Genesis of World Class R&D

World Class R&D started with a challenge: the more than decade-long slump in R&D productivity in the pharmaceutical industry. During that period, all the usual management crafts were tried across the industry but none worked. It was time for a fundamentally new look at the challenge.

First we developed a definition of effectiveness in R&D. Since the bulk of the work is performed by the researchers gathering evidence, this meant we needed to define effectiveness in terms of Evidence Gathering. We needed to be sure we were working on the right pursuit, that we all were working on the same right pursuit, and that we maximized the effectiveness of each and every study. See here.

The exhibit below is a clickable map: you can click on each of the bullet points for further explanation.
Genesis of World Class R&D

But effectiveness in evidence meant nothing if we continued to make decisions as before. New evidence runs up against old thinking in decisions. Since the decision maker is the customer for the evidence, then we needed to change the thinking of the customer. But the decision maker is looking up the hierarchy for approval to his or her new way of deciding. We needed to change the governance structure.

Evidence Gathering, Decision Making under uncertainty, and Governance are the three key areas that most greatly affect effectiveness in R&D. We need to fix these to fix the productivity slump in the pharmaceutical and other industries.

This definition of effectiveness then opened up new avenues of research for management of R&D. There were many other non-industrial organizations thinking about evidence gathering, decision making, and governance. Consider the military as a prime example. They are constantly in the process of gathering intelligence about enemy movements, and making rapid decisions that involve much more severe consequences than ever faced in industrial R&D. Outside industrial R&D are practices that are effective in each of these avenues of research.

So we step back from the management practice itself and ask ourselves what it is that makes certain practices effective (within their context) and others ineffective. The answer was found in what are termed behavior fundamentals+. There are certain truths about human behaviors that can be found across multiple disciplines. For example, we know much about the use of competition to drive superior performance. We also see that blind application of the principles of standardization, homogenization, and regimentation can lead to ineffectiveness in situations that call for creativity and self-motivation.

So in a nutshell this became the program of World Class R&D. Investigate management practices that give effectiveness (or not) in evidence gathering, decision making and governance, and find the core behavior fundamentals of these practices that cause them to work or not within certain contexts. Sounds simple until you realize how difficult it is to discern the true motivations of individual behaviors, and how even harder it is to change certain ingrained behaviors.

But that's the challenge of World Class R&D. We try out different management practices and see what it takes to make them effective, or when caution is advised in their use. We provide a quite extensive inventory of practices that we know do not work in industrial R&D for the pharmaceutical industry, the so-called Worst Practices+. We have a smaller collection of management practices that we know are quite effective outside of industrial R&D. Our work is to better understand how the former were allowed entry into R&D, given their now (in retrospect+) obvious flaws, and to better understand what it will take to insert the effective practices from outside industrial R&D into today's rather rigid R&D organizational structures.