Lab Manager | Run Your Lab Like a Business

Goal Setting

Tips for setting and achieving goals for yourself and your lab.

by Karla Brandau
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Businesses without concrete goals and objectives will flounder in today’s chaotic economic milieu. In a similar fashion, labs lacking clarity of vision will also falter. The one way to maintain sanity and stay on top of the countless activities required of a lab manager is to focus your staff on crystal clear goals.

Lab managers routinely experience the challenges of multitasking in order to meet production requirements, achieve accurate lab results, negotiate employee needs and provide excellent customer service. Clear goals keep all eyes on the vision, values and future success while simultaneously allowing staff to handle the nuts and bolts of the daily grind.

To keep employees focused on the strategies, goals and objectives that will bring future success, you must get them involved in the goal-setting process.

When workers have input into their lab’s goals, they become committed to the end results. With an eye on the future, the commitment to mutual goals will drive staff energy and productivity.

Build a tradition of sponsoring an annual off-site retreat to brainstorm goals for the coming year. Write your goals in language that is concrete and choose goals employees can visualize and even see themselves attaining. The best goals stretch employees and their capacities to contribute. Typical issues you could address in your goal-setting retreat would include ways to do the following:

  • Increase productivity
  • Reduce errors
  • Shrink turnaround time
  • Achieve greater regulatory compliance
  • Minimize costs

Once your retreat has produced the crystal clear goals and objectives you seek, don’t wait for implementation until you get back to the lab. Have the employees determine what they will do as part of their unit to support the umbrella goals. Then ask each employee to make his or her own private goals that support the unit’s goals and the lab’s goals.

The last step before you leave the retreat is to have the employees fire up their electronic calendars (Microsoft Outlook, Lotus Notes or Google online calendars all work) and record absolute deadlines with intermediate targets and alarms for each objective. With their eye on end results, their productivity and energy will be paced throughout the days, weeks and months, ultimately bringing success at the end of each year. Pay close attention to quarterly checkpoints, because even a goal with recorded deadlines and funky alarms is powerless to drive performance if it is not regularly revisited.

The process of goal setting is labor intensive but pays handsome dividends as you gain employee buy-in.

In summary, the goal-setting process is immensely productive, as it does the following:

  • Focuses employees on what really matters to the lab
  • Makes every employee more realistic about his or her expenditure of time
  • Brings built-in accountability for each employee’s stewardship
  • Reduces wasted time, as employees are clear on what has to be accomplished in small periods of time
  • Helps overcome the procrastination that occurs when employees are overwhelmed and do not know where to start

Don’t get pulled into the false thinking that goal setting is so time consuming that your time is better spent checking items off your task list.

Don’t think the retreat will be too expensive. In reality, it will save you money as employees will be focused on high priority items—not the ‘could be done’ or ‘nice to do’ activities—that will move your lab’s performance forward. Your lab will be known for providing excellent customer service and increased profitability.