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Study Stakeholder Collaboration Takes the Stage at DIA

By Christine Morris, Executive Director, Life Sciences Solutions

Tuesday, June 19, 2018 | 8:39 AM

If you’ve ever tried to wrangle a group of friends or family to plan an activity, you know that even simple collaboration across different personalities can be challenging. In a professional environment, the stakes are higher, and project stakeholders are justifiably passionate. These passions can bring out both the best and worst of people’s personalities and can amplify competing world views, motivations, and interests. Collaboration can sometimes feel like a full-contact sport.

I've been professionally involved in some form of cross-industry project management for 24 years now—much of that time spent in the trenches with clinical research professionals. Study stakeholders in clinical research make up a vast and complex network of people and personalities, all working towards a common goal of compliance and quality. Successful collaboration within such a complex network requires some finesse.

I learned very quickly that the best path to identifying win-win scenarios is to first take a step back and consider each stakeholder as the person that they are, with human needs and motivations. It becomes much easier to examine ways to position requests or suggestions when you can demonstrate an earnest effort to understand and provide a source of support for their needs. They become magically more receptive to understanding your needs as well. No tears or passive aggressive emails required!

In my private life, I have the privilege of sitting on the board of directors for Cary Playwright’s Forum. CPF is a North Carolina-based non-profit whose goal is to support aspiring and established playwrights through providing educational workshops; regular feedback sessions with other playwrights, actors, and directors; and the opportunity to collaborate with allied artists in stage readings and/or productions of their original work. In supporting our playwrights, we utilize stage readings as a collaboration tool.

"A stage reading is a form of theatre without sets or full costumes. The actors, who read from scripts, may be seated, stand in fixed positions, or incorporate minimal stage movement. ... A narrator may read stage directions aloud."

When pondering topics for DIA, it came to me that these two facets of my life could be married to provide a valuable service and tool for attendees in exploring stakeholder collaboration. Working with my CPF collaborators, Marina Acosta Enslen and Lydia Craft Sbityakov, we will have our audience perform scripts from representative communication scenarios, and then collaboratively break down what worked and didn’t work, and explore better ways to approach them in the future. Together, we will walk in the shoes of the professionals in each example and humanize our stakeholders.

Here is a quick example of the types of scenarios DIA attendees will explore together:

Scene: Allergy Study Phase III, approaching interim database lock. Mad rush to resolve queries in preparation for the lock.

Jordan, CRA;
Charlie, Study Coordinator;
Jamie, Data Specialist, performing listing review in prep for interim lock

The script explores a heated interaction between the cast of characters and begs the question "what’s in it for each of them?"

I’ve found throughout my career that the path to successful collaboration involves a bit of empathy— taking some time to consider where your stakeholders are coming from, and frame conversations accordingly. It isn’t possible to avoid all potential conflicts, but this strategy can reduce them significantly, while also providing a much greater opportunity to build scenarios where everyone wins.

The theme for this year’s DIA meeting is "Driving Insights to Action." My hope is that our session attendees not only have fun enjoying an art form, but also walk away with insights that enable them to have more productive stakeholder interactions. Come see us in Boston on Wednesday June 27, 2018, 2:00pm - 3:15pm!

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