Thursday, September 19, 2013

This Roger Perlmutter quote seems a little entitled

"I need people who are prepared to change the world."
Credit: jackmalcolm.com
Roger Perlmutter is the new head of Merck Research, and he talked with Forbes' Matt Herper recently. Here's the final quote from Herper's really revealing article:
One result is that too many people can become risk-averse, not making big enough bets in a business that is built on risk and mystery. “I’ve said to people that my feeling is that if you’re a manager in our organization, not every day or every week, but every now and then, I expect you to bet your job. I expect you to come into me and say, ‘I’ll bet my job that this is right and we ought to be doing this.’ People should be prepared to do that,” Perlmutter says. He says people were quite surprised when he stood up and said that in front of the organization. “I’ve said,you know, if you’re not prepared to bet your job, why are you here? Because if all you’re going to do is manage in the traditional way, I don’t really need you here. I need people who are prepared to change the world.”
First, I think this is management big-talk that's not going to really change the way that people work. Perlmutter already made the changes he wanted to make when he let a bunch of management layers go -- the rest is all noise.

I'm in some sympathy with Perlmutter in that he's like the general manager or a head coach of a football team -- only results matter. He's only measured in terms of successful new drug launches and the like -- if there aren't enough, no matter the reason, he might be out on his ear.

In another sense, however, one might suspect that Perlmutter is independently wealthy enough that he can make that sort of declarative statement, "If you don't like the way I'm doing things, you can fire me." Not very many scientists, or managers of scientists are willing to make those sorts of statements. And maybe I'm wrong, but I'm guessing most of his people won't be, either. 

15 comments:

  1. Well, if he wants to say that, then he has to set up an environment where scientists feel like they can do that...in other words scientists feel free to take risks (ie if they fail they still have a job to go back to). Somehow I dont think he will do that because 1.) it's just to easy to replace workers that dont perform, and 2.) he is going to outsource as much of the company as he can (no matter what environment he might want to create) because he needs to cut a profit. If he does keep outsourcing then no one will have the spirit to take risks.

    Other than that, he, along with Jack Welch, both need to STFU, and be beaten with a tire iron until blood is drawn.

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    1. The beatings will continue until morale improves.

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  2. Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you're fired.

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    Replies
    1. 1) Glengarry Glen Ross is really coming up too often here, unfortunately because the future for almost everyone seems to look like the child of unmarried parents Glengarry Glen Ross and The Diamond Age. Congratulations on the birth can be sent by email to getbacktoworkyoulazybs@workuntilyoudieifyoucan.com.

      2) In continued happy news: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/19/business/americas-sinking-middle-class.html?_r=0

      It's really good to see that a rising tide floats...err, well, the really fortunate boats.

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    2. Whatever, dude -- I'm gonna be a rich Victorian, or maybe even an Equity Lord.

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  3. You know, if you want to inspire people, you shouldn't sound as if you live on another planet.

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  4. Before you make that big bet and throw caution to wind, maybe you should reflect on how well that worked out for Chase and their 900 million dollar fine.

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  5. So where are all of Permutter's resignation letters? Maybe he always bets right.

    With such a delusional putz at the top, maybe the safest bet of all is against MRK.

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  6. Okay, Perlmutter should bets his job on Merck's success, but to make it fair and interesting, he should bet 90% or more of his wealth and all his golden parachute benefits as well. That would be equivalent of a normal scientist betting their job. Otherwise it's just blowhard talk.

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  7. I'm wondering if there are truly good CEO's in the pharmaceutical industry, or is it that the success of the company over a certain decade is a lot more to do with context rather than management decisions. For example, could any CEO really fail a company even if you happened to be running the company at a time when drug discovery was easier? Or has drug discovery always been difficult and the success of the company is due to management decisions? Maybe something between the two?

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    1. For what it's worth, the ideal CEO appears to be Roy Vagelos, who has the famous quote about making medicines and not worrying about the profits.

      I think that we're in a period where drug discovery has become more difficult while the general quality of CEO has gotten somewhat lower (i.e. ol' Jeff Kindler.)

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  8. If I were to receive a severance package worth tens of millions of dollars if I screw up, even if I massively screw up, I'd bet my job in an instant.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, but how would you pay your next yacht payment?

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    2. Speaking engagements. Perhaps a memoir on management titled "Turning Iron into Gold: Leadership the Iron Chemist Way."

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  9. Can you say "pompous jackass?"

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