- Vas Narasimhan, the new CEO of Swiss pharma giant Novartis, has ambitious plans for his 120,000-person company.
- Narasimhan said in November that he wants to "un-boss" the company's culture and is letting employees wear jeans to work.
- "I think there's been a lot of acceptance of the culture change, but now the hard work has begun," Narasimhan told Business Insider.
Novartis's new CEO has his work cut out for him.
Since stepping into the job in February, Vas Narasimhan's been working to change what the $230 billion pharmaceutical giant is known for.
Narasimhan is narrowing his focus to make Novartis a "breakthrough-medicines company" rather than a diversified healthcare conglomerate, divesting its consumer-health joint venture and announcing the spin-off of eye-care business Alcon in June.
And that includes changing up the company's culture to make big pharma a more appealing work environment for millennials. Already, half of Novartis's 120,000 workers are millennials. There are aesthetic changes involved, such as being allowed to wear jeans to work.
"We want to un-boss the company," Narasimhan said at the Forbes Healthcare Summit in New York in November. That means making employees feel accountable, rather than having to turn to a boss to make a decision.
But saying the culture is changing and actually making it change are two different things.
"For many people, they love the idea of the culture change. Everybody then wants to know why can't it happen right away," Narasimhan told Business Insider. "So then you have to explain to people, this takes time, leadership — it takes a lot of changes in how we work. But I think there's been a lot of acceptance of the culture change, but now the hard work has begun."
So as much as switching outfits and introducing communication tools like Yammer might help, it's going to take some work to pull the transition off.
"In the end, I need 12,000 leaders of people to change their behaviors," Narasimhan said. "It's not going to be slogans on posters or jeans."
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