Dealing with Scientists on a Project Team

Both Discovery and Development project leaders have to deal with the personalities of the line reps on the team 1, 2 , and their levels of empowerment. Wartenberg notes that the scientist tends to display characteristics that work in the role of scientist but may can be challenging as a team member, listed below.

  • Tolerance for ambiguity (“I’m not really sure how I’m going to solve that problem, but I’ve got a lot of good ideas.” “Why do we need a project plan?”)
  • Curiosity (Likes to ask a lot of questions).
  • Logical (“If it doesn’t make sense, why should I do it?”)
  • Ability to see juxtaposed and seemingly disparate elements. (Can be good or bad – they sure can pick apart a project plan.)
  • Self-confidence (“I really don’t need any help on this”).
  • Bluntness, opinionated and outspoken (put two or more of them on a team…)
  • Persistence (“Just give me a bit more time and I’ll work it out”).
  • Intolerance of perceived incompetence (“If you aren’t the expert, why are you running this project?” “How does a professional project leader expect to run this project?”)
  • Contempt or lack of respect for non-scientific processes or organizational principles (“How does a professional project leader expect to run this project?” “Why do I need project leader training?”)
  • Clannish within their peer group (the project team members are not in their peer group).

Yet these are the ones who do the work of a project in Bio/pharmaceutical R&D. The seasoned project leader understands these characteristics and has developed techniques to work with scientists on the project team.

  1. A good discussion of working with the personalities of a team: Kimberly Wiefling, Wiefling Consulting, “Turning Around the 5 Dysfunctions of a Team” NorCal Pharma LIG, August 2008, also author of Srappy Project Management, Happy About Publishers 2007
  2. Another good discussion of the personalities of a team: Marty Wartenberg, “Leadership for Pharma and Bio-Tech Projects”, SoCal Pharma LIG, March 2008