From Ph.D. to PMP

by Aubree Hoover on December 17, 2013 in Genomics
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In scientific circles, it’s a familiar story: the brilliant young scientist, fresh from a post doc, gets his or her own lab to lead. Comprising the lab are other post docs, graduate students, research assistants, and lab staff – all individuals who are highly intelligent, want some independence, and all have markedly different career goals. They work in a dynamic environment with many ongoing projects and tight deadlines. The brilliant young scientist soon realizes that the success of the lab depends on his or her ability to not only innovate on the scientific front but to become an expert at managing people and projects.

And so the Ph.D. quickly finds him or herself needing to become a certified Project Management Professional, or PMP.

If you are suddenly faced with the need to manage large projects in your lab but don’t have time to go back to school or study up on project management essentials, how can you quickly get up to speed?

We recently spoke with several lab managers who run highly productive labs. One failsafe way?  Focus on the big picture. This sounds straightforward, but what does it really mean?

For the lab managers we spoke to, it means ensuring that your lab has a clearly articulated and overarching mission statement. Whatever this mission statement may be, also ensure that all staff truly understand the mission. Then, use this clarity about the mission as the ultimate guide. Are you considering a new project or new direction? If so, then make sure it aligns with the overall mission.

Likewise, if staff are excited about exploring new techniques or want to purchase new instruments or IT infrastructure, then make sure that it will be directly responsible for your lab achieving its mission. If not, then reconsider.  Reconsidering can either mean doing away with the notion altogether or assigning it a significantly lower priority.

And the same is true of  day-to-day operations in the lab. If there’s conflict between staff or competing priorities, then use the mission as a deciding factor.  When the lab mission becomes paramount, conflicts become less about people and more about what everybody on the team is trying to achieve.

What are some project management techniques you use in your lab?  To learn more from the lab managers we spoke to, read the full article
This article discusses four straightforward ways that lab managers can tackle project management challenges
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