Some damn good advice…’s slide show article “6 tips to identify project management red flags” seems to sum up our project management class in 6 key steps to avoid PM problems. These tips focus on preventing potential mishaps associated with project management while ensuring projects are carried out smoothly. I found some important and relevant similarities from the tips in this slide show to our PM class project. Here are 3 of what I consider to be the most important of the 6 “red flags” mentioned in the article:

Red Flag: Focus on output rather than outcome

Although project managers must ensure tasks are completed on time, budgets are met, and resources are allocated appropriately, it is of most importance to work toward a desired outcome. The individual steps of project management should all build toward the bigger picture. But when the focus becomes overly consumed with one individual aspect of the project, the goal/outcome soon gets overlooked. For my group’s class project, we did a nice job making sure that we did not lose focus of our overall goal. However, there were times were we caught ourselves up hyper-focusing on individual elements. Specifically, we spent a lot of time preparing what foods to bring and how to sell such foods during our bake sale. Although this was necessary, the real desired outcome was to promote awareness for our cause – obviously the food we sold was irrelevant when strictly considering our desired outcome.

Red Flag: Focus on process instead of people

One might think this is counter-intuitive, but projects are – at their core – completed by people. I had the pleasure of acting as my team’s project manager and what I quickly learned is that our success was only a result of the hard work, expertise, and personal commitment of each of my teammates. The reality is that each person brings a unique skill set to a project and it is essential to allocate that person’s time and energy effectively. For our group project, we assigned team members portions of our project the aligned with their expertise. This enabled us to be efficient and gave each member a sense of responsibility that only he or she would be able to effectively uphold.

Red Flag: Lack of clear communication

The slide show article mentions that clear communication is common and expected when things are going well during a project. But the real red flag occurs when communication falls short during times of difficulty. The ways to overcome this is to identity potential risks/issues early on and communicate them to avoid future failures. Our group encountered various issues during our early planning phase as we ran into roadblocks when trying to secure a venue space for our event. We maintained constant communication by email and phone conferences as we updated one another on the statuses of potential venues. In less than a week, we vetted out 5 different venue options and finally settled on one that fit our needs.

For those who made it this far, did you encounter any of these “red flags” during your group project?

Here’s a million bucks. Now show me some results!


When I was an undergraduate student at the University of Illinois, I worked in a science lab that was researching the effects of an altered gene in mice. This type of novel research is common for furthering the understanding of the biology of mice and, eventually, humans. The results of such research experiments lead to magnificent discoveries especially in the prevention and treatment of disease. But the efforts leading up to these discoveries may go unnoticed, and I want to share with you the struggle of academic/novel research.

In the world of academic research, the Principal Investigator (PI) is King (or Queen). In a biological science lab, the PI is an established PhD, or MD, or both. He or she typically works as a professor at the university in which he or she is conducting research. And, the PI is a damn good project manager.

PIs have the near impossible tasks of developing experiments, overseeing the execution of such experiments, analyzing data, publishing results, and – worst of all – submitting requests for grant money. In order to balance this workload, which is on top of teaching, PIs exemplify all the necessary characteristics of project managers.

I recall the workflow of the lab in which I worked: using a work breakdown structure, Dr. Boppart assigned three different PhD students concepts of differing experiments. She then assigned Masters students to work with the PhD students and eventually Undergrads to work with the Masters students. It was our job to perform the experiments, but it was Dr. Boppart’s job to do the “write ups”. There were ultimately two main goals: get the data published and use the data to secure more funding for future experiments. The third, and obvious, goal was to apply a discovery toward a greater good.

As I look back on my experiences in Dr. Boppart’s lab, one thing sticks out above all: we were a broke lab. And considering that our experiments failed (much) more often than not, the small amount of grant money we received always seemed to drain away quickly. When I came across this article, ( I was reminded that grant money is still one of the biggest challenges scientists face today. The article discusses how “…grant funding has created its own ecosystem…” In healthcare, hospitals are seeking grant writers and using grant management software in order to receive and effectively utilize grant money. Dr. Boppart’s experiments were small potatoes compared to the 2,000 projects (worth $300M) that University Hospitals (Cleveland, OH) oversees on its own. Yet, UH has to do all the same grant requesting tasks that Dr. Boppart had to do.

Obtaining grant money is one of the most difficult aspects of performing research. But when using project management skills effectively, labs as small as Dr. Boppart’s and systems as large as UH are much more likely to produce high quality results. Have you ever submitted a request for money? Maybe a scholarship application? Or funding for a project? How did you ensure the money you received was utilized efficiently?