Fast Track


Some R&D prototypes appear to be natural winners. They garner universal agreement that they are bound for glory: blockbuster+ status. Since they come along so infrequently in today’s R&D organization, they attract the top players, sometimes forcefully, and all the resources they need for rapid commercialization+. They are fast tracked to commercialization (they receive a gold pass).

Let's take all the best resources from across the organization and throw it at this R&D product to rush it through commercialization. No more budgetary constraints, no more contracting hurdles, remove all the normal bureaucratic obstacles, expedite everything. Let everyone know they are either pushing this product or they had better get out of the way.

Weaknesses Not necessarily a worst practice, just that it should be unnecessary. It assumes stopgaps are in place that we can remove when we have a product that is hot. These stopgaps are designed to slow down progress and make it look like we're doing something heroic by removing them for a fast track product. Instead there should be no hurdles. Someone hasn't thought through the normal operating mode carefully enough so that fast track isn't necessary.

If you fast track a product through to commercialization then you slow down all other projects in the system. Those hurdles you removed are now looking for where else they can get in the way. And that means many other products have to carry the burden for the fast track product.

If you see this practice it's a sign that the overall R&D system is dysfunctional and the fast track product merely exposes the bottlenecks. There should be no need to have to focus the entire R&D organization on a single product in order to push it over the finish line. All this does is open up the gates so that many individuals who probably were in the way of the original discovery can now claim credit for the discovery. The individual or department that carries the ball over the goal line get all the kudos, bonuses and promotions.

Appropriate Uses

Only as a means to identify roadblocks or obstacles in the overall R&D process. Otherwise fast track should be the normal operating mode, and hence fast becomes the average.

Note that fast track does not mean speed to market, one of the other Worst Practices+. We do not seek process optimization+ in R&D. Rather we remove unnecesary administrative obstacles, whether or not the particular R&D product is moving fast or not towards commercialization.


Further Reading