Science Matters: Getting the Project Method Right

By Alan Edwards

Business has changed across virtually every industry in this post-recession era. Companies must simply do more with less, and this is especially true in the sciences where, among many other factors, the expiration of valuable drug patents and the dawn of personalized medicine are impacting the way things get done on a daily basis in labs around the world. There are still so many unknowns as the industry continues to transform, but what’s clear is that these transformations will have a very real impact on everyone’s bottom line.

Despite these challenges, I believe we’ll soon see these business changes become second nature, like so many past innovations in the scientific industry. One of the best outcomes is that the scientific workforce will become smarter and more efficient. And we’ll all realize that the new way is ultimately a better model for achieving our most ambitious goals, such as personalized medicine.

However, labs will need to embrace the changing business model in order to remain competitive and reach their goals, whatever they may be. Project and work management is perhaps one of the most critical areas that labs will need to get right in order to begin this journey.

Why? As I’ve discussed before in this column, scientists are no longer stuck in the ivory tower. They are no longer guarding their work because they know that others’ knowledge, research, and input are valuable tools in helping them to reach their own goals. Studies prove that all scientific fields are increasingly relying on teamwork to meet modern business objectives.

When a lab can effectively adopt a work project model, it is embracing that spirit of teamwork and already a step ahead in adapting to the new business reality of the sciences. Labs today are still somewhat structured when it comes to a menu of basic services, but labs must also be able to offer diversified and custom services to their clients in order to remain relevant and continue to attract new business.

Conducting specialized services on a project basis allows labs to easily take advantage of the global knowledge and resources available today; it’s also the way many scientists want to work.

Because of the free-agency phenomenon, scientists are acquiring valuable and varied skills as they take on the challenges of each organization they work for. These contingent workers are no longer seen as “low level,” but rather as elite professionals who have chosen to carve out their careers outside the bounds of traditional employment. That means there is a whole host of highly skilled talent around the globe that will likely have the expertise you need for your specific goals. And it’s easier to find and employ this talent because of how attractive free-agent work is to so many of these professionals in terms of work-life balance.

The project-model phenomenon itself has also led to some interesting developments within the sciences in which high-level talent is being concentrated in certain places. It is now easier than ever for labs to call up an entire “synchronized workforce” to perform either an entire project or perhaps just a part of a project. These workforces are easily engaged—often through a workforce solutions company that has a pulse on where to find the best talent—and then disengaged when the work is finished. This can be an incredibly efficient way to conduct lab work, especially when the work does not necessarily fall within the realm of a lab’s core capabilities.

Once you embrace the project model of conducting valuable work within your lab, you might find that the quality of your product is soaring and that the talent available to you is really only limited by the goals you want to achieve.

Alan Edwards is vice president and science product leader, Americas Products Group, Kelly Services®. Kelly Services, Inc., a leader in providing workforce solutions, is headquartered in Troy, Michigan. For more information, visit kellyservices. com. Alan can also be followed on LinkedIn® and Twitter®.

Categories: Business Management

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Hazcom 2012: Are You Prepared?

Published: June 1, 2012

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