Working with the brightest and best to help them make their projects easier and more successful.
We continue to work with the brightest technical minds. It certainly keeps us on our toes and ensures we continue to develop our mindset toolkits so that they can be easily applied in the real world. This month we’ve been busying delivering Project Management Support for Key Scientists.
We were engaged to provide a bespoke 2-day workshop on project management support for key scientists at a UK research institute. Research projects have specific challenges in that the standard success criteria of on-time, within budget delivery has to be balanced with scientific rigour, research originality and scientific excellence.
The challenge of Multiple Hats
It’s an interesting conundrum. Often in these workshops we ask our participants to think of all of the different ‘hats’ that they wear in a standard working day. The list typically includes accountant, technical author, administrator, negotiator, recruiter, trainer, diplomat – you can add to this yourself, and its no wonder that we feel so busy. The biggest challenge that gets raised every time however is the tension that arises between the need to be a project manager and being their own subject matter expert.
The two mindsets are very different, with often contradictory drivers. One delegate said to me “I’m a scientist. If I wanted to be a professional project manager that’s what I’d be doing. But I want to be a scientist”.
We get that! The ‘plan the work and work the plan’ focus of a project manager can feel hugely restrictive and constraining to the creative, curiosity driven mind of research and development.
So how to help these two mindsets to work in harmony, especially when they are required from the same individual?
The Least You Need To Do
Our experience suggests that we need to pare the project management process down to ‘the least you need to do’. We keep plans realistic, dynamic and flexible, risk assessments and risk mitigation hugely pragmatic, and meeting and reporting processes solely to aid communication and decision making. We ask our experts to decide how much project management time they need each week – typically half a day once the project is up and running, and suggest that they wear their project management hat and deploy their project management mindset with huge focus for that half day. The rest of the week can then be the curiosity driven, explore and evaluate ‘research mindset’ that allows the content of the project to be the priority and the value of the project to be realised more easily.
This approach gets great feedback! The ‘project management mindset’ workshop continues to be our most popular and the participants report that the mindset is really useful for situations where experts need to increase the impact of their projects while still maintaining the focus on their technical expertise.