Sort answer. It's the Bottom Line, Stupid!
I guess that gives away the punch line. Regardless, here's an interesting post on the topic from Stewart Lyman in this morning's Xconomy. In it, he notes that the average tenure for a top R&D exec in pharma is only 7 years. Think about that when comparind the average length of time it takes to get a drug on the market -- usually reported in 10-15 year range. It doesn't take a math major to figure out that the your average R&D head won't actually be around for new product he/she (mostly hes of course) starts in development.
The post questions -- how do you really say who did the best job in getting a drug to market? The R&D guy who started the project or the one who was in residence when it was approved to market? Don't know. Not easy to figure out. Further, given that length of time, the main way an R&D head can make an impact now is to acquire drugs that can be launched on his (or her) watch.
Brings us back to the punchline. As R&D head, you are only as good as your company's revenue and stock performance --- regardless if you caused it or not. Just be in the chair at the right time. Sounds fanciful huh?
Maybe it makes sense if you buy into the premise of this Forbes article about CEO's and their lack of [people] management skills. In a recent survey, 160 CEOs and directors were polled with regard to CEO strengths and weaknesses. It turns out that directors rank their CEOs as poor people managers. It further indicates that the MOST important thing that CEOs were rated on by boards was their company's "accounting, operating or stock performance." Not their ability to mentor, develop people, listen, resolve conflict, delegate ,etc.
It was how well the company performed on the bottom line. Given that CEOs are only in their jobs about 8.4 years (and pharma even less), it's likely you have the same phenomenon going for you at the CEO level as you do for head of R&D. The secret is being in the right place at the right time.
Posted by Bruce Lehr May 29th 2013.