December 2009

Effective Laboratory Management

As you move up, you’ll learn to leverage the resources you have. It is impossible to do everything yourself. Delegate and free up your time. To reduce your workload, you have to train your research and administrative staff to take over some of the work. Krishnan explains, “A common mistake is to keep doing what you had been doing before and take on more responsibility. The result is you get overloaded, and projects start waiting for your attention.”

Looking for more information on laboratory management? Here are some resources:

• The ASBMB collection of materials on preparing future faculty:

• The HHMI collection of management materials:

• The 2009 San Diego lab-management symposium:

• The National Institute of General Medical Sciences workshop for postdocs transitioning to independent positions:

Krishnan also stresses managing your capacity. “Understand what capacity you have available and find the demands on that capacity. The general rule in operations management is not to push your capacity beyond 90 percent, if you want to have an efficient and responsive system. You should have 10 percent slack time built into the plan for creativity and in case an unknown factor requires additional attention. This is easier said than done, because the business world operates on everybody being busy and scheduled for 100 percent of their time. If you want to have relaxed productivity in science, you must learn to delegate. Do less and get more!”

Building a hierarchy helps manage your workload: Project leaders report to the lab head, and senior scientists train junior scientists. “A rule of thumb is that the number of people reporting to you should not be more than seven,” says Krishnan. “Watch out and minimize the bureaucracy that this may create. Weekly prescheduled team meetings save time. You can have regular meetings as early as 7:30 a.m. If everybody knows Thursday morning is discussion time, everybody will prepare their results by Wednesday. You create a natural rhythm, and you will see that synchronization and structure is helpful in getting results.”

Every meeting and commitment has to be questioned: Do I really need to do this? Does the cost-benefit ratio justify the time investment? The laboratory leader also needs some time in the middle of the day for horizontal project management. Even in big groups, at least an hour a day without meetings is essential. How can you keep several projects moving in parallel and jump from one to another without slowing the process? It could happen that a person who is not well trained gets overwhelmed, and the process slows for all participating parties. As you move up in the scientific hierarchy, you must manage projects vertically from start to finish.

NEXT PAGE 1 | 2 | 3

First Name:
Last Name:

Comment on this item:
Our comments are moderated. Maximum 1000 characters. We would appreciate it if you signed your name to your comment.





Great article! I have a big lab that needs much management.



  • I was looking for such a course. How much it will coast for international participent.

  • I will really appreciate your effort in taking to help educate me on lab management as a course.

  • i would like to join the class of laboratory management and to get a some information thank you

  • i have enjoyed information on laboratory management for which i would like to do masters in laboratory management

  • I do like your experience. thanks

  • thank you guys for good work

  • I have enjoyed reading the comments from krishnan on management of laboratory. i want to read more about his expriences in management

Page 1 of 1

found= true366