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Genentech is a biotechnology company which was found in the year 1976 by Robert A. Swanson and the biochemist Dr. Herbert W. Boyer. This company with more than 30 years of expertise in pharmaceutical industry is one of the world's largest biotechnology companies. The main functions of the firm is to discover medicine develop it and manufacture a new medicine which will be of great use for the doctors to treat patients with new diseases. Genentech mainly commercializes it many biotechnological products to third party companies which will sell the products in the market and will receive royalties from those companies. The firm's main goal is to research and develop a new age of therapeutics which is genetically organised traces which naturally produced molecules during human health healing. It is the scientists of Genentech who proved to the world that it is actually possible to make medicines by combining rapid growing bacteria and human genes can produce therapeutic proteins. Even today Genentech spend huge amount of money in research and development of genetic engineering in order to discover and develop medicines to many significant unmet diseases which are troubling a huge number of patients across the globe.
Genentech has many credits under its belt, one the most important one among them is in 1985 when U.S. Food and drug Admin gave approval to Genentech to market its first product 'Protropin' which is an injection which helps growth in children with hormone deficiency for growth. This product is the world first cell or organism in which genetic recombination has occurred was manufactured and sold in the market by a company. In the next two year (1986 & 87) Genentech came up with several new products like alpha-2a and Roferon drugs to treat hairy cell leukaemia which are approved by FDA. In 1987 it came up with a new drug call Activasa which helps to melt the blood clots in patients' blood and helps to prevent heart attack. These are few achievements of Genentech in its initial phase.
It has a very strong financial base with an annual turnover $13,418 million by the end of the year 2008 with a total work force of 11,186 employees. Genentech also has more than 1845 companies in its peer group.
Genentech has achieved many awards in its tenure of 30 years, On January 21, 2010, FORTUNE magazine named Genentech to its "100 Best Companies to Work For" list for the 12th consecutive year. It is ranked at world no.7 in the list of best companies to work with. It is also the lone pharmaceutical company that offers a postdoctoral program to its employees. More than 120 Ph.D. employees are awarded fellowships in the last four year. The employees are not only encouraged to do research in drug related field, but they are also supported to research in the field they are interested in which can help the organisation in their future potential product development. Genentech feels that this postdoc program maintains a flow of young researchers from different backgrounds and technologies move along with Genentech. This program creates real innovation, creative spirit and entrepreneurial capacity in the company's research. Vision of the company is quite simple but very effective: Its aim is to make complete use of science of biotechnology and become the ultimate company in the field of pharmaceuticals and treat people around the globe who are suffering from immunological diseases, cancer and angiogenic disorders.
Even though Genentech is an independent company in the beginning it merged with an international firm called Roche Group in the year march 2009. According to the bond signed between them both Roche and Genentech are going to combine their pharmaceutical operation in United States of America. South San Francisco campus which is initially a Genentech campus is now the headquarters of Roche. Even though Genentech merged with Roche its initial research and development (R&D) operates independently.
What is knowledge management?
According to Kandadi (2006) Knowledge management is defined as "A set of strategies, systems and processes that enable and simplify creation, capture, sharing, distribution and utilisation of an organisation's knowledge."
Knowledge management is a very key important issue in any organisation because of several integral characteristics like: Cultural variances, size of the organisation, diverse systems and geographical dispersion and communication complexities. Any organisation needs knowledge in all forms in order to be successful in whatever field they are working in. If a company has very good infrastructure, very good supply chain for raw materials, sufficient number of employees and good capital investment capabilities may not be enough for the success of that organisation. Even though an organisation has everything for it to run its business but lacks in the area of knowledge of top level management or employee level lack of knowledge can cause a severe damage to the organisation. For any organisation before engaging an employee will look for a set of skills to do a particular job in a company. But in the present competitive world innovation plays a very key role as any present day invention becomes an outdated piece of product or service the very next day. As the competition between companies is very high were every company spends huge amounts on R&D to come up with some new products every day to face the competition in the global market place. So Knowledge management plays a very key role as the market became a global market because of globalisation. Knowledge management failed in many companies as the top level management considers the knowledge as a static resource like any other resource or commodity of the organisation. Based on the present market situation Knowledge is a dynamic resource where innovation is the key asset for any company. So a company which identifies the importance of effective Knowledge management can be successful it will be productive in bringing of the hidden skills and use them in improving organisational outcomes. Formally any companies' main concentration use to be the individual workers capabilities which basically ignores the actual nature of work practices and causes gap between the organisation and employees. So any organisation can understand identify this identify this gap between individuals and organisation gives route to knowledge work and it is a critical factor to organisations outcomes and learning to be successful. So shifting Knowledge management to work practices can help firms reveal how employees conceptualise the task they perform.
Knowledge Management (KM) Needs in Genentech:
As we discussed Genentech is company which operated in the area of drug discovery and manufacturing which is a very important and related to the health of the people living in this world. And there is nothing important in this world than people's lives. So when a company's main area of concentration is people health, the importance of Knowledge management in this organisation has a special importance than in any other product markets.
