What is Lab Management?
If science is the place where curiosity, discovery, and innovation meet up to have coffee, lab management is the process of making sure the doors are open, lights are on, and grounds are brewing. Labs in academia and industry rely on effective lab management to facilitate and support the groundbreaking scientific achievements that make the headlines and improve our lives.
This blog will cover the best tips for managing a successful lab based on Planview’s work with one of the most advanced medical simulation labs in the US. But, first, let’s clarify what responsibilities lab management entails.
The role of lab management is to ensure the lab’s limited resources are used to their full capacity and deliver on their assigned objectives. A lab manager’s functions can include managing event requests, personnel, equipment inventory, workflow, training, grants, and daily operations—those lab coats and test tubes don’t clean themselves.
Knowing that their decision-making will affect the entire lab, a good lab manager must possess technical knowledge, analytical, organizational, and creative problem-solving skills, and, most importantly, create a more innovative culture. You cannot have a successful lab without effective lab management.
Lab Management Case Study
As the surgical simulation specialist and simulation coordinator for The Medical Simulation Lab at Parkview Mirro Center for Research and Innovation, Cortney Webb oversees lab management of this state-of-the-art facility. Featuring some of the most advanced medical simulation technology available, clinical professionals can hold events in any of three labs, each outfitted with high-fidelity medical equipment. The labs, the equipment, and the Lab staff are all resources that Webb must strategically allocate for successful lab management.
With no standardized process to manage incoming event requests, the Lab resorted to emails, calls, and hallway conversations that were then relayed to Lab staff via emails, texts, or paper notes. Lab staff then had to open each calendar event one by one to identify which resources were available, often leading to human error, such as double-bookings and reschedulings.
To create a smoother process with fewer errors, Planview helped the Lab build an event request system that cultivated collaboration and effective lab management.
Pro Tips for Lab Management
Bringing together the various elements of complex projects will fall squarely on the shoulders of the lab manager. What makes a lab manager successful? It’s how they approach problems and create solutions.
Organization in lab management means more than having a clean desk. You can’t let resources fall through the cracks. To achieve lab harmony and accomplish goals, all resources—staff, equipment, and physical space—must be properly accounted for and orderly.
Communicate with the Team (in person and digitally)
Regularly checking in with staff helps maintain focus and allows people to discuss issues before they become problems. A McKinsey & Company study of successful labs found that talent management strongly correlated with high performance. No lab should neglect its people.
Leadership is the process of influence that maximizes the efforts of others towards achieving clearly defined goals. When leaders in lab management commit to building an inclusive culture, they inspire lab members towards productivity.
Putting Strategy Into Practice
To implement the lab management tips noted above, Webb opted to restructure and automate their event request system within Planview PPM Pro. Customized reports and dashboards enabled leadership to introduce a simplified strategy to organize and schedule resources.
The Lab designed templates uniquely tailored to each of their three clinical settings based on the specific capabilities for that site. Now, when an event request comes in, Lab staff can quickly see what rooms have been reserved, which staff members are required, and what equipment has been requested for any event up to 60 days out.
“We have a lot of resources to keep track of, and we need to know where everything and everyone is at any given time,” says Webb.
They also need to bill for those resources, so each one is assigned a dollar amount inside PPM Pro, allowing leadership to know precisely how much to charge for an event based on actual usage down to the half-hour and instantaneously generate an invoice.
Achieving Execution in the Lab
Once lab management schedules an event request, they assign tasks to staff members in Planview Projectplace—a project management tool that seamlessly integrates with PPM Pro. Digital Kanban boards in Projectplace keep staff on track with checklists of activities to complete from 30 days out through event day and post-event. For example, seven days out, the simulation specialist knows that they need to have completed items such as testing scenario programming and verifying equipment inventory.
Every Friday, the Lab holds a weekly forecast meeting where they go through all upcoming events to make sure everyone is up to date on their assignments. Each staff member can complete a task for someone else, so any open cards can be discussed and worked on as a team.
This standardized workflow creates consistency, fosters a collaborative environment, and stimulates open communication between leadership and staff. It is easy for any stakeholder to see exactly where a project is at any given time, what is coming due, and what has been successfully completed.
Finding the Right Solution
Lab management is not an easy job. Every lab is different, and how you manage yours will depend on many factors. You can read more about how we helped Parkview Health implement a smoother workflow with greater efficiencies.