Monitoring research team progress
Establishing clear formal reporting mechanisms will make the job of team management a great deal easier. Once you are satisfied that your researchers are clear as to when and how progress is reported it will give you confidence to allow them and you to get on with the work. When establishing reporting mechanisms remember:
- regular reporting helps - don't just focus on the finished product. Even if you think a task is relatively straight forward, requiring regular updates on progress - whether at regular times (e.g. at a weekly meeting) or at specified stage of the task - can be enormously helpful in keeping a project on track
- make clear what is being measured - if a target is measurable ensure that all involved are aware of what will constitute success. This will not only make sure that your team is working towards the same goals but that you are provided with the relevant information to make a judgement
- establish clear lines of responsibility - it is important that your researchers know who is responsible for reporting on a task and to whom they should report. If you are away for any length of time make sure you delegate responsibility for maintaining the reporting mechanisms in your absence
- keep the reporting mechanisms active - in a busy team it is easy to let reporting slip. Make sure your researchers know the importance you place on regular reporting and that your reporting mechanisms are adhered to.
Just as important as the formal reporting mechanisms is the informal supervision that occurs on a daily basis. How you manage your researchers in this way will depend on the complexity of the task and the experience of the researchers involved. Your approach might also change as you delegate specific tasks and responsibilities. You will also want to give consideration to how individual researchers fit into their team and work with others.
However closely or not you choose to supervise your team, remember to:
- encourage your researchers to communicate regularly with you and with each other
- make it clear that it is OK to ask for help and admit mistakes
- praise work done well and keep criticism constructive.
Consider the impact of entirely negative feedback on your researchers. There are times when you will need to criticise but be specific and constructive. Try the approach:
Your researchers are people too
The performance at work of even the best researcher, will, from time to time, be affected by their life outside the research project. While you may consider their personal lives to be none of your business, the effect this can have on their performance at work is. How you handle this is not always easy but it is an important part of managing performance.
In many cases performance standards can be maintained through the ups and downs of a researcher's life simply by understanding and anticipating. A team member with a new baby may not be getting much sleep at night and will suffer from fatigue during the day. Someone dealing with a recent bereavement may find their concentration difficult to maintain and their motivation waning. As a manager you may want to keep a closer eye on their work than normal and offer support with their tasks if you feel necessary. These might be factors you want to take into account when assigning new responsibilities or setting tight deadlines. People react to circumstances differently so understand and anticipate but try not to assume.