Employee Turnover in Genentech: Employees in Genentech are of very high importance for the company as each researcher/scientist with so much of knowledge and experience in the drug development industry cannot be easily replaced by a new researcher/scientist. So it a very important knowledge Management area where company should take care of and effectively plan the retirement of the employee. They should be able to make the employee comfortable working with the firm in order to contain the employee and make complete use of his knowledge. Because a researcher or scientist once lost to another company can cause a great loss to the company. In the same way they should plan and make sure the company has enough knowledge pool in the middle level in order to replace the senior employees at the top level who retire from the company. Maintaining some extra knowledge pool is very important for Genentech in order to face sudden knowledge loss of any form that can happen and can affect the growth or vision the company has set for itself.
Genentech which mainly operates in research, development, manufacturing and marketing it drugs should mainly concentrate in this area to understand the organisation needs of any form which are needed for the researchers in order to excel in the area they are doing their research. If the organisation has a good team to identify the organisational needs in time and can identify the latest technology in the market and analyse its importance in their company and provide the same to the research team can help the research employees to accelerate their work and can be successful in a very short period of time. Genentech main strength lies in the research team they has, the total economy the organisation generates is based on the success of the products their researches develop. So it is one very important Knowledge management need where Genentech must take complete care of.
Market environment -knowledge creation and sharing needs:
Genentech according to the latest rankings stood 2nd in the world in of biotechnological industry. It stood after Amgen also an American based company. Every day a new structural market change is taking place in the present world even the customers' demands towards a product is varying on a daily basis. When there are other companies which are giving a very tough competition in this field it is often very important for Genentech to better understand the present market situation before developing and manufacturing the product. If Genentech invests money and carry out their research according to the patients needs and the diseases that are currently causing problem and come out with an effective product than its competitors only than it can resist the tough biotech market. Genentech in 2009 completely merged with another pharmaceutical giant 'Roche group' and continued their research and early phase of development as an independent with in Roche. Know that they have merged with Roche which is also there in the same market for years must not have any problems in taking the firm's business ahead. But there is a complete need for having a better knowledge management in order to have understanding and value chain integration between the two business partners. They should be able to go ahead with their individual visions and reach their individual target by effectively working together.
This is very important Knowledge management need of Genentech as it is mainly a drug manufacturing company. In any drug manufacturing organisation usually after a lot of research about the disease and identifying the options about how to design a drug takes place after that as series of experiments are conducted and finally the drug is designed. After designing the drug it is not directly sent into market for sales after detailed testing only then an drug is let into market for human usage. So this drug manufacturing is not a small process which involves a lot of knowledge and there is a huge need for innovation. A company which comes out with short, quick and cost effective innovative drug for any disease will be successful when compared to other companies. This shows the importance of innovation in pharmaceutical industry. So for Genentech there is a need for very effective R&D and product development cycle to continue to be the top company in drug manufacturing field.
It is quite important for any organisation to keep their resources updated with knowledge even after hiring them. Some companies will be very keen with their resources skills when they hire them but t they look at knowledge as static like any other resource or commodity of the company. But knowledge of the employee must been seen in such a way as a never ending process. It is important for any company to keep their employees updated with knowledge. This not only helps in quality of output of the companies but the company also can gain the loyalty of the employees. This makes the company as a lovable place to work for the employees. In this area of employee learning Genentech scores full marks as it is the only pharmaceutical company which offers postdoctoral program to their employees, More than 120 PhD holders are presented with fellowships for four year.
Community of practice (CoP):
According to Jean Lave and Wenger (2002) who are a well know anthropologists, Communities of practice is nothing but a group of people who share a common interest, a skill and/or a profession. This group can be a naturally formed one because of the people who share common interest in the same domain area. So when a group of people with common interest work together than the quality of the work or the final output will be of a very high quality. So these communities can also be created with a specific goal of acquiring knowledge in a particular field. The groups are created by a process of sharing experiences and information within a group, so people with same interests and skills work from each other, hence they have the scope of improving their knowledge.
Communities of practice can also be called as a process where people can indulge in group (communal) learning at various levels based on their seniority in the group and level of authority. If an organisation tries to create and develop these communities of practices can improve the member's ability to work on a particular field. It raises/improves the knowledge culture in the firms and can also act as a core part in knowledge management.
Genentech can have five different communities of practice. It can form a CoP with Suppliers, Business partners, distributors and within the employees both developers and researchers.
The communities of practice formed between the employees are very crucial in an organisation like Genentech where research and development place a very important role. So there is a need for continue updating of knowledge. SO knowledge updating can be done by forming an employee community where every employee is a researcher in biotechnology. So forming a Cop for employees can help them interact between them share their knowledge, will update latest developments between them helps organisation to get more benefits without any further investment for training their employees.
