Managing Risky R&D – Stakeholders want a good return on their R&D investment, but the unknowns in this work defy budget and schedule. Earned Value Management (EVM) is widely used to manage complex programs, but standard EVM requires detailed plans that are hard to create and maintain for exploratory R&D. We developed an approach to EVM that addresses this dilemma using R&D-tailored budgets and metrics that help assess meaningful progress and manage stakeholder expectations. This was used to manage a $10M government-sponsored advanced R&D program, leading to the successful win of a $13M second phase over a competing company.
Getting Business Units to Cooperate – An advanced technology firm was organized around largely autonomous business units. The diversity and agility of these units had been crucial to the firm’s substantial success. However, their diverse cultures created conflict when the units tried to collaborate on the larger programs the firm needed for its continued growth. We created a planning process for multi-organizational projects that exposed the implicit objectives and concerns of each business unit, and guided pre-conflict discussions that led to productive collaboration. Such collaborations grew to account for over 42 percent of the firm’s revenues.
Building Executive Relationships – An entrepreneurial Ph.D. was promoted to Director of a 25-person advanced technology division. We were asked to mentor him in his new role and lead one of his business units. Key to the Director’s performance and peace of mind was helping him build productive relationships with other senior managers in the firm. He was able to broaden his appreciation of diverse points of view, transforming what had been clashes between strong-minded individuals into effective collaboration. During its first year of operation, the Division’s revenues grew by 45 percent.
Empowering Group Leaders – The Director of a highly collaborative non-profit organization was frustrated that the pursuit of new funding was falling totally on her shoulders. She could not get her group leaders to take an interest in this aspect of the organization’s work. We helped the Director recast her organization as a collection of “business units”, with group leaders empowered as full partners in the “business”, including the pursuit of funding.
Harmonizing Diverse Experts
– A Program Manager and a Chief Architect met with a Principal Engineer to review and guide the engineer’s work. After the meeting, the Program Manager and the Chief Architect independently approached their Department Manager, each distressed that the other had acted unprofessionally toward the Principal Engineer. The Program Manager and Chief Architect agreed to a meeting, during which we facilitated open, respectful communication. They left the meeting with renewed respect and a deeper appreciation of differences in personal style.