Dr. F seems like a decent consultant

Dr. F seems like a decent consultant

As a result of litigation, two documents written by Dr. Richard N. Fogoros, a consultant to Guidant have come to light. According to the New York Times (Guidant Consultant Advised Company to Release Data on Defects):

..Dr. Fogoros wrote in one memo that Guidant, while believing it was acting in the patients’ best interest, had violated a “sacred obligation” it had to doctors by interposing its medical judgment for theirs. He also noted that Guidant had a clear conflict of interest that would naturally lead it to disclose product failures only when “absolutely necessary.”

“This conflict is not tacit; it is obvious for all to see,” Dr. Fogoros wrote…”[W]hen a tragedy occurs, our decisions will be viewed in the harshest light possible, without any objective consideration of the statistical niceties supporting our actions.”

…Dr. Fogoros took a critical view of Guidant’s policies when it came to data disclosure, court records show. Those memos also predict, with an eerie accuracy, the crisis Guidant soon faced for failing to inform doctors about potentially life-threatening product failures.

Working as a consultant, it can be easy to fall into the path of least resistance, validating clients’ actions and becoming a sycophant. Challenge a client with contrary information –or heaven forbid critique a vaunted initiative a senior manager has led– and their first instinct is often to attempt to undermine the consultant’s credibility, distort the message or suppress the criticism. Sometimes it works in the short run, but eventually denial leads to competitive decline or even disaster.

Strong, confident management teams seek out an objective external view, even when it hurts. They deal with reality and it helps them prosper. They want their consultants to be honest and not to pull punches.

I don’t know Dr. Fogoros and I can’t say for sure whether he is a hero or not. He appears to have been forthright with Guidant, but is also described in the article as having “vigorously defended Guidant’s actions in an interview” two weeks after writing the hard hitting memos. Go figure.

March 9, 2006

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