High risk projects – a good thing in moderation


I was cleaning out some old files and came across a strategy document. The strategy happened when our company had been bought and a consulting company was there to assess the various groups. The summary for our group was that we had lost focus and would be better served if we stuck to our core competence of evaluations and reliability. Evaluations meant product performance evaluations and statistical analyses related to getting a product approved by the FDA and reliability meant improving the reliability of instrument systems under development through the use of data analysis methods.

This was pretty standard stuff back then. When a company was bought, you brought in a consulting company started by Harvard Business School professors (this one was called Integral) to suggest a bunch of changes.

The problem was that our original core competence was just evaluations. The reliability component had been started by our group as a means of expanding our services where we thought we could provide value. In fact, our reliability services had become our most valuable service. Had this consulting company been brought in when our reliability program was in its infancy, undoubtedly, we would have been told to drop it and stick to evaluations.

The point is that most organizations look to grow and the attempts to grow involve risk. Some projects succeed – most fail. Our company back then tried to expand in other areas – pulmonary function, pulse oximetry, coagulation: all failed. One other project – the automation of an immunoassay analyzer – the ACS 180 – was a huge success.

So some efforts should be devoted to high risk high reward projects.


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