EBCG has the world’s largest conference for project & portfolio management professionals for 6 years now. 2017 will be the year when we go even bigger! On March 2nd & 3rd, around 200 attendees and speakers from all kinds of Pharma and Biotech companies will come together in London for the 7th Annual Pharma PPM Toolbox. They will discuss, laugh, argue, share and work together in order to gain new insights that will help them become more effective managers.

One of our exceptional speakers is Andreas Norlin, Independent Project Leader. I had the opportunity to talk to Andreas a few weeks ago and discuss more of his background, career and presentation.

Tell me a little bit more about your background and your career.

For the last 8.5 years, I have worked full time as a project leader at Novo Nordisk in Denmark, both within preclinical development as well as global project lead with full responsibility for all parts of drug development projects. I have worked mostly in phase 1 and phase 2 development and my biggest achievements have been to bring two preclinically challenging projects into phase 3. Before I started at Novo Nordisk I held a preclinical director position for around 7 years at a small biotech company in Lund, Sweden, mostly as line manager but also with some project management. I have a Ph.D. in Animal Physiology from Lund University, Lund, Sweden so I come with a research background.

Over the years, what is the most challenging part of your job?

This is a difficult question because I think it has been different from time to time and I cannot really say what has been the most challenging part. However, given the choice of topic for my presentation, I would say that stakeholder management is a much more challenging part of leading a project, especially in the cases when your project is not among the highest prioritized in the portfolio. I have experienced both situations where you have all the management focus and support because you are working in an high-prioritized project (stakeholders more or less “manage themselves”) and projects where you have to work actively with your stakeholders (and it is not sure you will succeed anyway simply because stakeholders have different agendas). Realizing this difference and adapt to that has been challenging.

Can you elaborate more on your presentation on our event?

I will talk about when the environment of a project changed drastically due to external events (i.e., events outside the project, but within the company). As a consequence of the changed project environment, the governance was changed and we got a new set of stakeholders. My team and I were aware of this, but we didn’t really think about how this could change who were the more influential stakeholders. Two things happened: the new stakeholders had a different set of priorities which we had to accommodate to and the new governance/stakeholders being more senior than the previous one also made them more difficult to reach (the consequence of a hierarchical organization) so it became more difficult to understand them and influence them. How did this end? Well, the project is still alive, but it took more than nine months to sort things out.

In your opinion, what is the #1 takeaway of your presentation?

Good question – now I really have to think ☺ Remember to do a thorough stakeholder mapping with regular intervals and always when there are major changes in the project environment! Stakeholder management is not just something you learn at project management courses – it really matters.