115
7
Removing Barriers within
the R&D Community
Communities are groups of people that work together toward a common
purpose. eir ability to do so, of course, depends on how strongly they
see their common purpose, and how eectively they can coordinate their
resources against that common purpose. In more than 100 improvement
projects within corporate research and development (R&D), some things
have emerged in the study of groups in their ability to overcome technical
and scientic hurdles over years of eort that, if we are lucky, will yield a
new pharmaceutical treatment.
e rst is that the majority (sometimes the vast majority) of work
that a research community performs is not directed toward achieve-
ment of its goals. Instead, a large amount of the time researchers,
managers, and support sta spend are in support of the system under
which the community operates. Colleagues do work required of them
by computers, forms, and facilities. Colleagues do work required to sat-
isfy interfaces between functions, and colleagues do work required by
management systems, ranging from project reviews to planning eorts
to human resources activities. Even a casual observer will note the
amount of time that a project team spends serving the broader sys-
tem, rather than the scientic work of creation and integration of new
knowledge, is quite large. So, let’s break down a few examples and show
how it looks.
116 • Creating a Lean R&D System
NONINNOVATION WORK
Supporting Basic Work Requirements
In R&D, a basic requirement of every scientist is to document his or her
work. She designs an experiment, runs the experiment, checks results
against her hypothesis, and then enters it into some sort of record-keeping
device. ese can be as simple as log books or as complicated as “elec-
tronic notebook” systems that substitute for log books, but store informa-
tion electronically.
In the course of work, materials must oen be purchased. In order to
do so, the scientist must ll out a form or enter data into a computer
system, which then is processed and, at some point in the future, is con-
verted into delivered materials to begin work. In other instances, mate-
rials must be machined, and an order must go to a machine shop to
perform the work.
ese are obvious work requirements, but we can make these activities
easy or onerous, and the activities, in themselves, serve nothing but the
underlying systems that use or store their data. Forms can be easy or dif-
cult to ll out, and it may even prove that no form is necessary at all, but
in the end, minutes and hours every day are spent serving these activities.
Supporting Interfaces
One vice president suggested that 80 percent of all knowledge is lost as soon
as it crosses an interface to another group. I cannot even begin to know if
that number is right, but consider that there are people who develop for-
mulations, recipes if you will, for the making of something. In the chemi-
cal industry, there are formulas for glue, for plastic parts, for explosives
and drilling slurries. In the pharmaceutical industry, there are formulas
for ointments, creams, tablets, and so on. Each of these is created by some-
one steeped in the understanding of ingredients and their combinations.
e person who actually compounds the materials together, that is, the
person who mixes the ingredients and puts them through an extruder, a
mixing tank, a tablet press or what have you, are typically unskilled in the
understanding of formulation. eir job is to make the stu, not to design
what stu it is to be made.

Get Creating a Lean R&D System now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from nearly 200 publishers.