Making digital transformation easier - some leadership learnings from GSK's Diane Krisciunas

Stuart Lauchlan Profile picture for user slauchlan March 13, 2024
Top transformation tips from GSK's Senior Vice President of Supply Chain Digital & Technology.


Digital transformation is tough at any time, right?  Or as Diane Krisciunas,  Senior Vice President, Supply Chain Digital & Technology at multi-national pharma and biotech giant GSK, observes: 

It's not that easy. In fact, I'd say it's a pretty tall order. These transformations rarely work as planned, and they take longer [and] cost more. And technology adoption is always more difficult than is expected.

Krisciunas took up her role at GSK during the COVID crisis, a challenging time, but one that opened up fresh opportunities: 

Everybody wanted to be part of the supply chain because the supply chain were heroes, right?

But having come on board in the middle of a pandemic, she had a major task ahead of her - to utilize digital technology and AI to help transform the global supply chain at GSK. At the time, GSK was transitioning into a pureplay bio-pharma company, while also engaged in cross-company digital transformation, she recalls: 

GSK’s strategy is to significantly grow our vaccines and our specialty portfolios, while maintaining growth in our general medicines. We focus on unmet needs and prevention. What that means for us in supply chain is that there are new platforms, new ways of manufacturing these complex medicines. We're at a key inflection point because, honestly, we've gone about as far as we can through the use of other means, lean practices and those kinds of things. We're at the point where we really need digital technology capability to unlock the next value and the next levels of performance. 

Our purpose at GSK is to get ahead of disease through the use of science, technology and talent. What that's meant for me is working with my team in the supply chain organization to design a fully-integrated digital and technology strategy that does everything from new product introduction, all the way through distribution, and a full stack that goes from the shop floor up to the cloud.


The ambition at GSK is to revolutionize the way its supply chain operates at every level, in every one of its 37 manufacturing sites, and across the 30,000 team members within the supply chain. The overall goal is to positively impact the lives of 2.5 billion people by the end of the decade. 

That’s a big ‘to do’ list for any organization. That said, Krisciunas' experience over the years has provided her with some valuable insights into how to execute such transformative programs successfully: 

The first thing is to know your business and make sure your technology strategy matches your business strategy. That might sound obvious, but it's really critical. There's times that we've seen where the technology projects don't necessarily hit what the business objectives are. 

That’s going to involve some learning curves in many instances. Krisciunas moved to GSK from General Electric where she had learned the importance of learning agility:

In my early days working at General Electric, it was expected essentially, if you are high-performing talent, that you would move roles every 18 months. It was also expected that you would be able to make an impact within three months of joining or taking on a new role. That forces you to be able to really improve your learning agility and understand the business context quickly around what you do. It teaches you to ask questions, and really humble yourself in a way, so that you can learn what you don't already know. As a leader, I think it's really important for us to be humble and to trust our teams.

I definitely had to leverage my learning agility when I joined GSK to learn the business, to understand the global supply chain processes. It was in the midst of COVID, so I didn't even get to visit a manufacturing plant for 12 or 18 months. But again, the people that worked in supply chain were considered heroes, and it felt important at the time, because it was important. 


The second insight Krisciunas offers is around the importance of creating mission-based teams to execute and deliver on the shared business/technology strategy. Again, she harks back to her experience at GE: 

We were working on a supply chain transformation there as well and we structured the teams first in a way to drive that overall supply chain transformation. But the thing that we started with first was the business outcomes that we wanted to drive, then we structured a team around those outcomes. So the areas that were focused on first were associated with improving quality and reducing the cost of waste, raw material deflation, and then driving cycle time improvements, which also led to inventory reduction. We created teams around those outcomes. We didn't really change the organization, we kind of just had everybody start working together against that common mission.

Having business rather than technology outcomes was a deliberate choice, forcing teams to think differently: 

We staffed the teams with experts both in the domain as well as in technology. We kind of took our best guess when we first formed the teams around what they needed, but then we evolved the teams over time. So, we would add a data scientist or a machine connectivity expert as necessary to be able to help them drive the outcome that they were going after. 

There are important leadership learnings to be taken here, suggests Krisciunas: 

Our jobs as leaders is to make sure that our teams are successful and they work best when they're empowered, that they're aligned around a common goal, and that their leaders inspire them and help break down barriers as their main role. It's important to hire the right kind of talent as well. I think IT competency and capability is really important, but I would also say that hiring people that are low ego and humble and can work together effectively on a team [and] be able to drive a common mission, because nobody can do this alone, is really important for success.

Use cases

Krisciunas’ third piece of advice is to pick your use cases with care, with an eye to early wins that can demonstrate business value. She cites an example of one such use case that GSK is working on with around forecasting accuracy: 

We knew forecasting accuracy was a challenge, especially in the vaccines portion of our business. It's hard for us. It's hard for other vaccines companies as well. It's not the easiest demand to be able to predict. And it's a long lead time manufacturing process. So something that takes 15 days to work on a human to have the immune response, it takes more than 15 months to be able to manufacture…If you don't make enough, you're not going have enough vaccines for all of the patients around the world. If you make too much, then you have too much inventory or you might end up in a situation where there's waste.

What's tech brings to bear here are existing models that can run in GSK’s data environment. This use case has delivered results, says Krisciunas: 

We've demonstrated that the models can improve our ability to forecast vaccines. We've tested three separate vaccines in four markets and we've seen an improvement, especially in our long range forecasts.


Her final learning is around the importance of adoption and culture, with the latter cited as the hardest part of what’s needed to drive transformation: 

It's not always easy to get data scientists and physical or biological scientists to work well together. It's mostly because I think they both think they know everything. But if you can get them to see the value that each other can bring, and get them to work together on a common goal, it's magic.

There are some important questions to ask to source that magic, she counsels: 

Who's doing what? What motivates your teams? What are the barriers, the pain points that you need to address in the agenda? Who are the key influencers, the ambassadors that you need to identify, consult, persuade, deploy? 

The answers to those questions will help to get everyone on the same page and lessen potential problems: 

Internal competition can be a real killer, whether that is competing priorities, competing teams, competing solutions. It's really important to get everyone aligned on a common vision and change agenda, and have everyone work together. If you can do that you can save a ton of time and really make progress. Ultimately, when you're tuned into your culture, it can make the connection to the bigger organizational strategy [and] you can drive change more efficiently and effectively. This builds alignment, relationships, trust, speed, and ultimately success.

And if all that falls into place, the outcome can be enormously positive, she concludes: 

 If we do all of these things, we will actually, maybe, be using our superpowers for a force for good.

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