Companies resist change for many reasons: corporate culture, inter-departmental differences, vested interests, and many more. Yet one of the most common resistances to change, be it in marketing, product development, operations, or other areas, is one of the least justifiable: sunk costs. The reasoning that one’s company has already spent so many resources pursuing a particular endeavor is no more than an excuse with flawed reasoning and should be dismissed.
Ignoring sunk costs in decision making is a very broadly understood business principle however is often poorly implemented. This is often due to perception that changing direction would amount to the failure of the department, team or individual who is in charge of the current effort. Understandably, no one wants to be viewed as having failed.
So what can life science tools companies do to help ensure that we actually let sunk costs be bygones? First, we must ensure that all quantitative analyses used in decision making are unbiased and have ROI or other metrics calculated from the present day rather than any time in the past. In other words, we can only consider the costs and opportunities from the present day forward when we determine the opportunity costs of any particular option. That’s the simple part, however.
The more complicated part deals with defining failure. We also need to make clear how we define failure on any particular endeavor, as well as be cautious of how we disincentivize failure, to help ensure we create a culture that is appreciative of change rather than wary of it. An overly competitive corporate culture can contribute to such a resistance to change as well. All individuals and departments must work together to ensure that they progress effectively towards their common goals. This is admittedly a simplification, as such issues have been the focus of entire books, but it is still something that business leaders must be aware of.
When there is resistance to change within an organization, leaders need to determine the reason why such resistance exists in order to determine the validity of the resistance from a business standpoint.