Creating an R&D Strategy

by Gary P. Pisano

Overview — This note by Gary P. Pisano provides a framework for designing an R&D strategy. It starts with the simple notion that a strategy is a system approach to solving a problem. An R&D strategy is defined a coherent set of interrelated choices across decision concerning: organizational architecture, processes, people, and project portfolios. To illustrate the framework, we use examples of three pharmaceutical companies and examine how their different R&D strategies were rooted in different assumptions about the core driver of R&D performance. This suggests that the very first question to be answered in strategy development is: What's our shared understanding of the root cause of the problem we are trying to solve? Key concepts include:

  • A good strategy provides consistency, coherence, and alignment.
  • The "game plan" for an R&D organization can be broken down into 4 strategic levers: architecture, processes, people, and portfolio. Together, decisions made in each of these categories constitute the R&D strategy.
  • R&D performance results from the interaction of many different decisions and choices, including the size and location of R&D facilities, the division of labor between various groups, the choice of technologies used inside the R&D organization, the selection of personnel, the allocation of resources, the design of processes for managing projects, and other factors.

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