Johnson & Johnson Uses Small Squads To Act Like a Start-up - Bold Business

John Miles

By John Miles
EVP & Associate Publisher

Digital transformations are occurring across all large, medium and small industries and companies. New technologies are changing the way products are developed; how companies operate and streamline the entire manufacturing process. One of the largest and most well known multinational companies is now amongst those facing stiff competition, not only from its large rivals, but from a growing list of startups that are taking aim to disrupt the behemoth.

Johnson & Johnson is a well known multinational company with over 134,000 employees worldwide engaged in the research, development, manufacture and sale of a broad range of products in the healthcare field. The business is organized into three segments: Consumer, Pharmaceutical, and Medical devices. It had annual revenues of $76.5 billion in 2017, with earnings before taxes on income at $17.67 Billion down from $19.80 Billion the previous year and a high of $21.83B in 2013.

Start-ups are Taking Aim

The company competes with businesses of all sizes both locally and globally, and across its product lines. There is a significant and growing competition in research, involving the development and improvement of new products or enhancements to legacy products. Recently, Johnson and Johnson has felt the growth of this competition coming not from only the large typical players but from an assortment of start-ups that are able to produce new innovations at a faster pace.

$13.602 billion in 2017 an increase of 2.2%. Specifically the Baby care, oral care, women’s health and wound care franchises were all down significantly and facing new competition that is able to ideate more quickly.

Startups see the growth of these sectors and are expected to have a growth spurt which can raise awareness about their presence as investment opportunities. Additionally, these startups are operating in small agile teams with an attitude of building the next billion dollar company. These startups are laser focused on  specific product areas with the ability to examine the problem from a completely different perspective. Also, they lack the bureaucracy that is common in most large multinational companies. Amazon is famous for operating in small teams, similar to a start-up and Johnson and Johnson is not only taking notice, but making drastic changes.

Inspired by Amazon’s “Two Pizza Rule”

The 10-person squad was borrowed from Amazon, where team size was limited to the number of people which can be fed with two boxes of pizza during a meeting. In actual terms this was between 7 and 10 people. The group size also happens to be the optimal size for a small management group. For J&J, the idea for a more smaller teams was to help create a small company mindset, agile like a startup. 

Ideal management group size is equal to the number of people you can feed with two boxes of pizza, according to Amazon

J&J has recently reorganized the consumer business operations for improved flexibility by organizing itself into teams or squads of 10. The competitive environment requires substantial investments in continuing research.

In addition, the development and maintenance of customer demand for the Company’s consumer products.

Additionally, the company has launched Johnson & Johnson Innovation with the first centers in California, Boston, London and Asia Pacific. The goal is to develop regional innovation in the areas of medical technologies, consumer healthcare, and therapeutics.  These centers bring together business development, venture investment, incubation and R&D from across the company.

According to Paul Soffels, M.D., the Chief Scientific Officer, “At Johnson & Johnson innovation, our goal is to bring forth highly differentiated healthcare solutions that extend and improve lives.”

The Consumer division has also extended this mindset, as a request, to its advertising partners. It instigated a review of its agency partnerships with the aim of streamlining the workload. According to Alison Lewis, Chief Marketing Officer of J&J Consumer, this does not change the actual workflow, like a request for proposal, as well as brand assignments for the creative agencies. However, it will streamline agency teams aligning them with the changes done to the J&J U.S. consumer business, which is now composed of 10 multidisciplinary teams revolving around pain relief, oral care, and others.

This initiative is not meant to change the current line-up of agencies. However, it might impact the way the agencies work or the work distribution among the agencies. J&J like most large multinationals employ several specialty companies for its digital, social media, shopper and public relations. This would also result in a restructuring to eliminate duplication, including the use of multiple account managers working with J&J.

Jeff Smith, J&J Consumer for North America group chairman says that “we may not end up with an agency that does it all end to end.” He was referring to the various tasks agencies now do for the company, which include more than 20 touch points such as social media updates and interaction, digital media, social media video ads, apart from TV and video ads.

“If my squads are going to operate in a more agile, entrepreneurial way, they can’t really manage 20-plus touch points,” says Smith.

In the long run J&J is also looking at developing smaller in-house teams to handle quick turnaround, real-time interaction. This bold move is increasingly becoming a necessity for big multinationals and cannot be left to agencies.<

John Miles

John R. Miles
EVP & Associate Publisher

Brings visionary leadership style and talent as an international speaker for Bold Business. He is best known for his experience and knowledge regarding digital media and technology, business intelligence, innovation, and block chain. John headed digital strategy at Catalina Marketing as CTO and global head of operations and currently leads tech, healthcare and media investments at Virgo Investment Group, and has built the number one social brand at Dell as CIO. Miles is active on Twitter, has been published in a variety of media, and has delivered Key Notes at venues such as SalesForce’s DreamForce Conference and Oracle Open World. Miles graduated with honors from the U.S. Naval Academy.

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