Tilting at Windmills

By Daniel R. Matlis

This weeks CIO magazine has an interesting article entitled “Tilting at Silos: Fostering Teamwork Between Insulated Groups”  http://www.cio.com/article/118350?source=nlt_cioinsider
The author makes a good analogy between Don Quixote’s attack on windmills and the need for the Tech industry to tear down organizational silos.

In Life-Sciences, Windmills are armor plated and surrounded by motes.  Most Life-Science manufacturers are organized in well defined and delineated functional areas, each with specific roles and responsibilities.  Each of these functional areas have traditionally operated as silos or stove pipes, having their own well defined, independent and often unaligned goals, objectives and incentives.

For example, R&D might be incentivized on the number of new inventions or patents filed, regardless of how many of those make it to market successfully. On the other hand, sales people may be compensated on the number of units sold, regardless of how many are returned due to defects. This level of independence has lead to the “catapult effect”, where deliverables are thrown over the wall to the next functional area to deal with.

Today, as products become more complex, regulatory requirements more stringent and prices more disputed, medical device organizations must examine the entire product lifecycle and develop a unified, focused and interdependent approach to enable the creation of synergy and shared goals across the entire organization. This approach enables the development of products and processes which reduce variability and meet critical quality requirements with the least amount of time, resources and costs expended.

Technology is often viewed as the panacea to interconnecting silos and tilting windmills. Although technology is available today to enable this level of integration, technology can only enable change, not drive it. Tilting armor plated windmills requires cultural and organizational changes supported by mature technology.

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