Why It Pays to End Well

Whether it be employment, a personal relationship, a contract, or any other investment: it pays to do end-game well even if it costs a little more. There are a dozen good reasons for this, for example:

  • Others are watching and will react accordingly
  • You don’t want your dirty laundry aired
  • You don’t know what the future will bring (e.g., individuals involved may one day be your boss, your FDA regulator, a key witness in your next product liability case)
  • Good referrals from ex-members are pivotal for others considering membership+ in your franchise
  • Good endings allow everyone to concentrate on the ‘lessons learned’ and not the bad feelings
  • You keep alive possibilities for ‘phoenix rising’ moments, where success rises from the ashes of failed efforts
  • You feel better about yourself, and do a better job in the future.

Most importantly we do end-game well to keep individual motivations intact. We have spent great effort in getting researchers World Class R&D-certified and they’re quite valuable and unique in our industry. We want them to approach us anew with further research propositions (or as future employees).

Even if we do pre-game+, mid-game+ and commercialization+ well, if we don’t do end-game well, individuals will take your money but will always be looking over their shoulder to see if you’re getting ready to do to them what you did to that other guy. They make sure they know how to find the emergency exit. An undercurrent of distrust develops, which will be unspoken. You try to do 'fixes' elsewhere in R&D to improve productivity but they always come up short and you’re left wondering why. Perhaps a better way to view end-game is to flip it on its head: it’s how you end an investment that drives your success in pre-game and mid-game, and not the other way around.

The only way you can reliably measure interim progress during mid-game is to set it up so research unit management comes to you when Mother Nature has left the building. This only happens when the consequences of this admission are manageable.Otherwise you often have no way of knowing whether or not further work within the technology platform has blockbuster+ potential or not. For example, if a research unit is working on drugs to manage AIDS and an effective AIDS vaccine comes out, the first thing I’ll do as head of the research unit is trumpet how effective our work will be for Rheumatoid Arthritis or one of the many cancers. If my only other choice is precipitous shutdown then my trumpeting swells to a roar (I may even come to believe my own puff).

There is a category of behaviors we call Insecurities of the Highly Educated+. You can’t get great science from insecure researchers. How end-game is (mis)handled gets amplified manifold in the already anxious natures of many highly educated individuals. You think you’re saving a few tens of million of U.S. dollars by precipitously shutting down an under-performing research unit, but in reality you’re losing hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars in reduced productivity from those that remain.

End-game is an investment decision, and as a firm we commit to doing our investment decisions well. We know not just to turn off the spicket. We are self-aware of our own susceptibility to bad investment behaviors+. We are constantly on alert to decision making bias caused by ‘regrets’. Done well, we end investments with an eye toward how this may affect our own feelings toward other investments, both present and to come. We need to feel good about the quality of the decision that leads to an end-game: that it was in the best interest of both our investors and the researchers affected by the decision. The firm sets aside funding for end-game as an investment and looks to do this investment well.

Today end-game is often poorly done. We set arbitrary hurdles for an investment and use these as a measure to terminate the effort. We give no thought to what might have been, rather follow a mechanical (read mindless) approach to decision making. Bad decision makers are allowed to survive and often to thrive in today’s end-games. Precipitous shutdowns kill future evidence that would allow us to know whether or not the decision was well-made (i.e., falsification bias+): they kill any hope we have of continuously improving our end-game decisions. Worse, one bad end-game decision can wipe out years of productivity improvements in R&D.

What firm or executive wants to advertise they’re good at end-game on their brochure? Who wants to have the title Vice President of End Game+ on their resume? How we do end-game well is tricky. We don’t want researchers calling for an end-game just because they’ve run into some obstacles: we pay them to get around obstacles. But when the obstacles are just too great, we need recognition we don’t have unlimited time and budget. We need you to tell us when the time has come to do something else.

We end memberships in our franchise primarily when Mother Nature decides not to cooperate. Research unit management has tried and exhausted many of its contingency plans and backup options. Along the way, we may have swapped out management and team members looking for better results. In spite of these and many more efforts, all signs point to the need for this research unit to end its membership. We let research unit employees know we know it’s not their fault, since Mother Nature refused to cooperate, but we don’t continue a membership when it no longer serves the blockbuster pursuit. We do end-game well.

Note: we refer throughout the End-Game discussions to the franchise program (see here). End-game works best when the Research Unit is a separate legal entity within one of these programs. Recall franchisees have access to a line of credit so vigilance will increase on research unit spending should end-game be deemed likely.

Home Page October 2010

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