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July 9, 2008
How's The New Boss Doing?
Here’s a question that came up in a discussion at work the other day: when a new head of research comes in, how long should you give them before judging how they’re doing?
That’s a tough one to answer, I think, because there are a lot of variables. First is the size of the outfit, coupled with the scope of the position. A really big organization is a very, very hard thing to change, no matter how powerful the new person might be. I’m not at all sure how possible it is to change a company’s culture, but I’m pretty sure that it requires major shock therapy to do it. (If any of you have read C. N. Parkinson on what he calls “injelititis”, you’ll know the sort of thing I have in mind).
And different levels of authority affect processes with different timelines. A head of chemistry will be able to show results in less time than a head of research, who will need less time than a head of total R&D, because that person has to wait for the clinical results. As I’ve mentioned before, that seems to me to be one of the biggest challenges in this industry – the way that big changes can take years to work their way through to the results stage. It’s hard to steer intelligently if the front tires respond ten miles after you cut the wheel over hard.
You also have to ask what the new person is being asked to do. Steer the course on something that already seems to be working? Or shake the place up and make things happen (for once)? Expand the workforce, contract it, spend money or save it, stick with the existing therapeutic areas or branch into new ones? The job descriptions on these things are pretty wide-ranging, so the evaluations have to be, too. Without a clear idea of what the new boss is trying to do, it’s impossible to say how well it’s being done. You could wind up giving bozos credit for something that had nothing to do with them, or blame excellent managers for things that were completely out of their abilities to control. (I know, I know, that kind of thing happens all the time, but you don’t have to add to it if you can help it).
So, how long for an evaluation, then? One to three years for head of chemistry, five or six for head of research, up to ten for head of R&D (if they last that long?) I'd be interested in hearing other estimates. . .
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