Developing breakthrough procurement leaders for a global pharmaceutical giant

Positioning procurement to better support the delivery of the wider businesses ambition


Pharmaceutical organisations are facing unprecedented challenges.

Change is a constant with patents cliffs, new buyers in the market, complex regulations and technology advancements. Within this complex and volatile environment, savings have to happen alongside the drive for innovation and investment for clinical programme development.

Procurement has a unique 360° view of the organisation with potential for global influence around suppliers. It is perfectly placed to bring about significant competitive advantage in the industry. With clarity on both the business’ buying power and the supplier market and innovation therein, they are well equipped to advise and negotiate.

This global pharmaceutical organisation had a legacy of transactional procurement expertise and a good reputation for supplier contracting and resolving issues. In spite of this, senior procurement leaders didn’t have enough influence with other functions in their country or further afield, to add their full value through market insights.

The procurement function was constrained in their thinking and struggling to widen their focus beyond their own internal processes and improvements. The key challenge was to transform this mindset so they saw themselves primarily as ‘business leaders’ with a procurement expertise. Free to make bold decisions, influence the wider business and be leaders of change in a multicultural and complex business environment.


The Chief Procurement Heads were a critical player in the design structure; being the backbone of the regional organisation and managing 80% of the human resources.

The success of the programme was hinged on project based learning. Using real-time projects to develop and sustain a new mindset and skill-set. This incorporated:

  • On the job learning: live business challenges
  • Real time support with 1:1 coaching
  • Peer to peer coaching and networking
  • Development workshops

There were three key areas of development:

  • CPH Leadership ‘soft skills’ that empower them as business leaders
  • Breakthrough Thinking capabilities that enable outstanding Breakthrough results
  • Business partnering behaviours that reshape the way procurement engages its stakeholders and suppliers, to drive competitive advantage.

Achieve Breakthrough’s approach included:

  • Developing the Procurement mindset to be ambitious and to take permission beyond what was previously thought possible or within their remit 
  • Building skills to lead and business partner effectively by standing in the shoes of their stakeholders and seeking strategic alignment
  • Creating a new procurement reputation in the business in order for the full value proposition to be realised.


The net result was a significantly increased potential for procurement in terms of bottom line, partnering and influence at a senior level, and opportunities through innovation. Key metrics included:

  • 700% uplift in strategic business influence
  • 20% uplift in savings
  • 130% reduction in speed to market
  • 88% capability shift in leadership behaviours
  • 50% measured increase in ambition.
"The Achieve Breakthrough programme unleashed the individual leadership potentials of my country procurement heads through thinking and acting in a different way. This will impact the way of collaboration with our Business Partners in terms of effectiveness and efficiency. This program should be a must for all Procurement leaders" Regional Procurement Head, Western Europe