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Three Keys to Improve Change Management in the Lab

Three Keys to Improve Change Management in the Lab

Tips to help ease concerns and issues resulting from change in the workplace

Scott D. Hanton, PhD

Scott Hanton is the editorial director of Lab Manager. He spent 30 years as a research chemist, lab manager, and business leader at Air Products and Intertek. He earned...

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The world around us is constantly changing. The events of 2020 and early 2021 prove that you never really know what change is around the next corner. As the environment around us changes, we need to adapt and change to grow and thrive. Change can be hard for lab staff. We get comfortable with our current science, work habits, and colleagues. However, one of the important roles for the lab manager is to navigate the changes, and lead the rest of the lab through them. While leading change can be difficult and frustrating, here are three tips that will help you to make change in your lab a little easier.

#1 – Share the vision

Create a crisp and clear vision of the future state that will be born with the change. This vision needs to include why the change is important, the benefits of the change, and the risks of the current status quo. Sharing the vision of the change helps lab staff understand why they are being asked to change as well as the overall benefits. This clear vision replaces the foggy unknowns around change and provides a foundation for staff to take on the discomfort associated with the change.

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#2 – Build support

Talk to people about the change. Listen to their concerns. Engage with them about the right ways to implement this change. Lab staff can be a great source of innovation about how to manage the change. Taking their ideas into account can reduce the fragmentation during the change, and help the lab return to efficient operations sooner after the change. In a typical change environment, 25 percent of the staff will be early adopters, 50 percent will sit on the fence watching, and 25 percent will actively resist the change. Focus your efforts on the 50 percent on the fence. Once they are convinced, they’ll convince those who are resisting.

#3 – Sustain the change

Beware of declaring victory too soon. Implementing the change is often insufficient to make the change permanent. You can better sustain the change by embedding it in the structure, process, policy, or execution of the work; providing training and encouragement to the staff; and creating metrics to measure the improvement and document the benefits. Another important change management activity is to eliminate ways to backslide and return to the old ways of working. This might mean removing the things in the lab that were associated with the old process.

In the end, as Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change.” It’s the same for labs.

Thanks for reading. I hope you can use this information. I am very interested in hearing from you. If you have feedback or comments on this set of tips, or suggestions for future Manager Minutes, I’d love to hear from you. Please reach out to me at I’m looking forward to our conversations. Thanks.