This guest article is by Grace Windsor, BrightWork.
Did you ever deliver a project on schedule and within budget, only to find that your client was unhappy with the final product? This is often due to mismatched expectations and can be very frustrating for both the client and you.
After a difficult meeting with a client, I still feel deflated. He made it clear that the project was not performing as expected. It was a sudden realization that everything was going according to plan. My client was in a fast-paced industry and the project was moving too slowly. They didn’t believe our timelines, but we assumed they were happy with our progress.
Project managers need to be able to manage expectations.
Expectations: What and why?
Grace Windsor We are creatures of habit. We expect certain things to work in certain ways. For example, we expect that our car will start on a morning and that our favorite coffee shop will always deliver our order.
We set our own expectations for others and we are also subject to the expectations of those around. Expectations can be a bit tricky because life is unpredictable.
Management of expectations and expectations by your client and your team can lead to many problems in project management.
Uncertain goals and measures of success
Confused about when and what task it is?
Focusing on the wrong priorities can lead to wasted time and lower productivity.
Team engagement is lacking
Trust between you, your team and the client is reduced
It is crucial to set expectations right from the beginning of the project and during its execution. Let’s take a closer look at this. I will discuss five ways to manage expectations regarding your projects: communication, planning, execution, communication and under-promising.
1. Project Planning
Project stakeholders often have a vision for the project before any planning begins. This can lead to conflict between the promises made, the interpretations of these promises, and what actually happens. Engage stakeholders early and often in the planning phase to establish realistic expectations based upon available resources, your team’s capabilities, and desired outcomes. You will need to work with your stakeholders to establish the scope, priorities, goals, identify task dependencies, as well as how to manage risks.
It is important to involve your entire team in project planning. This helps to align the team with the project objectives. It can also help to create realistic project plans, which can lead to increased motivation and engagement.
Clarity is key to project planning. Don’t assume everyone understands the project plan or the objectives. Ask as many questions as you can until you feel certain that everyone is following the same plan.
Referring to my previous example, the lack of clarity at the beginning led to many problems with the client. We were all too excited about this project and we jumped in without a shared vision nor clear goals.
2. Project Execution
Next, hold separate kick-off meetings for the stakeholders and team to discuss how the project will run.
The team meeting is a great way to make sure everyone understands the project, their roles, and your expectations about how it will be delivered. You can include:
Roles and responsibilities
Tasks and task dependencies
Timelines, milestones and key deliverables
Reporting and tracking requirements
Communication plan (see next section for more details)
KPIs and metrics
Risk management strategies
Request for a change