Label-Driven Designs

Description Label-driven design is a term that comes from the pharmaceutical industry. This practice forces R&D teams to do research and to develop towards a proforma label for the final product. The label is used to coordinate the research of all the teams working on the different facets of the product. So for example, a drug can be labeled to be once-a-day, able to be taken with food, doesn't have any side-effects (i.e., contra-indications) with the other medications, etc. Similar management practices are found in the chemical industry (i.e., by-products and waste streams). This practice is in recognition of the need to get all teams working towards a common pursuit. The label is not fully 'fixed', and changes occasioned by discoveries in any one team are 'communicated' to all the other teams via reference to the common label. Commercial input, marketing and sales, are critical to the success of this approach.

This is only a worst practice in how it gets implemented. Individuals tend to get too fixated on the label-at-hand, forgetting that its merely a placeholder for our current state of research. Dramatic changes or even complete replacement of a label should be commonplace in the hunt for innovative products. Often we see compensation schemes tied into the progression of the label, to the detriment of product innovation.

Labels should also not be a substitute for many other management practices that get all the disciplines working more closely together. The goal is for each technical discipline to develop implicit (internalized) knowledge that is common across all the disciplines. Labels cannot capture implicit knowledge+ without unduly delaying the research process. See Knowledge Sharing.

Also, commercial involvement should be at the bench and under the hood, so-to-speak. World Class R&D excels at both meeting unmet customer needs, and at driving those needs through new technologies. Commercial can achieve this only by having a thorough, almost hands-on understanding of emerging research capabilities. Merely reacting to changes in an on-screen label does not drive World Class behaviors.

Appropriate Uses Me-too+ and product extensions+, where the commercial goals are well-defined.


Further Reading