This is a guest article by Grace Windsor from BrightWork.
Have you ever delivered a project on time and within budget only to discover that your client is unhappy with the final result? This often stems from mismatched expectations, and is quite unpleasant for both parties.
I still remember feeling deflated and frustrated following a particularly difficult meeting with a client who made it very clear that the project was not delivering as expected. This came out of the blue, as everything seemed to be progressing according to plan. However, the project was simply moving too slowly for my client, who operated in a very fast-paced industry. They didn’t really believe our initial timelines; we assumed that they were happy with our progress.
Managing expectations is a vital skill for any project manager.
Expectations: What and Why?
An expectation is defined as ‘a strong belief that something will happen’ based on our assumptions and previous experiences. We are creatures of habit and expect certain things to perform in particular ways, for example, our car will start in the morning or our favourite coffee shop will always get an order just right.
We form our own expectations of others, and likewise, we are subject to the expectations of those around us. Of course, life never goes according to plan, making expectations a little troublesome!
In project management, not knowing how to manage the expectations of your client and your team, and your own expectations leads to many challenges including:
- Unclear objectives and measures of success
- Confusion about what task is due and when
- A focus on the wrong priorities, leading to wasted time and reduced productivity
- Lack of team engagement
- Reduced trust between you, your team, and the client.
It’s critical to manage expectations from the outset of the project and throughout project execution. Let’s look at how to do this in more detail. I will outline five ways to manage expectations on your projects: planning, execution, communication, under-promising, and personal expectations.