July 29

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Failure is okay – just fail fast

Today is more hands on.  We had a few more case studies where they talked about how they did the trials.  I heard talks about trials to see if anemia and malaria effects education.  40 villages had educational training above what they normally receive, mosquito nets and prophylactic malaria treatment.  The other 40 villages received nothing new.  It was fascinating and they have the same issue that pharmaceutical firms with our clinical trials…confusing data, incomplete data and the killer – contamination.  The short of it – subjects came and went, the data was difficult to interpret and during the trial another branch of the government, for the best of intentions, gave the “control” arm treatment.  Well it happens.

The other thing I took out of this workshop was that what all these NGOs need (and are trying to get) is a “simple” test that can be used in every country regardless of the issues.  We heard a talk by some researchers from my alma mater that has developed such a test.  Very interesting and I look forward to it being tested in the developing world.  They have done a bit testing in South Africa with good results but it really needs to be done in more countries.  Save is interested in piloting in Malawi.

I had another moment at this conference…one of the speakers talked about failure.  He quoted a senior member of Google who said – “Failure is okay but fail fast.”  It really hit me what a profound but difficult statement that is.  It is okay to make mistakes but accept the mistake, learn from it but move on from it and don’t waste time trying to fix and fix and fix it.  This is where strong senior management comes into play.  Every one need to be supportive and accept that failure happens and as long as we didn’t do it on purpose, we learn from it, don’t make the same mistake again people won’t hold it over our heads.  I am not speaking of any specific situation it is just that we all have made mistakes and beat ourselves up about it and, at times, are scared of what is going to happen from this mistake.  This is both personally and professionally.  We know that Mistakes are part of the game but we all, at times, feel that these mistakes aren’t forgiven or forgotten.

Finally the last two days were meetings again at the Save the Children International offices.  We talked about strategy, short, medium and long.  Very interesting time.  We talked a lot about being agents of change – something that GSK pushes and is easy to say but hard to do.  I will talk about that more in upcoming posts.  We also talked about creating partnerships.  This hit a cord with me and something I hope to bring back to GSK with a strong an powerful voice.  What the Save people were talking about is the silo nature of development work.  Save as a global NGO is good about managing their people and projects.  The issue is that Save, in general, doesn’t know what other NGOs are doing.  I brought this back home by GSK and clinical trial management.  At times each group, central, data, safety, US study management, US field trial management are doing things a bit out of synch and everyone thinks their job is the most important one as opposed to seeing each job as equally important and with proper harmonization we can work so much better together and more efficient and then we become more effective and productive.  I am going to be that person when I get back to not get so parochial about my job and group and try as hard as I can to have a global vision.  I challenge my co workers to do the same.