Creating an Environment of Learning

Allan Darling, Vice President of Technical Operations and
Carole Tilmont, Director, Corporate Capabilities

MedImmune is the biologics arm of AstraZeneca, producing two marketed biopharmaceutical products, FluMist® (Influenza Vaccine Live, Intranasal) and Synagis® (palivizumab). Accordingly, our company is both highly technical and highly regulated. We’ve also grown from 2,600 employees in 2007 to 4,200 today. With the constant changes in our industry, we needed to be sure all our employees within Operations, regardless of their functional role, had a common foundation of what and how, as well as why we do what we do.

We had three basic goals for our learning program. First, we wanted everyone to understand the key concepts behind the science and manufacturing we perform in a controlled environment so we could institute and define behaviors to support them. Second, we had experienced some quality issues, and found that the common root cause between all these issues was a basic lack of understanding of the fundamentals behind an individual’s position – they knew what to do but not why it was done that way, and that led to an inability to react to unexpected issues. And third, we wanted to expand people’s perspective in applying knowledge in the interest of a larger goal. It’s never enough to understand only your piece. It’s great to have depth, but our people needed breadth as well so they could see the context of where their pieces fit.

MedImmune Demo IntroWhen we began our project in 2008, we wanted it to be co-owned by the business, as they are the subject matter experts. So we commissioned a team of cross-organizational and cross-level SMEs and engaged them in the vision, current and desired future states, and approach. We also did a targeted needs assessment with potential end users and received great feedback that identified not only the knowledge areas we needed to cover, but also the priority of those areas, and we built that into the plan. An example of this is the gap in understanding of critical aspects of the facilities themselves; we included this area in the first phase, as it was foundational.

We initially planned for electronic modules on knowledge areas, but quickly incorporated two Learning Map® modules to provide context around the business, strategy, goals, and culture. These were “front-loaded” as prerequisites for the electronic modules when we rolled the program out in mid-2009. We found it interesting that our goal of making content interesting, making it stick, and making it relevant in the eLearning modules – 12 in all, covering Facilities, Microbiology, and Cell Culture – was solid, but the addition of the Learning Map® session really pulled things together in a very sensible and engaging way.

MedImmune Map 2We immediately began working on “deeper dive” technical topics using the same approach: front-load with a Learning Map® module (this time the end-to-end manufacturing process) and then following that experience with eLearning modules. We developed another 12 modules, covering topics such as Filtration, Purification, and Centrifugation, and rolled out this phase in 2010. We structured the modules to fit various audiences. Phase 1 is required for everyone in Operations. Phase 2 is required for people working on those processes and is optional for all other Operations employees (e.g., Supply Chain).

In creating the more detailed technical modules, we initially had a little difficulty
in that the specific language and subject matter was unfamiliar to the team at Root. Because we had built such a strong trust and working relationship with them, we felt comfortable raising and working through these issues. In fact, working with Root and their feedback helped our subject matter experts think more about how they should present the material to their prospective audience. We leveraged our Technical Council, a few senior level leaders with deep experience and scientific and technical knowledge, who worked closely with Root to resolve issues from strategic and scientific standpoints.

Our results have been amazingly positive. We had extremely high participation rates. We were planning for 80%, and we are seeing nearly 100% of people completing all the modules. Anecdotal responses are also excellent. We have seen the level of knowledge shifting and growing over time. Members of the Operations Management Team say they’ve seen an uptick in knowledge from before and after, and also in the level of interest and depth of conversation. The modules are embedded into the onboarding process as well.

MedImmune Demo 2The quality issues that were driven partially by lack of understanding have decreased significantly, with very successful regulatory inspections over the last two years. We can visibly see the change in engagement, and the program has acted as a springboard for other learning. Before, people wanted training so they could learn their jobs, but now they want it because they’re curious to learn! In a technical organization such as ours, the creation of a learning culture is essential for the organization to continue to grow and thrive.

Carole Tilmont heads the Leadership, Management, and Professional Development Center of Excellence, as well as the organization’s talent management and succession planning processes.  Previously, she was responsible for delivering learning and development solutions to drive achievement of functional strategy.

Allan J. Darling is responsible for the Corporate Manufacturing Sciences and Technology, QC, and Technical Training functions. He also oversees development and implementation of Global Technical training curricula.