the company should hold its first ever leadership forum.

Anjuna Kalsi, Senior Director, Human Resources, Europe, was tasked with bringing together the company’s most senior country leaders to:
* Formulate operating principles to align European and US activity.
* Establish, through consensus, a common set of values and shared vision for each and every member of Chiron to align with on a daily basis.
* Motivate and inspire people to work together to achieve their objectives.

The programme put forward by MaST included facilitated workgroups by senior consultants and recommended the use of theatre and actors throughout the conference to explore sensitive issues and stimulate creative thinking to promote change in an interesting and memorable way.

MaST Theatre Consultant, Kit Thacker, said: “The important rationale for the use of actors is to be able to work through serious business issues by highlighting them from a third party perspective without any specific finger pointing.

"The actors can frame problems and convey emotions, fears and concerns that those involved in the session may have, but are reluctant to express in front of each other or senior management.”

MaST met with the head of the European division to establish the organisation’s exact needs and develop a series of scripts to be acted out at the leadership forum.

These scripts were carefully designed to mirror the objections and concerns that the leaders were experiencing but unlikely to voice themselves.

Linked to this approach was a dedicated team of MaST facilitators to input change management knowledge and guide discussion towards business solutions after each theatre session.

Chiron’s first leadership forum
In September 2003 the very first Chiron Leadership Forum was held in Madrid.

The country leaders and their deputies from the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Ireland, Netherlands and Portugal attended.

Carl Pelzel, Senior Vice President, set out his vision for creating a consolidated Chiron, calling upon the leaders to make decisions on the “basis of what is good for Chiron as a whole,” to “think globally and act locally”, and “operate as a team, with transparency across the organisation.”

The MaST actors then took to the stage to act out the part of Chiron employees not attending the meeting but ‘running the ship’ back home.

Sticking to the agreed scripts, but also using improvisation to keep the sketches lively, the actors cynically questioned whether or not anything would come of such a talk shop.

They expressed the idea that the leadership forum was just an “extended dinner party” and asked what difference it would make to them anyway?

In this way the leaders attending the conference were forced to consider their own reservations and reminded of the task ahead of them to inspire and motivate their workforces back home to adapt to the ideas being proposed.

Throughout the forum, management presentations were followed by MaST theatre sessions and facilitated work groups to allow the leaders to discuss the issues raised and work through them to create new processes to promote change.

As the leadership forum progressed, the MaST theatre sketches, which were initially very negative, reflected the increasingly positive mood of the leaders, voicing a new sense of pride and commitment to working for a global organisation.

The forum was judged a success and 78% of attendees indicated that it met its objectives of ‘moving Chiron forward through better understanding of issues and each other, in a motivational and inspirational way’.

A further 14% fed back that the leadership forum exceeded its objectives, with 98% of delegates keen to see the Leadership Forum become a regular event.

“MaST’s involvement was critical to the success of the Leadership Forum. Without the facilitated sessions and use of theatre there was a definite risk that delegates would have left feeling that they had simply had new ways of working prescribed onto them, without any recognition of the issues of concern to them.

"Instead all the leaders greatly enjoyed the experience of being brought together in this way and are genuinely motivated to put into practice the many ideas they developed together,” said Kalsi.


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