Dr. Frank Mathias
Chairman of the Management Board of Rentschler Biopharma SE
We spoke with Dr. Mathias about #FutureGoodGovernance.
A ship needs a captain. There is a lot of talk about new leadership concepts, about participation and freedom. How much leadership will a company still need in the future and how much agility can it tolerate? How do you envision corporate leadership in the future?
A captain and good managers as well as good leadership will become even more important in the future because employees and companies basically need orientation and decisions, although we will need or use more modern leadership tools for this. Employees will have greater freedom to shape their own decisions, and broad cooperation between people within the company will be required.
We are gradually saying goodbye to rigid organizational structures and moving in the direction of the “dynamogram” (see question 5), thus preferring dynamics instead of statics.
The manager has all the more the task to see that the actions of the team are in line with the mission, vision and the disciplined implementation of the corporate strategy. In doing so, they provide the necessary orientation, point out perspectives and, together with the team, set goals and priorities by which the employees can order themselves.
The “human” qualities such as empathy, empathy skills, healthy humility and inspiration will increasingly come to the fore! The manager takes on the role of mentor or coach.
She sees potentials of each individual and shows how best to use them in the composition of the team.
In doing so, she acts as a role model in a respectful, reflective manner and constantly provides constructive and supportive feedback.
The leader works closely with the team together and acknowledges the success of others.
The Gretas of the world have also turned the spotlight on companies and their areas of action. What challenges do you anticipate for social responsibility and thus sustainability in the company?
A megatrend of our time is the neo-ecology and therefore an honest, true and natural Corporate Social Responsibility will become much more important in the future than many may be aware of today. The quality of CRS will also create a competitive differentiation between companies.
Acting in line with this trend and taking social responsibility does not only mean following actions within the actual core business of the company, such as sustainable sourcing of raw materials and disposing of the waste products that are generated during manufacturing. The introduction of electric company cars, campaigns for cancer awareness days, sustainable operation of company canteens and support for institutions that help people with disabilities are again examples of important actions outside the normal spectrum.
The challenge will be to automatically assign such topics a high enough priority in day-to-day business. Doing the actual core operational business takes up more and more time. The pursuit of sustainability and social responsibility issues must therefore be a top priority.
Such action will be essential in order to be attractive to the younger generation as a company and to remain so in the long term (employer branding).
Trust is good, control is better. Today, it is still primarily about numbers and compliance. Artificial intelligence, however, is changing perspectives and thinking here as well. How can you imagine a future system for monitoring the management board? Will a supervisory board still watch over the management in the near future, or will ‘monitoring’ soon be replaced by a technically highly equipped external service provider?
We see the tasks of a modern supervisory board as being very broadly based, in order to support and advise the management with a high level of expertise in the issues that affect the company. Therefore, the supervisory board cannot be described as a purely “monitoring” body, but must see its tasks much more as accompanying and advising.
Artificial intelligence can certainly be very useful here, enabling rapid and specific processing and analysis of quantifiable data, as well as describing conceivable scenarios and business options in a transparent and more targeted manner. This facilitates “monitoring” of factual and complex data.
However, humans will not be completely replaceable by AI, because especially in a large part of the tasks of an AR, at least still today, the human aspects, skills, assessments and views are significant.
Companies are subject to a constant process of change. What challenges do you expect your company to face in the next 10 years? How will these change your company? What will change for employment and qualification of employees?
In order to remain competitive in the future, a long-term and sustainable strategy should be considered at an early stage and time should be invested in its preparation.
To develop a meaningful strategy, we first need to assess what the world could possibly look like in the future. In order to better understand the key factors for future success, we have analyzed in detail today’s megatrends such as individualization, gender shift, silver society, new work, health, mobility, security, connectivity, globalization, urbanization, knowledge culture and neo-ecology, and held many discussions with external influencers from customers and not-yet-customers, opinion leaders in the industry, investors, headhunters and managers of start-ups.
From this, we as a team deduced, for example, that the main drivers for success in 2025 will continue to be first-class quality as well as closer strategic collaboration, flexibility for new business models, constant innovation along the value chain, and transparent communication and leadership.
From these insights, we then derived, together with our employees, clear, long-term goals and medium-term interim targets. We are shaping our future together with our employees, managers and the Supervisory Board, because this is where all the competence, experience and expertise required for the process should be available.
The great challenge will be to put our vision into practice in a disciplined manner and to move continuously and step by step towards our goal.
Particularly in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry, the key challenge will remain to attract, inspire and ultimately retain the right employee for the respective position in the long term and to have the ability to anticipate this early on and integrate it organizationally.
For our employees, we have defined competencies such as clarity of thought and action, entrepreneurial spirit, a constant willingness to develop and a passion for sustainable success. For our managers, we expect them to exemplify our values and leadership principles, to ensure cultural diversity in the teams and to consistently follow our strategy in their decisions.
There is much debate about centrality vs. decentrality, agility and core competency in organizations. Will companies even exist in today’s sense 20 years from now? What changes in terms of business organization and financing do you expect or would you like to see?
The customer should always and everywhere be at the center of everything we do and our ultimate goal is to achieve a solution with the customer in a cooperative partnership.
