Management of Research and Development Organizations: Managing the Unmanageable Review

Management of Research and Development Organizations: Managing the Unmanageable
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This book as many of the characteristics of academic papers. It contains a very detailed and complete review of issues and literature on the problem of managing R&D. However, each and every chapter typically ends with more or less generic recommendations and prescriptions on how to 'manage the unmanageable'. For one thing, the authors show a clear bias in favor of researchers and scientists as opposed to business managers. This is the most popular view commonly held in academia today, where professional management is considered ultimately a burden to creativity and true R&D. This position emerges especially in chapter 13 on "The University Research Enterprise". The concluding comments in this chapters match the simplistic views on R&D held in academia today, like: the largest and most creative segment of the basic research enterprise resides at academic institution, the public and Congress need to be "educated" about the importance of research", society and science 'need' research. Such conclusions are not only simplistic, but also very inconsistent with the history of R&D in this country. In particular, they miss completely the historical and political perspective on how research and science have evolved especially after World War II. It does not take much analysis to recognize that the big boost to basic research in the last 50 years has been motivated by political factors like World War II itself, and the ensuing Cold War (think of the big competition for space exploration). It was not an act of an 'educated' Congress, and it is not fortuitous that government funding of research has been decreasing in recent years as the Cold War came to an end. Similarly, a lot of technological advances have originated in companies, as more and more talented people have been leaving universities to seek better employment in rich industries. Failing to see the links between basic research and the current political and economical environment is a typical mistake that most people in academia make, and one that is causing a lot of academic research to become increasingly irrelevant to industries, because academic researchers fail to see the links between their work and the surrouding environment.
The authors also miss completely to analyze the relationship between the issues they treat in the book, efficient leadership, decision making, conflict resolution, and the actual managerial structure of academic and laboratory institutions. They never examine, for example, whether or not the current tenure system is actually compatible with effective management of R&D projects. The tenure system, where tenure faculties are basically 'untouchables' and hold much power over the rest of the researchers, is one of the causes that hinder rapid change and innovation of ideas in academia. Too often, in fact, the younger researchers have to limit their creative abilities in order to produce papers that are acceptable to their older peers, so that they can be promoted to the higher academic ranks (tenure). In this respect, research groups in academia are very different from groups in industry. Academic research groups are more like little feudal systems, where a single (tenured) faculty rules over the group. The ability to conduct technical research is routinely confused with the ability to manage, with disastrous consequences for the efficiency of the laboratories, and even more disastrous wastes of federal money. Furthermore, academia typically rewards individual contributions rather than teamwork, a practice that limits enourmously the management of large-scale projects. These issues are well known, and have been discussed in many professional publications.
In summary, I found this book much less useful than other books on R&D management written by consultants and project leaders involved with industry (e.g., the book by Roussel et al.). While it is a comprehensive source of references and data, it remains simplistic and generic in addressing the really complex issues of innovation and change in R&D organizations. Furthermore, it fails to discuss the hard managerial issues related to the current organizational structure of research institutions like universities, where the very notion of efficient management is totally absent.

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Product Description:
This edition has been completely revised. The authors, noted authorities in the field, focus on ways to improve R&D organization productivity and foster excellence in such companies. They describe how to design jobs, organize hierarchies, resolve conflicts, motivate employees, and create an innovative work environment. Features extensive cross-cultural coverage of European and Pacific Rim R&D organizations and policies which greatly differ from the US. Includes an entirely new section on various strategic planning elements unique to an R&D organization along with a case study.

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