How to Implement Management Tools

We’ve tried that and it doesn’t work. Pharmaceutical Industry Colleague (2009). Personal Communication

The challenge of implementing any new tool or technique is it often doesn’t fit within the existing toolsets / mindsets. For example, if we need to go slower to be more effective in evidence gathering, then we need to be more patient in our decision making. One rushed decision can wipe out years of effort in implementing new evidence gathering techniques.

You can’t implement new management tools & techniques without considering R&D from an overall perspective. The nature of effectiveness, our stated goal, demands everyone take a step forward at the same time. Have only a few individuals or technical disciplines stand back from the change and the entire effort can be endangered: individual management tools & techniques don’t have a chance. This caveats all the implementation advice in this article.

Our implementation approach leverages Keystone Projects. Certain tools or techniques, done well, incite change across the entire research effort. Pay-for-Performance is an example. Done well it exposes the flaws in how we select vendors for work in commercialization. Fixing these flaws exposes the flaws in the prototypes brought forward into commercialization, and so on. Do Pay-for-Performance well and you are forced to revisit much of the other work done in R&D.

Other Keystone Projects are Franchise Management and Alternate Competing Hypotheses. Done well these management tools drive change across the entire R&D organization.

Successful implementation of a keystone project requires an extraordinary level of tenacity by its sponsor(s). Everyone is still a Stage One researcher or manager and will be expecting a definitive mechanical solution (which doesn’t exist). The concrete benefits of the keystone project only gradually come into view. The costs, both financial and emotional, appear almost immediately. The strength of a keystone project is in its ability to expose weaknesses across the rest of the organization, weaknesses others may not want exposed. There will be few believers, much dissent and disruption, and many avenues for co-option of the project for personal gain. Keystone Projects are catalysts for broader change, and change is often resisted.

Keystone projects can be multi-year efforts, with suggestions of retreat never being far from your ear. You need true believers. Success comes from authenticity of the belief instilled in a cadre of colleagues. [fn]In a creative endeavor we do not use gavage: individuals must freely assent to new management tools because they see it’s in their best interests.[/fn] Engage 21% of your target audience into your program, into your revolution, and it becomes unstoppable. Even regime change is no longer an obstacle.

You can waste a lot of time talking about Keystone Projects in a conference room. Pick one and run with it. When you pick one, stick with it long enough to see it through. You may find you’ve selected the wrong one. Pick another and start over. There will be a thousand obstacles. You may need to replace a few staff. Don’t worry about change-fatigue or other common admonishments in the trade publications. Your managers and researchers need to get use to the idea of evidence-based management. This means we try something and if it doesn’t work we swap it out and try something else.

Keystone projects must be seen within the context of the broader change program. Take solace in your trials and tribulations from the fact that one Keystone Project done well can be the catalyst that sweeps change across the entire organization. If you believe in the World Class R&D goals (challenging careers, great new products, robust industry and economy, etc.) then you’ll find within yourself what it takes to make these keystone projects a success.

I'm not talking about publicity, Bob. It's the glory you carry inside you the rest of your life knowing you've done something, something that made a difference. Benjamin Bratt as Lt. Colonel Mucci, from the fact-based movie “The Great Raid


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