AMICULUM Consulting Blog
Goodbye Alderley, hello Cambridge – has AstraZeneca made a good decision?

Generally speaking there are two possible outcomes to any decision – you picked a good option, or you should have chosen a different option. This is largely an inescapable fact of life. So, has AstraZeneca made a good decision over the planned relocation to Cambridge?

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Pascal Soriot obviously thinks so and the city appears to agree, with the share price in June trading at a 12-month high. Some commentators are more sceptical in their outlook, while others just remain less sure. Well, while many have had their say, ultimately only time will tell. But, my take on it today is this – wouldn’t it have been interesting to be a fly on the wall during the decision-making process? There are so many questions I would love to have heard the answers to.

  • Firstly, what was the fundamental objective of the decision? In other words, when Soriot and his team sat down to discuss this, how was the decision defined upfront? What would a successful outcome have looked like to them?
    • For example: maximization of the number of new/innovative medicines brought to the market; improvements in the speed/efficiency of development; stabilization of overall financial position; optimization of staff retention and/or quality, or all of the above? Also, what was their time-frame of thinking: 3 years, 5 years, 15 years? 
  • Secondly, what was the context and scope of the decision?
    • For example: geographical change (stay in the North West, UK or Europe); change in therapy area focus (expand, specialize or maintain status quo), or change in innovation model (in-house or outsource via academia/biotech). Or anything goes – change it all? 
  • Thirdly, what alternative options were considered?
    • For example: re-invest in Alderley Park; keep the London office, or build an entirely new facility elsewhere? If so, where? What else...?
  • What steps were taken to ensure that the decision was made with full awareness of any potential biases?
    • For example: strong confirmational biases could mean there was only ever really one option, so in effect there would not have been a real decison...
  • And finally, what depth of modelling and interpretation went into evaluating the potential risk and return of those alternatives?
    • For example: what data were available to support each option? Was sufficient expertise at the table to fully understand and evaluate the implications of the options? Was the analysis appropriate and suitably thorough? Was a structured decision model such as a MADM (multi attribute decision model) deployed? What steps were taken to remove any confirmation bias in the interpretation?

And I could go on...

This basic list of questions is illustrative of those that I would readily encourage anyone making big business decisions to consider – and that is where a solid decision-making process can really help. Such a process (as embodied by our smart decision model) can give you a logical, structured, evidence-based approach to framing your decision appropriately, recognizing and minimizing your biases, understanding and evaluating your options, and quantifying risk and return – thereby empowering your decision-making. Done well, this will give you and your team/boss/company/shareholders confidence and justification that it was the right decision to make at that time.

We should also remember that a good decision doesn’t necessarily guarantee a good outcome (more on this in a future blog). No-one can foresee the twists and turns of fate, particularly in pharma – as this interesting article reminds us, pharma is a tricky beast. All we (and AstraZeneca) can do is try to balance the scales as best we can.

So back to AstraZeneca; whatever the outcome, if the decision was made in good faith, with the best information available, using an appropriately rigorous and structured decision process that gave suitable consideration to questions such as those raised above, then Soriot and his C-suite will have done their job well.

For more information about this blog topic or to discuss any of these ideas further please contact the team at team at