I've read John Maraganore's essay "Reflections on Alnylam" a few times.
12 key lessons from building and leading an iconic biotech company.
PLUS: A ChatGPT-4 analysis of 80+ comments on the essay.
1. Trust that voice.
If you can’t stop thinking about it, you have to do it...
2. Have a clear vision and mission.
Pay attention to the subtle distinction here:
The vision is the dream, your true north. It inspires you and keeps you going.
The mission is what the company does and how it's going to achieve its vision.
3. Always stay lean and hungry.
Constraints can spark creativity, resourcefulness and drive.
The Alnylam team had no other option but to make it work—for patients and themselves!
John's focus on independence, urgency and impact all come together here:
4. In biotech, you IPO to build, not to celebrate.
John: "I knew from the beginning that Alnylam would need to raise substantial capital from both investors and pharmaceutical partners to bring RNAi therapeutics to patients."
The above explains the below.
5. Pharma, all I need is your money and your name.
This is what a pharma alliance is: "Dear pharma, give me your money and your name, so I can get more money to get this thing to the patient and realise my vision. And don't worry, this will be a win-win. I love you, Biotech."
6. During your 15+ year journey many will lose faith in you.
Just soldier on and "keep a copy of that article by your desk"...
7. If you ever have to do the most painful thing in the world, do it with empathy and compassion.
It was not their fault. You know that.
It was not your fault. They know that.
All you have to do is take care of your most valuable asset: your people.
8. Always trust your people's judgement, especially when the world is on fire.
When you're working on the frontiers of science, no manager has the answer.
Or if someone has it, that will be probably your amazing people who are working close to the problem.
9. Free up your people and let them play.
When your company's vision is to "harness a revolution in human health", you need innovation, ie. kainotomia, ie. "a new/fresh cutting"!
Let your team cut away!
10. Empathise with stakeholders and win them over again.
Investors and partners have fears just like everyone else.
If they've lost faith in you, do whatever you have to do to ease their fears.
11. March your team with a clear and focused strategy.
The 5x15 strategy helped everyone push in the same direction during a critical time for the company.
And it didn't lack ambition.
A 2x15 or 3x15 strategy would have sent the wrong signal: "we're aiming for survival..."
12. Always be transparent.
This is not just about protecting the trust of your partners. No, no, no.
This follows directly from the vision:
How can a patient-centric company, embarking on a journey to "harness a revolution in biology for human health", not be transparent?
Okay, these were my 12 reflections on John's reflections.
Now let's see what others (including Alnylam employees) have to say about John's leadership."
I compiled a list of 80+ comments from social media about the essay and threw them into ChatGPT-4!
Here are the results:
I. Summary and Word Frequency.
• All Alnylam values are in the comments: innovation, excellence, commitment to people.
• Perseverance. You'll need a lot of it...
• Culture eats strategy for breakfast.
• People want an inspiring leader... How can you become one?
A lot of people resonated with George Bernard Shaw's quote in the essay.
Not a surprise...
It's easier to mobilise people towards a hard, overarching and unreasonable vision...
II. More interesting findings.
I then asked ChatGPT-4 to group similar words together which revealed more interesting things.
14 out of 80 people used the word "journey" in their comments.
Drug discovery is a long journey indeed...
Or an "odyssey" as someone wrote...
Here's your leadership playbook...
That's all you need—and faith.
Thank you @John Maraganore 🇺🇦🇺🇦 for sharing your lessons with us and I wish you all the best in your current vision of helping others to build more Alnylams.
p.s. I'm an executive coach who works with biotech leaders.
My why: If I can empower those who're having an impact on human health, I can have my own impact on human health.
And maybe help build Alnylams too, like John...
DM me and say hello!
Loving you, Angelos.