Case Study: MSD


MSD is one of the leading pharmaceutical companies in the world. George Merck, founder of the company and a brilliant scientist famously said, ‘Bring the medicines to the people and the profits will follow’. This philosophy of management has created a sense of employee pride and meaning for more than 130 years. The Asia-Pacific Region is complex and diverse, consisting of 12 markets that include some of the most populous nations in the world. This complexity is mirrored in a very large leadership group of more than 30 people spanning regional leaders, country Managing Directors and Functional leaders with at times competing priorities.

In the perception of global headquarters, the region had been underperforming in market scale, access and financial performance, with expense ratios above global targets. While there was a very strong pipeline of new products, they needed to be brought to market much faster in order to achieve higher penetration – especially in vaccines and oncology. The Asia-Pacific region also had a reputation for being slow to adapt and for being slow to deliver on key outcomes.

On top of these challenges, in 2021, MSD ‘spun-out’ a portfolio of women’s health products into a new organisation called Organon, adding operational complexity and significant uncertainty. Of course, that is to say nothing of the immense challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

To respond to all of these forces, the Asia Pacific President, Dorthe Mikkelsen, understood the need to grow leadership capability, instil much higher levels of collaboration, and drive high levels of alignment to her ambitions. These ambitions included double-digit growth in revenue and touching the lives of 100 million patients with MSD’s innovative products and services. She wanted the region to make bold moves that resulted in increased innovation and experimentation. To increase the representation of Asian leaders in the global talent pool, Dorthe also wanted to increase their global visibility, lift commercial sophistication, and expand their impact on governments throughout the region.

Dorthe approached TAP to partner with her on this significant change agenda, based on a long history of collaboration between MSD and TAP all around the world.


A central focus of our engagement was the need to increase leadership alignment and impact, starting with the Managing Directors and Regional Core Team. Data was gathered to identify where each leader was making a constructive impact, and where they were inhibiting the performance of the business. Intensive coaching and goal alignment enabled each leader to make the shifts required to have a measurably better impact. Team standards were created and measured, to ensure that the region’s most senior leaders set an example for their team members to follow.

Strategic workstreams were established to create a focus on region-wide priorities, which led to increased collaboration and sharing of ideas. Goal clarity was enhanced through the use of leadership scorecards for each team member, along with regular peer feedback on each leader’s priorities.

Country level goals existed, but a unifying story was created to articulate the region’s growth aspirations to its thousands of staff. The story reinforced MSD’s purpose and priorities and allowed each staff member to understand how they contributed to overall success.

With the COVID-19 pandemic in full effect, we instituted regular thought leadership and group coaching sessions, so that the region’s most senior leaders could obtain insights and strategies to navigate through the enormous challenges they were facing. These sessions proved so useful, that they were recorded and shared across the region.


A recent remeasure of leadership impact evidenced a 45% increase in the leadership effectiveness of the senior team; a remarkable shift given all of the practical and emotional challenges caused by COVID-19. There is a shared sense of purpose among the team, higher levels of accountability, and much greater levels of resilience and adaptability, that has been recognized by the most senior executives at headquarters.

The region has successfully shifted its strategic focus from large revenue markets, to the more populous markets with significant growth potential, in alignment with MSD’s purpose. Experimentation and new innovations are bringing therapies to more patients, more quickly, than ever before.

The region is now a leaner but growing organization, with clear and focused priorities. Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, remote working, restricted access to health professionals and patients, plus the potential distraction from the Organon spin-off, revenue growth has lifted to high single digit levels, with anticipation of reaching the aspiration of double-digit revenue growth in the near future. According to independent data MSD became the fastest growing multinational pharmaceutical company in the Asia Pacific region in Q2 2021.



“I engaged TAP to help me drive superior levels of alignment and performance across the Asia-Pacific region, against a backdrop of very challenging market conditions, the onset of COVID-19 and the ‘spin-out’ of Organon from MSD.

Our partnership has proven to be very successful in increasing business results, by increasing the effectiveness of the MSD Asia Pacific leadership team.

TAP has brought a unique combination of excellent people, proven methodologies and relentless passion to our engagement. They are always purposeful in their approach and professional in every interaction – big or small.

Graham has effectively coached and aligned our team to much higher levels of performance; his insights are valuable and valued.

Peter has inspired our team to be ambitious, constructive, collaborative and to focus on what really matters.

As a result of our work together, and despite very challenging conditions, we have exceeded performance expectations and grown revenue substantially. We have a common leadership language, shared purpose, increased collaboration across the region, and our leadership team is working better together than ever before.

I can recommend TAP to any organization wanting to increase their leadership impact, achieve excellence in execution and produce superior performance results.”

Dorthe Mikkelsen


Asia-Pacific President