What do I get for all my effort in World Class R&D?

If I come to you as a management consultant and say that I'm going to put in some new automation that will save ten thousand man-hours per year in an activity that is today routinely performed by your researchers; with the right cost you won't hesitate. I simply multiply the the value of the man-hours and compare that to the cost of the automation. But think about it. How does this automation make you more effective at R&D?

Automation, cost-cutting, reorganizations and all the typical consulting bag o' tricks can make you feel good as a manager. You've done something, and you can point to concrete results. Only they're fictitious results. The corporation is still bleeding money in its R&D operations, but perhaps it's just not bleeding as quickly. What can you do to really get product out the door from your R&D effort? And we're talking blockbuster+ products, not mere product extensions+, or products that cannibalize existing revenues.

You only get blockbusters by getting your people to be more creative. It has nothing to do with the amount of resources (beyond a rather minimal point), with the technologies, with patent laws, or with any of the many other bogeymen placed to scare you into spending your money on ineffective solutions. You can't bribe or punish your people into being more creative (at least for creativity directed at activities that lead to blockbuster products).

How are you going to get your people to be more creative? The answer is not Sunday School palaver: 'challenge your people', 'tap the inner resources of your people', 'treat your people with trust and respect', etc. We're in this for the big bucks, blockbuster revenues, and this means we need big egos. The answer is in how we structure the work, how we govern the work and how we govern the people. You can structure work to get greater effectiveness. It's just that nobody has yet to do it in industrial R&D. You can govern the work and people more effectively. Hasn't been tried. The reason? It's too damn hard.

World Class R&D - The Institute is all about getting you to focus on effectiveness. And this means, for the most part, forgetting everything you know about efficiency, cost-cutting, process optimization+, reorganizing, etc. A significant effort has been put into the elucidation and debunking of close to fifty cherished Worst Practices+ that are often found in industrial R&D. Most of these fifty find their basis in a love many people have for rhyme, order, reason, predictability, harmony and 'the truth'. It hasn't worked. This time we're going for disorder, anything goes+, messiness, constant changes in direction, passion-madness-cursing, and all the things we've been told nice people don't do. When's the last time you or any of your staff have resorted to deliberate acts of sabotage to advance their cause?

You want a timeline that will chart the path from your start in World Class R&D to your first blockbuster? You won't find it here. How will you know this isn't just another consultant 'flash in the pan'? Take the time to study the topic. There's no simple answer. There are no cheap heuristics+. Take any one of the Tools & Techniques and put in some really deep thinking about what it would take to make just one of them successful. You want alternate competing hypotheses+ ACH? Then you need to give me more time to explore all the alternates. You need to change the way you make decisions about my evidence. You need to allow me broader scope in my research to encompass all the uncovered alternates. You need to evaluate my progress based on my ability to generate plausible alternates ...and on and on.

To get started there are basically two approaches: revolutionary or evolutionary. Revolution is the surest way to succeed and to fail. If you 'step off the cliff' as will be described elsewhere, there's no retreat. You either become a World Class R&D organization or the corporation fails. If you take the cautious approach, then you had better be prepared for a thousand-and-one obstacles to be placed in your way by all the entrenched interests you built up over the decades. It can still be done, but only by very few. The entrenched interests are very good, world class, at hijacking innovative approaches and turning them to their own benefit. Being realistic, you may need for them to die off, literally.

What do you see that shows your getting closer to World Class status? The maturity matrices can be of help. But they're just ink on paper. Perhaps more  telling will be that growing cadre of individuals who firmly believe. The disciples of World Class R&D build their own momentum, to the point no one can stop them. And it's not wobbly-kneed belief. These folks have been thrown to the lions and have come out scratched up but even more dedicated. That's the surest sign of a World Class R&D organization.

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