Case | HBS Case Collection | April 2014

Merrimack Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (A)

by Amy C. Edmondson, Bethany S. Gerstein and Melissa Valentine

Abstract

In 2006, Merrimack Pharmaceuticals was a fast-growing biotechnology company. Its leadership team was divided over whether to keep R&D organized in functional departments or transition to interdisciplinary teams. As a small company, Merrimack's R&D organization had established a culture of collaboration across scientific disciplines that some worried would diminish with larger functional departments. Others were concerned that an interdisciplinary team-based design would be inefficient and difficult to manage. This case describes the two proposed organizational designs and presents the arguments within Merrimack's leadership team for and against each. It highlights the tradeoffs associated with each design as they relate to accountability, efficiency, innovation, product orientation, and people management at every stage in the R&D process. Students will explore the relationships between task complexity, collaboration, and organizational design in R&D.

Keywords: organizational design; Teamwork; interdisciplinary collaboration; R&D; biotechnology; complexity; innovation management; Organizational Design; Groups and Teams; Collaborative Innovation and Invention; Research and Development; Biotechnology Industry; Pharmaceutical Industry;

Citation:

Edmondson, Amy C., Bethany S. Gerstein, and Melissa Valentine. "Merrimack Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (A)." Harvard Business School Case 614-063, April 2014.