No Mechanics Allowed...

...at least until the inflection point, discussed below.

The commercialization+ team is handed a prototype+ and supporting materials that provides a solid base for a robust sub blockbuster+ product and potential for blockbuster status. Our core customer base will buy this product no matter what: it’s that good. We need the commercialization team to leverage this base and to expand it into one with full blockbuster potential. The commercialization team does this by adjusting the market mix: pricing, services, guarantees, add-ons, extensions, modularization, layering, branding, etc. The combinations and permutations are endless, and overlapping. There is always a risk of cannibalizing sales from a premium brand by making the economy brand too good. We need creative individuals in charge of commercialization: we don’t need mechanics.

Protect the base and add to it. It’s a battlefield strategy. We apply this thinking to our commercialization effort in a very real way. The market never stands still, and we need to have a team that adjusts to competitive pressures. This is not just a case of reaching into a features box, and picking and matching components and features, although we were careful to give you a box full of such features. This is a case of identifying and determining what new features are either needed or could be highly valued by consumers, and if they’re not in the box, then we build them during commercialization (remembering that creativity is key). We need agents who, in communication with field intelligence on the overall sway of the battle, can think independently and adjust their particular tactics to meet the situation on the ground.

All of our players, in each of their individual actions, are expected to understand the nature of effectiveness. Effectiveness means we steadily seek to increase our core customer base into a blockbuster one throughout commercialization. And we’re not interested in faux effectiveness+. Each interaction, each transaction, each play, has the potential to make or break the game, and we plan and contingency plan accordingly. We do all our work in bite-sized pieces, giving us the ability to tack and turn based on interim results. We never let whimsical efficiencies or repetitive tasks allow us to take our eyes off the ball. Weekly full-team updates to track effectiveness are not too often.

You get effective people by hiring them and not getting in their way with mechanical tasks. Our prototype build team has demonstrated their creativity – we bring forward key players from that build. For commercialization we look past the curricula vitae of our vendor-partners and their staff. We hire vendors based on the creativity of their free-format proposal+. We hire vendor staff based on their demonstration of creativity both from their experience and from a series of exercises we administer. Internal to the firm we know which players can demonstrate creativity from Ties That Bind+.

We seek stage two researchers+ for our vendor teams: individuals who are so good at what they do they are comfortable following unconventional approaches. We do have evaluation methodologies which we can use for identifying Stage Two candidates. We can use them to build our franchise teams (but see below, OBM+).

We worked hard to open up many options for your pursuit, in the physical prototype, the customer base, the subjective customer experience, etc. We give you broad latitude in your commercialization pursuit: just get us a blockbuster no matter what its shape and color. We don’t push you with arbitrary deadlines (although there is a fixed long term remaining-patent-life deadline to which we must do homage), fixed budgets or work metrics (i.e., this is a metrics-free zone). We eliminated cheap heuristics+ at the funding level: don’t bring them back at the working level. You’ve been given all the resources, time, flexibility and skills you need to be successful. No excuses.

ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR MANAGEMENT (OBM)

No mechanics allowed. This is not an exercise in applied rationality. We’re still in creative mode. We ask ourselves why people act mechanically:

  • Insecurity, uncertainty
  • Slapped down in the past for being creative, or have seen this happen to colleagues
  • Personality types
  • Limited exposure to different approaches or assignments
  • Over-reliance on ‘the right way’ (i.e., beliefs and values)

A diversity of reasons demands a diversity of solutions. We have many tools we can bring to bear on the topic: interview techniques, reference-checking, examinations, bite-sized decisions, mini-proposals, status updates, etc. Organizational Behavior Management, a future topic for in-depth discussion, is how we select from this toolkit.

With OBM we try a tool and if it works, great; if not, we try something else. OBM runs behavioral trials of different tools and techniques, and carefully disentangles the variables to see what works, when and how. The results of these trials are made available to franchisees to help them decide the right tools for selecting commercialization partners.

REGULATED INDUSTRIES

For World Class R&D prototypes, required regulatory studies add no further understanding of the intrinsic features or capabilities of the prototype (beyond what you get by having more and different technical experts study the prototype for a longer time-frame … a hallmark of ineffectiveness). Prior to regulatory approval, we honestly look into the mirror and state that this product is both safe and valued by our customers. We do this by having in place protections against our own faulty mirrors. Regulatory studies may surface false signals+ that need to be refuted. We waste time and resources dealing with distorted regulatory mirrors.

Today, outsourcers in regulated industries are often just mechanics. They take fodder, turn the crank, and let fall out what may. They have their set game plan, one which leverages junior staff at high pay rates, and one that is overly-reliant on quantitative techniques. That’s not what we want.

Well, I don't know as I want a lawyer [outsourcer] to tell me what I cannot do. I hire him to tell me how to do what I want to do. Morgan, J. P. (late 1800’s). cited in… The Life of Elbert H. Gary (Tarbell, 1925)

Regulatory approval is not a task you hand over to wobbly-kneed outsourcers. We want the same high levels of creativity that we had when we developed the prototype, tacking and turning, and an attitude of ‘anything goes’ (within legal and regulatory bounds) in negotiating with regulators and executing their required studies. Given today’s attitudes, this is going to take some time. Creativity in dealing with regulatory authorities is in short supply.

Unless Mother Nature throws us a curve, for example a product safety disaster+, there is no excuse for not receiving regulatory approval for a product labeled for use in a blockbuster customer base. For example, in the pharmaceutical industry, we recognize the numbers can turn against us for no intrinsic reason (for an analogy see the discussion of The Flour Beetle), so we build this element of randomness into our contingency plans. Blindly running clinical trials where it would difficult to recover from bad results is not a hallmark of effectiveness. Make each trial smaller, and more sharply focused. You can’t stop bad results from a bad regulatory process, but you can manage them much better than is often the case today.

This regulatory customer can impose ‘tweaks’ to the overall commercialization plan, but should not be allowed to substantially impact the overall product valuation+ – we need to be very aggressive in managing this customer’s expectations. Regulators follow the Three C’s+ and like to feel they add value. We need a commercialization team that gets close to the regulators, and empathizes with these needs. This means lining up others who think our product is great; this means leaving a few untidy ends for the regulator to uncover (documentation, etc.); this means empathizing with the quantitative mythos of the statisticians, etc. Regulators are looking for signals that both the firm and the product are backed up by individuals who are known in industry for their good reputation and for the care with which they protect that reputation.

Get me FDA approval on concrete in a capsule and I can sell it! Pharmaceutical Industry Sales Representative (2006). Personal Communication

...and of course there are more than enough miscreants and debacles in 'those other firms' to keep regulators busy. Show unstinting respect for the rules and you'll be allowed to bend a few (see here). Don't default to a mechanical approach in dealing with government regulation.

THE INFLECTION POINT

We reach a point where our blockbuster potential has been realized. Manufacturing is happy. Commercial Operations+ is happy. The regulators will be happy. What remains is a pile of documentation and procedural work that just needs to get done. We might tweak a feature or two right up to commercial launch, but in general all creative work is completed. This is our inflection point: bring in the mechanics.

Once we know the product is complete (80-95%) we don’t waste a single day getting it to market. We drive home the completed product by bringing in personality-types known for finishing the job, regardless of how many egos get bruised. We need the personality of a Finisher-Completer, the individual who takes pride in getting the job done, and who doesn’t really care what the job is. We congratulate our creative and critical thinkers, they were the real heroes of this success, but we brook no discussion on who’s now in charge. We race to the finish line.


Home Page September 2010