It would be understating things to say that pharmaceutical companies have a lot of challenges these days. The structure of the industry is changing. Cost pressures are mounting. The need for speed — getting products to market faster and before the competition — is greater than ever.

So when we worked with one client recently that wanted to make a cultural shift and see tangible results from it, we suggested three key areas where the company could change. In this case, let’s call them the three “E”s.

1) Elevate accountability.

You can’t achieve a breakthrough without getting this step right. Accountability needs to cover the entire organization, but it must filter, first, through leadership. Leadership has to be willing to be accountable itself, and it has to empower workers to hold themselves accountable, especially when issues arise.

One healthcare company we’ve worked with sent exactly that message: If the guy one cubicle over is messing things up, you are accountable for getting him back on track. That might mean dealing with him directly or through a manager, but it always means dealing with him in a way that is based on achieving the bigger, corporate goals rather then your personal agenda.

By taking this kind of approach, our client has moved away from a culture of finger pointing and blame and into one of shared responsibility. When they say, “We’re all in this together,” they mean it.

2) Ensure a high degree of inspirational leadership.

Look back at the first “E.” It says accountability starts at the top. So, too, does inspiration. And at our client company, the inspirational leadership was based on a concept that’s unique to pharmaceutical companies and healthcare firms: The patient comes first.

In our work, we’ve found employees are better motivated—and easier to lead—when they understand the value in their jobs and when their work has meaning. What’s more meaningful than directly improving the quality of a patient’s life with a new drug or maybe even saving a life with a new procedure?

That doesn’t mean the job of inspiring is easy for leaders in pharmaceutical firms. But when our client sent the message that, “We’re here for the patients,” it gave everyone in the company a rallying point.

3) Enable breakthrough thinking.

Let’s take another look back. This time at the word “breakthrough.” What are you breaking through? You’re breaking through old mindsets and business-as-usual approaches to doing business. You’re breaking through anything that is a barrier to a new and different kind of performance. Companies that want to achieve blockbuster results have to strip away the things that have kept them from those results in the past and redefine themselves around a simple query: Who are we going to be in the future?

For our client, the answer was that they were going to be a company that puts patients first and brings its products to market faster. And the real world results? For one of its most recent drug releases, the company shaved six weeks off its normal production process and saved $2 million in the process.

Put the three E’s in place in your enterprise and watch the results roll in.

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