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What time is it? Coordinating pacing in drug discovery.

Bertels, H., Chung, K., Kraemer, J., Hao, G., Dougherty, D. & Dunne, D. 2008. What time is it? Coordinating pacing mechanisms in drug discovery. Academy of Management Best Papers Proceedings.


The literature on pacing contains little information about how event-pacing and time-pacing can be coordinated under circumstances of coexistence. However, we found this to be a central managerial problem for organizations in the pharmaceutical industry which engage in the drug discovery process. Because of the nature of their work, scientists tend to pace based on events whereas managers pace their work on time. Challenges arise when work needs to be coordinated among these complex knowledge systems. We develop a grounded theory on how coordination of event and time-pacing can be achieved, using 85 interviews with scientists and managers engaged in drug discovery. Our findings demonstrate how events concern developing understandings that are meaningful to the innovation, and identify properties that distinguish time and event-pacing based on how activities are organized (things to be done vs. things to be learnt) and how outcomes are judged (objective vs. negotiable). We then articulate three mechanisms for coordinating time and event-pacing that seek to combine the strengths of each while overcoming the limits: selling forward, strategic resource augmentation and
bundling/routinizing. These mechanisms are works in progress in our data, but point to new strategic dialogues that can incorporate divergent types of pacing.


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