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"ApplySci"—Punctuated Changes and Emerging Resources

 ApplySci is a heavily venture capitalized R & D start–up.  The technology is based on a unique material developed by a research professor at a nearby University, and the organization is led by an entrepreneur with many years experience in high–tech ventures.  When the researcher entered their focus was split between two resource acquisition issues. The most salient seemed to be Negotiation processes with potential partners, seeking to contact and create deals to market and sell the technology through an industry application. On that week the company was working with eight different companies across five different industries, about "strategy and deal–making" according to the CEO.  Secondly, there was continued pressure to complete Basic research on the material.  The Research director believed "The [material] is looking more promising," while a Manufacturing technician was "slowly getting the mechanical process variables under control."  According to the CEO, "[the material] is getting repeatable, predictable results."

 At the second DCP a small shift (N=2) had occurred over the previous two weeks, mostly around strategy changes.  This shift had a nonlinear affect on resources, unexpectedly amplifying the number and types that became salient.  The most critical resources in this phase were Decision making processes around what deals to focus on. The office manager decried, "The main thing we need to acquire is a unified decision on what's going on with [a potential merger]," while the CTO more bluntly admitted, "Our primary need is clear–cut objectives and focus."  Secondly, Deal making continued to heat up, as the CEO explained, "I'm working on a couple of other partnerships [that] look more successful.  And the [merger] deal is very much alive."  Thirdly, the research function shifted to more of a Development phase: "Rather than change the [process] we need to make what we have work" {Project Scientist}.  Fourthly, Human resources became critical. This  was strongly voiced by the Founder of the medical side of the company: "We are very weak in our development team. We need an [analytical] group—we need creativity. On formulation (we need) a senior guy who could guide the group."  Finally, there was some recognition about the importance of Organizational structure. The CEO told me "There are some shifts in the commercial and medical side," and the CTO argued he couldn't provide adequate leadership, "Not with the organizational structure the way it is."

 Within the next month a moderate shift occurred (N=4).  This impacted all the resource categories.  Having made some decisions around potential partners, the next competence to learn was  'Sticking to their decisions.'  The CEO describes this beautifully: "Last Friday...we made a decision.  Lock them in [the current potential partner].  Then [another possibility] calls.  You say, let's review that decision."  Confirming this problem a top Marketing manager scoffed, "Every day it's a different deal. He loves doing The Deal."  Secondly, the technology shifted from Development to Commercialization.  In the controller's words, "The key for this year [is to go] from R&D to production and manufacturing, scale up."  At the same time, a third resource was specific Skills and expertise.  "Technical expertise.  That's what we've been acquiring," suggested the Manufacturing manager, while the medical Founder lamented "We're still lacking analytical [people].  On the formulation side we need a Ph.D. [technician]."   Fourthly, these resource shifts corresponded to development of the Organizational infrastructure. "On the business side we're trying to organize structure"  {Research Director}.  The Controller suggested "[We're] developing the team as best as we can now.  The second most important resource is (major) lab equipment."

 Major, punctuated changes occurred at ApplySci after the following month.  In the process of realizing a strategic partnership they re–organized into a matrix structure, focused around a specific industry and a strict project timeline.  Simultaneously new budgetary controls were implemented for all departments.  Over the next three weeks the analytical department grew  by 100% (from 2 to 4), a key partnership agreement was signed, and primary technical work tasks were re–organized around the new project.  In the words of the new Project manager, "The whole company except five people are working together for one goal. That's a major shift in the corporation."  "We're growing up" said the entrepreneur.  This change occurred between the third and fourth data collection period.

 As expected, the resource constellation was quite different after the punctuated shift; on the fourth DCP the three resources were characterized by tension and a lack of coherence in the company. Like moving into a new home, individuals were having trouble adopting to the many changes.  The most salient issue was "Dealing with their new identity."  This was expressed for example about the new analytical department: "There was a lot of elbowing to decide who will be leader over there....People are jockeying for who to be political with," analyzed the Project scientist. A deeper problem was uncovered by the new Project manager:  "[The Director of Analytical] didn't 'take' in this culture. The team decided to exclude him."  A Senior scientist put it more broadly, "I can see some disagreements in management; these are negative trends."   Secondly, this tension was expressed culturally, especially in Communication problems and flows of information.  "People aren't aware of the lack of communication. The chains are still lacking" {Development specialist}.  Following other problems the Project scientist suggested "A little bit of respect would have gone a long way. There are a few things to deal with, like a little bit of communication."    Thirdly, a similar Tension with the material itself became very salient.  "The material is not cooperating with us," the Project manager quipped seriously.  "That means it's a lot more work, devising tests, and screening new tests."  "I think right now we're focusing on what our problems are" determined the Development specialist."  A summary of all these shifts is given in Exhibit #4 [above].

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