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‘Mindset’ is a word that can mean different things to different people. But for managers looking across the various players working on their company’s projects, it’s an important word.

In a small or medium sized company, unlike in a big Pharma with a well resourced project support function, it’s even more important. Projects run within a faster-changing environment. Scientists moving to work in a project-oriented structure have typically little exposure to formal training. And as we will see, there are all sorts of traps to dull the enthusiasm. The organisation relies on a positive mindset in these guys to make progress. But what does this mean?

The first aspect is that someone should have a drive to push through the many day to day problems of work, and deliver results. Hopefully the general staff hiring process will identify this, as well as technical skills.

But what makes people ideally suited to scientific and technical tasks can take a big dent when it comes to working in the project sphere. The first difficulty is that a person suddenly finds that they are not the expert any more. Problems that need solving run across different scientific disciplines. Collaborating and reaching consensus with others who have their own opinions can be stressful.

The second challenge is that people need to embrace the projects’, and ultimately the company’s business goals. It sounds a small thing, but project-level staff are not necessarily used to talking around these topics as the senior leadership team would be.

From the view of the project-level person, it can be confusing. There may be lots of aphorisms casually broadcast in the company, like ‘mistakes are a learning opportunity’, and even ‘ask for forgiveness, not permission’. These don’t generally help, and people can be uncertain about what to do next. And unfortunately, this is perceived by senior management as a lack of the right mindset for project work.

We can summarise the mindset required for much project work. It’s an attitude that drives people to persist and push to achieve the goals of a project, in the face of uncertainty.

The bad news is that it is a problem that pervades all of our sector – especially within small and medium-sized Biopharma companies. Furthermore, hoping it will change and ‘giving it time’ generally won’t make any difference!

But the good news is that you can definitely do something about it. Check out our next article in this series ‘ How can you develop peoples’ mindset to work successfully in projects?’ Coming soon.

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