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What is a "heavyweight project team" and how does it differ from the traditional approach used for organizing development projects at Eli Lilly? This consists of two issues. First, is an evaluation of the changes taking place in the pharmaceutical industry and what it is that caused Lilly to feel compelled to try the heavyweight development approach on two of its drug development projects? Second, is understanding the essence of the heavyweight team approach, particularly as it has been used by Lilly?
A Heavyweight team structure is a project management organizational structure that consists of specialized experts led by a project manager that engages members from different functions to relate to each other to improve products and processes that need to undergo major changes. The project manager – usually a higher officer in the company is responsible for the work of all those involved in the project. A functional structure on the other hand, is a traditional approach found in most mature and larger companies where people are grouped in disciplines that work under a sub-function manager. The different sub-functions coordinate ideas through detailed specifications that all parties agree to at the onset and meet occasionally to discuss issues that cut across the various groups. Over time, primary responsibility for the project passes sequentially from one function to the next - a transfer process termed "throwing it over the wall".
Five key characteristics defines a heavyweight team at Lilly. First and foremost, the teams were each given a very clear business charter “to focus exclusively on the development of a single compound.” Second, each team was co-located and cross functional. Third, the teams were each led by a “heavyweight” project manager. Fourth, each team took responsibility for the sub-stance of the work, how the work was accomplished, and the ensuing results. Finally, each team had two executive sponsors, one from LRL (Lilly Research Laboratories) and

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