I feel that a simple set of questions, asked on a regular basis, should help you make sure that things are on the right track, and, if they are not, provide you with the opportunity to intervene quickly. Here are the five questions you need to ask your researchers every few days:
1. What did you do since the last time we talked?
2. What did you learn?
3. Knowing what you do now, what would you have done differently?
4. What are you going to do next?
5. What do you predict you will find?
These are great questions to ask your employees on a regular basis. Let’s see why. Question one is pretty basic. Obviously, you expect your employees to be doing something—presumably experiments—and as their manager, you are interested, curious, and care. This is a good ice breaker, and when you ask this question on a regular basis, your employees will want to make sure they are, in fact, doing something worth talking about. Question two is quite important, because if they are doing good experiments, they certainly must be learning something from the outcomes. If they aren’t learning something, it was probably a badly designed or executed experiment. Moreover, a good experiment will teach them a great deal and move the needle substantially closer toward completing the project. This question allows you to teach the difference between a good and poor experiment.