Claes Glassell is focused on building a better process at Cerus Corp.
And it’s not just for INTERCEPT Blood System, the $11 million biopharmaceutical company’s product that inactivates blood-borne pathogens in donated blood. Glassell, Cerus’ president and CEO, is also concerned with getting employees pushing in the same direction.
That takes time, but if you can get everyone at your company pushing toward one goal, you can excel.
“You can empower and delegate authority very broadly to people who are competent,” Glassell says. “It requires that you spend time as a team defining what the goals and overall strategy for the company are.”
Smart Business spoke with Glassell about how to build and share simple goals and why you have to measure performance to keep people on track.
Q. How do you develop an action plan; who is involved?
They would be developed by those teams, with some input and dialogue from the management team. But we basically prefer that they do it. That means they have ownership of their own specific plans and goals.
The benefits are huge, in terms of motivation. If someone told you, ‘Here’s the goal; you have to go do it,’ and you had very limited or no input, I think you’d feel, ‘This is impossible; I don’t own this. This is not my goal; someone set this up for me. I don’t feel obligated to deliver on this.’
But if you’ve been part of the process, you’d say, ‘I think this could be done.’ In terms of motivation, it’s a huge difference.
Q. How do you keep those goals simple?
We want to have a limited number of goals. Typically, we’ll operate on an annual basis with about eight goals for the company as a whole. Those are the overarching goals, which are broken down into much more detailed plans and include more detailed goals.
Every year, you can look at those goals and say, ‘If we deliver those, we have definitely accomplished a lot of valuable progress for the company.’
Q. How do you get buy-in from employees on goals?
We inform them fairly regularly of what’s going on, so that when we set goals, that’s not seen as an activity in a vacuum. Throughout the company, we communicate the strategic plan to all the employees.
It’s not like we have a 200-page blueprint; we work with a simplified plan so that it is easily understood. Then we solicit the input from employees. When the final plan is put together, we have obtained input from not just my direct reports but from the organization as a whole.
Q. How do you monitor progress toward goals?
Typically, we take the strategic goals and break them down into more concrete action plans. We then break them down to specific goals, near term, for different parts of the organization.
For instance, say we want to have a project in Phase II clinical. We can say, ‘Well, that’s three years down the road. To get there, we need to be in Phase I in 18 months, and to get to Phase I, we need to have the following data available to us, so let’s go out and develop a specific operational plan for collecting that data.’
So we map out how to get to the big goals in pretty good detail. Then, we can track how we’re doing.
Q. How do you measure your employees’ performance?
Work side by side with people and see how they handle their own decision-making. Find out how they interact with their direct reports and with others on the team and, ultimately, how well they keep in tune on their own field.
If we’re not selling, for instance, and someone who is in charge of sales thinks things are wonderful and we shouldn’t change anything well, I think that’s the wrong conclusion. If there are problems, red flags, there’s enough going on to have a pretty good opportunity to assess how competent people are in their jobs.
If there are any red flags, then I’ll have a one-on-one discussion with the individual and express whatever concerns I may have. Typically, that is enough. That person will take that advice and input and shore up whatever lack of performance there has been.
Q. How do you determine whether training is necessary?
It’s on a case-by-case basis. If there is a lack of formal training of some kind, then we will try to rectify it by putting a formal program in place. We actually put together training plans every year ... in particular, if someone has been promoted to a more senior position, you may sit down and say, ‘You now have a broader responsibility. What are the areas you need for more development, and how do we address that?’
Training can be a part of that, but it can also be a part of someone just being more aware of how he or she interacts with others, whether they are customers or peers or people in the organization. If I see something like that, I would not wait until we have formal review discussions I would talk to the person right away.
HOW TO REACH: Cerus Corp., (925) 288-6000 or www.cerus.com