The crisis reveals the character of a company

When the COVID-19 pandemic crippled the world, the focus – and hope for a recovery – was on the ability to test biotechnology. Although he took office just weeks before the outbreak of the pandemic, Tom Polen, CEO of BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company), is one of the key biotech industry leaders on the front lines of this fight.

In addition to finding a cure, accurate and effective diagnostic tests have become the keystone in following up infected people and those at risk afterwards. In other words, the strategy of identifying and isolating cases while scientists develop an offensive treatment plan was one of the most transparent preventative measures.

Very rarely, a newly appointed CEO is faced with a crisis of this magnitude, especially in the first quarter of starting the role of CEO. But the impact of a crisis is never singular; today, this is especially true in many branches of the medical field (and virtually all industries). As evidenced by responses from many global companies of all sizes and impacts, the way forward was inevitably unexplored with rare moments of adjustment. But to paraphrase Polen from our recent conversation on The CEO Show, crisis doesn’t create character; he reveals it.

At the heart of BD’s mission now is what they have always wanted to do: advance the world of healthcare. As one of the only biotech companies to offer a full range of solutions, from research to diagnosis to treatment, in the face of the aggravating challenges caused by COVID-19, BD’s global team of 65,000 people working on the front lines turned to their core values ​​and reinforced their sense of goal-oriented culture to move forward. As the leader of the company, Polen advocates for his people as the “real” force for change while working with international governments, the CDC and several diagnostic companies to provide a variety of solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic. The guiding principle for everyone at BD, especially now, is to “do our life’s work through our professional life”.

This work, according to Polen, includes three areas of interest for a safe transition out of lockdown: testing whether people have COVID-19; test if people had COVID-19; and building a robust surveillance system with real-time data to alert trends towards a second outbreak.

BD is considered the only company to offer all of these technologies.

To test if people have COVID-19, BD has launched several molecular tests that have received emergency use clearance from the FDA on their BD MAX system – and is working on a point-of-care antigen test to diagnose COVID-19 on their BD Veritor System – a fully portable, portable device. BD is also validating a serological test that looks for antibodies produced by the body to fight COVID-19 and determine past exposure. And, in partnership with the CDC, BD is working to determine how their systems in hundreds of hospitals across the country can detect anomalies and alert the national surveillance program.

As an accomplished endurance runner, Polen is no stranger to going through times of discomfort and applies his long-term winning mentality to his leadership style. Knowing that looking to the future calls for moments of reflection on the past, Polen focuses, in the face of difficult decisions, on the company’s values ​​of global growth, simplified practices and strong and empowered teams.

Polen said, “I would recommend that whenever a business is faced with a difficult decision or difficult situation, write down the principles that will be the basis of the road ahead. These principles should be grounded in the business purpose and used as a litmus test for all decisions that are made. This allows your team to make decisions in an agile way without always coming back to the CEO. If there is any doubt about the potential actions to take, go back to your principles and the answer will be clear.

To listen to the interview with Tom Polen and other CEOs, visit The CEO Forum

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