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Parallel Strategies in Development Projects


  • William J. Abernathy

    (Graduate School of Business, Stanford University)

  • Richard S. Rosenbloom

    (Graduate School of Business Administration, Harvard University)


It is common in R & D to identify and explore several approaches to a particular objective so that the best approach may be chosen. The outcome of any approach is uncertain; hence, it is difficult to choose the best one at an early date. To deal with this uncertainty, two or more approaches to the objective may be continued in parallel until a clear choice can be made, i.e., a parallel strategy. Such a strategy can provide better information for a decision, maintain options, or hedge against the occurrence of an unsatisfactory outcome. This report addresses the project manager's problem of deciding when to use or continue a parallel strategy. It reports the results of studies of actual projects and of a digital simulation analysis of a model appropriate to the structure of the decision as it is faced in practice. It identifies the information requirements for a sound choice between parallel and sequential strategies and the consequence of choosing a strategy on the basis of incomplete information. The report demonstrates the feasibility of collecting the requisite economic data in actual projects and suggests that it is costly for project managers to ignore such data.

Suggested Citation

  • William J. Abernathy & Richard S. Rosenbloom, 1969. "Parallel Strategies in Development Projects," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 15(10), pages 486-505, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:15:y:1969:i:10:p:b486-b505

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    Cited by:

    1. Sylvain Lenfle, 2011. "The strategy of parallel approaches in projects with unforeseeable uncertainty: the Manhattan case in retrospect," Post-Print hal-00658346, HAL.
    2. Ming Ding & Jehoshua Eliashberg, 2002. "Structuring the New Product Development Pipeline," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 48(3), pages 343-363, March.
    3. Scott A. Shane & Karl T. Ulrich, 2004. "50th Anniversary Article: Technological Innovation, Product Development, and Entrepreneurship in Management Science," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 50(2), pages 133-144, February.
    4. Sylvain Lenfle, 2017. "Projects, Agency and the Multi-Level Perspective," Post-Print hal-01574741, HAL.
    5. Scherer, Frederic Michael, 2011. "Parallel R&D Paths Revisited," Scholarly Articles 5027951, Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
    6. Kevin J. Boudreau & Nicola Lacetera & Karim R. Lakhani, 2011. "Incentives and Problem Uncertainty in Innovation Contests: An Empirical Analysis," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 57(5), pages 843-863, May.
    7. Comanor, William S. & Scherer, F.M., 2013. "Mergers and innovation in the pharmaceutical industry," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 106-113.
    8. Lee, Hsing-fen & Miozzo, Marcela & Laredo, Philippe, 2010. "Career patterns and competences of PhDs in science and engineering in the knowledge economy: The case of graduates from a UK research-based university," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(7), pages 869-881, September.
    9. Creemers, Stefan & De Reyck, Bert & Leus, Roel, 2015. "Project planning with alternative technologies in uncertain environments," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 242(2), pages 465-476.

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