Communities formed between suppliers will help Genentech to obtain innovative ideas and products from its suppliers with latest requirements and obtain best of class in acquiring goods, services by getting materials of best quality at a very best price.
Cross-functional Community of Practice for Genentech:
Genentech also has a Cross-functional community of practice where the research and development team of Genentech will have the opportunity with other researches not only within the organisation but it provides an opportunity to meet and shares ideas and gain knowledge from researchers of different organisation from other parts of the worlds. Genentech already has a Cross-functional community designed for its employees where the company created a pool of members in its employee group and make them attend national cross-functional meetings and creates an opportunity to meets experts in their field. This helps them to have better understanding of the present day improvements in their field. This not only helps the employees in gaining some knowledge but it also helps the organisation to yield better outcomes. When the employee group of any organisation as skilful, technically advanced, with updated present day knowledge, innovative and loyalty towards the firm is the greatest asset that any firm can have. Especially for Genentech which is basically a drug research manufacturing company requires its employees to be loyal, skilful, Updated with knowledge and with very high decision making abilities to successfully design and launch any new drug into the market.
So this Cross functional community of practice of maintaining relationship with a community of people from other organisations and its employee group helps Genentech to share ideas and knowledge will help the employees to better understand the external changes and challenges.
Development of inter-organisational CoP for Genentech:
Inter organisational Cop is nothing but creating a community of people (ex: researchers) with a common domain of knowledge for sharing information on the area they are working on. The inter organisational CoP that we are developing for Genentech is a community of practice among the researches working on various projects that they are working on. Every researcher in Genentech will be working on various concepts in order to develop a new drug formula. Even though they work on different drugs most of the concepts they use to develop a drug formula will be similar their skill sets are almost common. So by having an inter-organisational Cop among the employees (RESEARCHES) will help them share and update their knowledge they can exchange their views on a particular issue and help its firm with better productivity.
Advantages of having an inter-organisational CoP:
1. Helps in improving productivity of the organisation.
2. Helps researchers to share information and can regulate duplicated efforts. If a researcher already worked on a formula and came out successfully and if another researcher wants the same formula he have to start the work again from beginning resulting in time loss, money loss for the company. But Genentech has a inter-organisations CoP for it researchers help them to share their results resulting in saving a lot of time and money.
3. Can avoid poor decision: Human beings tend to make mistakes no matter how talented he or she is. So a researcher when start his/her research can take suggestions from his peer researchers and decide on how to proceed. This helps in avoiding poor decisions.
Story Telling Technique in the business of Genentech:
According to David Snowden (1999) story telling is nothing but "A rediscovery of an important natural skill that has bound societies for centuries". Story telling in any organisation takes place in order to conduct a workshop by selecting a work group in the company and open them to a group conversation where every single individual recollects their previous and present project experiences and share their knowledge with other employees who are working on the similar platform. Company also assigns trained observers to the workshop in order to assess the discussions and form a chart to analyse the knowledge strength of the firm's employees. During the story telling workshop the observers identifies the various decisions taken, judgement made previous solved and unsolved problems faced by the employees and forms a chart with related information flow for further use.
After preparing a chart observers present the designed chart for validation. Then by detailed analysis of this chart by the knowledge management team appropriate decisions are made overcome the present lapse in the organisation. The lapse can be a knowledge lapse or lapse in the equipment provided by the company to the employees or it can be a lapse with which the employees are not satisfied with the management. Similarly some new proposal from the work force can also take light which the management decides based on the merit of requirement. So by running a story telling workshop many hidden facts and requirement which can be very minor for the management to understand on its own will come into light.
When we apply this story telling technique in the business of Genentech, there is a huge scope of bringing out many issues which neither the organisation bother to concentrate or either the employees make a point. In Genentech a company which manufactures drugs for the latest diseases from which the world is suffering from needs some very good sophisticated and latest equipment in order to make complete use of their knowledge and come up with some wonderful drug discoveries. Usually researcher's carryout researches in Genentech they carry their researches with the resources they have with the raw materials they are provided and with the equipment they are provided by their management. So many lapses in the management will not come into account and the company runs in its usual routine. But when Genentech conducts some story telling workshops with the work group and allowed to share their experiences with others co-workers with an trained observer for the work group. Where the observers make a list of the discussion made like the important decisions taken, judgements made and their past experiences while working on a particular research. So when a researcher makes a point for example when he explains a situation where he felt the need of a specialised equipment in order to carry a research without which the work took some extra time to complete. So in this situation the productivity went down in the form of 'production time loss' of the company for not providing some specialised equipment to their researchers. This kind of issues will come into notice when a story telling workshop is conducted in Genentech. After the completion of workshop with the work group the expert observer submits a detailed chart to the knowledge management team, where the team makes some valuable decisions to fulfil the needs of the resources of the company to improve the performance.
Finally after going through all the techniques under the knowledge management theories with respect to Genentech we understand the importance and need of using the techniques like communities of practice and Storytelling help us better understand how the Genentech Company effectively manages all departments within the company and run its operations successfully.