Flexible yet stable variant production

Novo Nordisk and Implement Consulting Group

15 January 2019

The complexity of country-specific production

The global healthcare company Novo Nordisk accounts for more than half of the world’s insulin. Employing more than 41,000 people globally, the company has production sites in different countries ensuring swift and efficient product delivery for local markets.

But every time a potential change in production location or method is explored, local health authorities in each relevant country must approve the final decision. As a result, Novo Nordisk is required to plan and produce different variants of the same product depending on country-specific health authority approvals.

The project – Delivering a consistently high standard when local standards differ

To meet the demand for country-specific production, Novo Nordisk wanted to create a more stable and flexible variant planning solution that incorporated future business requirements. To do this, Novo Nordisk initiated a supply chain/IT enhancement project.

The original project followed the classic IT development approach of analyse, specify, develop, test and launch and planned for a launch in February 2017. But Implement drove a complete redesign of the project using the Half Double methodology, allowing the expected go-live date to be brought forward by five months.

Local translation

In the Half Double methodology, local translation of the three core components – Impact, Flow and Leadership – is essential. This is carried out using nine methods.


The focus in Half Double is to create a flow of impact throughout the entire project’s lifecycle. Novo Nordisk tailored impact to fit their project through the following methods:

Impact case

Very early on, Novo Nordisk clearly defined the business and behavioural impact they wanted the new solution to generate. A combined impact and goal hierarchy to distinguish high-level goals from more detailed impact elements and key deliverables was created.

The impact case formed the baseline for a common brainstorm on KPIs and how to measure the impact of the project. This included a behavioural KPI designed as a 10-question survey for a group of key users. To establish a clear “before and after” picture, Novo Nordisk made a baseline measurement of four KPIs before the go-live.

Impact solution design

Three workshops were established as part of the impact solution design process to front-load discussion and decision-making on the overall impact design.

  1. Participants visualised an end-to-end IT process flow and defined a set of possible solution designs.
  2. The overall solution design was chosen.
  3. The solution design chosen was further analysed.

The impact case and the solution design formed the basis for the overall project planning. Phases were designed according to the impact solution design instead of the traditional IT waterfall approach. Each phase was planned as an individual sprint covering design, development and test activities. This ensured delivery of the full process within the phase – and it helped to focus on the process and solution and to front-load impact.

Pulse checks

Novo Nordisk tracked the energy of the project and created an energising environment using a monthly pulse check survey. It was executed throughout the entire lifespan of the project, targeting the core project team, the review team and the steering committee.

A very simple mini-pulse check was conducted at the weekly morning sprint status meeting and at the weekly review meeting on a poster with one question and a scale from 1:-( to 5 :-): “Honestly, are we on the right track? What is your gut feeling?” This approach facilitated an honest and easy way to gain feedback as part of two of the most important touchpoints of a normal week in the project.


Half Double has a clear focus on intensity and frequent interaction in project work. Novo Nordisk tailored flow to fit their project through the following methods:

+ 50% allocation and co-location

Novo Nordisk allocated a multiskilled core team to the project. For around 60% of the period, the project team occupied a common project office space at Novo Nordisk headquarters in Bagsværd.

Visual leadership of plans and solutions

The project team decided on the extensive use of visualisation for a broad range of communication to internal and external stakeholders. For example, a large brown piece of paper visualising the impact solution design quickly turned into the “backbone” of the project. At the weekly meetings with the review team, visualisation made it easier to follow the progress of the solution.

In addition, coloured index cards were used to visualise complex and detailed solution details – and the test plan for solution test purposes was visualised on a poster on the project room wall, illustrating the status of individual test cases.

Project pulse and rhythm

Novo Nordisk created a fixed project rhythm and follow-up to ensure a clear focus and weekly progression on deliverables. They used visually managed sprint plans, set up a weekly 30-minute stand-up meeting – that ran through both the previous week’s progress and the plan for the coming week – and made a simple short-term resource allocation plan, as well as a simple “master plan” of all scheduled sprints to provide a high-level project plan overview.

Key stakeholders were selected for a review team and invited for a weekly one-hour meeting to ensure close dialogue on progress, process and solution design. The closeness to important stakeholders created trust in and commitment to the solution, and enabled the project team to front-load several discussions. The meetings had a frank atmosphere and became “the energiser of the week” for several stakeholders.


Half Double Leadership embraces uncertainty by facilitating a collaborative journey towards a common goal. Novo Nordisk tailored leadership to fit their project through the following methods:

Active project ownership

The project owner was invited to the weekly review meeting with the goal of biweekly attendance. In the beginning this proved difficult. However, after the first attendance, it was clear to all that this was a very valuable constellation. Having the project owner in the room empowered and energised the project team – and the project owner gained valuable insights into the project.

Collaborative project leadership

Novo Nordisk set up monthly coaching meetings with the project leader to support the extensive focus on project leadership. At the meetings, subjects ranging from sprint planning techniques, handling of important gate meetings with the governance board and personal development were covered. Also, the meetings initiated a habit of continuous reflection and change of practice which turned out to be essential for great leadership.

Local adaption

In accordance with Half Double, Novo Nordisk tailored the project model to adapt it locally and put people before systems. This meant deviating from the otherwise quite institutionalised project and IT governance, which required some effort from project management. In this situation, strong project ownership proved important as the project owner highlighted that because of the Half Double methodology, he had been more involved in this project than in other projects and, from what he had seen, was confident that it was the right approach for this project.

Project results

Some success parameters of this project include the surprisingly energising effect of the weekly review team meetings and the decision to advance the go-live of the solution by several months. To do this it was necessary to run many parallel sprints to meet deadlines. The Half Double methodology made this increase in project intensity possible.

Overall, the project reduced time to impact by 47% as the go-live date was brought forward from February 2017 to June 2016. The solution also created user impact by reducing the number of weekly hours spent on “firefighting”. On average, the core team gave it a score of 4.3 on a 1-5 scale.

Related0 4