Good news, bad news. The good news is that my lab is finally large and established enough to have lab politics. Bad news is that we have lab politics.
I realize that this is a problem everywhere and just gets worse with the size of the group, but this is my first foray into problems of this type. The problem initiated when one of my students who should have been leaving was unable to get a job because of the poor economy. This forced senior student to have to work with junior student, who was designated to take over the project, for longer than I would like. There seems to be lack of communication about just who is working on what and when, and despite my seemingly clear directions, this is ongoing. I have now taken to weekly meetings with each of them to try and sort out problems before they fester.
Junior student has trouble understanding the "big picture" of the research and also why the project is innovative and how it connects to other work. Jr. Student needs constant reassurance that this work is meaningful and will help career goals. Meanwhile, Sr. student is eager for results and publications, presumably to get a job. Sr. student doesn't always share details of the experiments being conducted until the are optimized. Thus, jr. student loses learning opportunities and wastes time waiting for "optimization." I am now trying to divide tasks out so that each can work independently, but their research is still interconnected, so there is still the possibility of one person waiting on the other for data, materials, etc.
The good news is that this project is really, really exciting, and will probably generate a couple high impact papers. So, if I can just get my students to play together in the sand box...