Therefore, a corresponding organizational rethinking is necessary and it is becoming more and more apparent that the company organization in the classic organization chart will no longer be sustainable in the future.
In order to actually create the optimal customer solution, bringing together the best subject matter experts for a particular project will be essential and this team will be different and differently composed from project to project or from job to job.
So we are moving from a rigid hierarchical organization chart to a dynamic “dynamogram” (term reference: M. Baumanns, company companions).
To ensure that decisions can also be made locally, we pursue the guiding principle as decentrally as possible and avoid silo thinking and matrix structures as far as possible. All this is complemented by flat hierarchical levels, in which those with the best skills or the best ideas contribute directly to the solution, regardless of their hierarchical position.
Speed or agility is achieved by simplifying barriers such as departmental or divisional boundaries and long reporting and coordination loops, and by having employees work closely together on a customer solution.
It is not self-actualization or departmentalization that should drive the enterprise.
However, infinite freedom is also utopian. There will still always need to be some form of hierarchy and accountability to create liabilities.
The board of directors and the managers still have the task of providing orientation and ensuring that action is taken along the lines of the company’s vision and that the strategic goals are pursued.
The customer is then at the center of the dynamogram, while the organization moves dynamically all around.
Car manufacturers are becoming mobility service providers, food manufacturers are becoming lifestyle providers, media houses are becoming data science companies. Where will your industry go? Will industries – as we know them today – even exist in ten years? What will be there then?
The pharmaceutical industry with its key technologies biotech and nanotech is certainly one of the most promising sectors for the future.
However, there is also a potential disruptive change taking place here, as some megatrends in our society are having a very strong impact.
In the past, medication and getting well was a reaction to an illness. In the future, people will want to avoid getting sick in the first place, if possible – prevention and vaccination are the keywords here.
The “Silver Society” megatrend will also have a strong positive influence on our industry – people are getting older and older, but want to remain in a healthy “retirement”. This will continue to require highly efficient and modern medicines.
Much has happened in medicine and care has improved dramatically. Meanwhile, in many cases, the diagnosis of cancer has long ceased to be a death sentence.
Trends are moving away from purely symptomatic treatment towards causal and targeted therapy and prevention. In this context, the example of oncology makes it clear that cancer is no longer treated broadly, but is now personalized to the particular type of cancer, if not even tailored to the individual.
The right diagnostic procedures will be the key to personalised medicine. In the future, after an analysis of the genome, appropriate vaccinations will be administered so that the disease does not break out in the first place.
This will not only be beneficial for patients (best treatment), but also for the healthcare system (efficient use of budgets) as well as for regulatory authorities (increased effectiveness and safety).
Increased digitization and collection/utilization of personal data also shows great potential for faster and more targeted diagnosis and treatment. For example, continuous measurement of blood glucose levels in type 1 diabetes patients can enable a faster response to deviations and a pump will deliver insulin in the required amount when it is really needed.
Or tracking health data via iPhone apps over a long period of time allows for better diagnosis or analysis of fitness levels.
So the pharmaceutical industry will be around for a good while.
Corporate leaders today are asked from various quarters about the purpose of the company or the specific mission of the company. How do you meet this demand? What positive or critical lessons have you learned? What advice would you give to a CEO in another industry on how best to approach this issue.
The question of “why a company exists” is one of the most important questions if we want to give our company a long-term orientation. Customers, employees and investors need to know and understand where the journey is going if they are to be part of it.
This requires a vision that describes in a very concise way what our company stands for and what benefits we want to provide to our customers or society.
Seriously dealing with this requires several coordination processes with the supervisory board, the management and selected employees (see answers to question 4).
Only then will you have created a framework of orientation that enables management and executives to have support when making important decisions.
This framework should be reviewed at regular intervals with representatives of the workforce and adapted if necessary.
The so-called stakeholders, especially the (institutional) shareholders, are much more aware of their ownership rights and obligations than they were a few years ago. It is therefore no longer sufficient to simply tick off the requirements of a code (“comply-or-explain”). Internationally, the intensive and permanent communication/interaction of stakeholders with company management is on the rise (“apply-and-explain”). What trends do you see here and how do you assess them?
We also sense this trend very clearly among companies listed on the stock exchange and are therefore in continuous dialogue with major investors and “proxy” representatives. Basically, we see this as an important credibility feature and even as a possible competitive advantage of a consistent corporate strategy that is sustainable both internally and externally.
Only truly honest and transparent communication can be helpful here in the long run and requires more commitment, communication skills and external presence from board members but also supervisory board members. This ultimately serves the all-time authenticity of a company.
At present, #FutureGoodGovernance is still comparable to a crystal ball in many areas. What future aspects of good governance are you particularly concerned about? What would you wish for if you had three wishes free? Where do you see a challenge for politics? And what responsibilities will companies and their managers have in the future?
In general, we would like to see less unnecessary bureaucracy and a reduction in the general complexity of the various regulations. Fewer regulations are more!
This illustrates our desire for a better balance between framework conditions and scope for action, which would allow for the promotion of individual responsibility on the part of companies and actually reward responsible action on the part of supervisory boards.
In the interest of the companies, more sensitivity and down-to-earthness in the payment and remuneration of board members is certainly in demand.