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The Clash of Structure and Chaos

By: Marie Alice Dibon
Posted: February 27, 2009, from the March 2009 issue of GCI Magazine.

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“We hire the best people, because good people tend to have good ideas,” explains Joe McCracken, vice president of business development for the company. “But we also favor different personalities for different jobs. For research we seek out individuals who want to explore new frontiers, whereas for manufacturing we seek out individuals who are happy performing the same tasks each day. Indeed, when $3 million is at stake in a batch of Avastin, you really don’t want a ‘more creative type’ introducing some new idea into the process. You want someone who can follow standard operating procedures (SOPs).”

“In fact, there are no SOPs in research,” continues McCracken.

No process control? Exactly.

2. Let Go of Control

Not only does Genentech have no SOPs in research, it also lets go of all control on a fifth of the researchers’ time. “We allow employees in research to spend 20% of their time on ‘skunk projects.’ These are secret projects,” says McCracken. “They don’t have to tell their bosses what they are doing.” And it pays. Many of Genentech’s star projects originated from this program.