Buffeting Winds of the Corporation - Introduction

I do the very best I know how, the very best I can, and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what is said against me won’t amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference Lincoln, Abraham... cited in Politics Among Nations

Turning the other cheek is fine for personal ethics. It’s disastrous for political ethics. The high moral ground merely exposes you to the buffeting winds of the corporation. This is not a gentlemanly sport we’re about to discuss. We use sabotage, impugning of character, private investigations, financial hijinks, exposés, subterfuge, propaganda and smear campaigns. Sleep with the CEO’s confidants to gain access to inside information. If you don’t have the stomach for these tactics you must find someone who does.

This month’s selection of articles explains how to protect World Class R&D from the buffeting winds of the corporation. By buffeting winds, we refer to actions harmful to R&D undertaken by c-level officials, despite delivery of promised results by R&D. R&D gets swept up into overall corporate restructurings, mergers, cost-cutting measures, etc. We build deliberate measures to protect R&D, in order to make sure it has the time and resources it needs to make discontinuous discovery+ successful.

Commercial results are key. I can’t protect you without them. R&D must show it is capable of delivering sub blockbuster+ products continuously, with the promise of discontinuously delivering blockbuster products. We leverage our commercial successes to extract even greater protections from the corporation. As will be discussed, we use sub blockbusters as bargaining chips; we use blockbusters as special moments to plead for or to purchase greater protections.

This is not a power play. We do this because smart and reasonable people (c-level and board officials) sometimes do dumb or bad things for the corporation. Buffeting winds often refer to the behaviors of those holding the purse strings. We step back and see what’s causing them to act badly, and put in place countervailing mechanisms. This means we make sure our side does not pick up the bad habits we’re trying to suppress.

You must be credible in your threats. You gain credibility through your actions. You must be willing to stare down the demagogue+ and beat him at his own game. The use of threats is distasteful to most people. So we use ratcheting mechanisms: protections are built in bite-sized pieces. We use tit-for-tat. We use surrogates or allies. We build autonomous response mechanisms. We design our threats so that people who cannot agree to their use in principle can accede to their use in specific instances.

The only thing powers-that-be understand is power. You either have it or you don’t. Everything else is Sunday School palaver. Political power consists in control over the minds and actions of men without resorting to force. It has three sources: expectation of benefit, fear of disadvantage, respect or love for men or institutions (see: Morgenthau). We leverage all three in our struggle for protection, but fear is the most effective threat in the position of an underdog (i.e., R&D versus the corporation).

There is no boundary between corporate and private life. Threats and counter threats do not stop at the office front door. We reach into the lives of individuals behaving badly in a very personal way. They often behave badly for personal benefit and therefore will be threatened with personal retribution. We reach into the pocketbook of the miscreants to extract the ill-gotten lucre. We tend to forget that a corporation is foremost a collection of people and we protect ourselves against individuals.

In R&D we seek legitimate political power, and this means we avoid tarnishing our institutional reputation needlessly. We promote our political ideologies (i.e., how our work benefits mankind, creates jobs, etc.) to give us the appearance of legitimacy. We seek the respect and love of men for our institution. As such, we use allies to carry out our dirty deeds.

You can’t do this without allies. We seek interest groups and individuals who feel our pain (or take joy in our retribution). And this means we build relationships with these groups in such a way that they are personally engaged. For example, we deliberately engage outside investors in our activities: corporate misbehavior hits them in the pocketbook. We leverage the interests of government regulators to punish corporate meddling by making it appear that this affects the safety and effectiveness of our products. Allies are the cornerstone of our protection strategy.

We develop non-threatening, public means for communicating our readiness and willingness to deploy R&D protections. Miscreants will forget, but when threats are carried out, it will not be a surprise, rather a reminder.

We protect R&D from the buffeting winds of the corporation – against precipitous changes in the relationship. The R&D organization must include the build of these protections into their own measures of success. You are not considered effective unless you find the means to protect the continuous funding of discontinuous discovery. Finding a blockbuster product is not enough; indeed, it often feeds bad behaviors on the part of c-level individuals (e.g., construction of corporate mausoleums). It is in everybody’s interest to identify, build and nurture these protections. Don’t worry; we build similar protections for the corporation against R&D behaviors-gone-bad: e.g., an Intellectual Property Repository+ to protect corporate interests, renegotiation clauses, and board-level control over R&D management.

Home Page August 2010