5 ways to master expectation management

Expectation management, what a horrible combination of words. For project professionals, this means making sure your limitations of the scope are well articulated, documented, and known. It’s also one of the most usual subjects for heated conversations during the project. “Is this part of the scope or not?”

But expectation management is not only keeping your scope with customers and clients; it’s also an interaction between the team members and you and your boss. Daniel Decker has written a simple formula for this happiness = reality – expectations.

Excepting double- standards

In any given situation — whether it’s a relationship, vacation, book, etc. – your or anyone else’s happiness is dictated by the reality of the situation stacked up against your expectations. It’s not the reality of the situation that creates happiness, it’s the reality compared to the expectation.

In an ideal world, we hold everyone to the same performance standards even though, in reality, we have to have double- standards; a whole spectrum of criteria which we calibrate and recalibrate, adjusting what we think we can expect from different people at different times.

According to  Jeremy Sherman, Ph.D. what people call empathy, forgiveness, compassion, sympathy, or charity is often, if not always, a matter of lowering your expectations of other people. It’s not like you’d expect a junior developer to manage the task in the same timeframe as a senior developer does. Having accurate expectations gives you peace of mind. You’re realistic. 

Doing a good job is in the eye of the beholder

The reality is that a good job is often subjective, and doing a good job is in the eye of the beholder.

Have you ever asked for a raise? How often your boss has said either “I don’t have a budget for that” or “You must do something more of better” without giving your exact figures or measurement to aim for? My suggestion for you is to make sure you have agreed at least a few if not all measurable Key performance indicators how your performance is evaluated. That way, you can affect those yourself. 

Different kind of tight spot might be if you’re addressing your board or c-suite of the company with something you have done, supposed to do or suggesting. At first, check the company level KPIs if you can, and make your suggestions and success factors are measurable towards those KPIs. If you’re facing a situation, task, or project where you have lots of risks to fail, don’t be overconfident. Rather underpromise and overdeliver.

All about communications and preconceptions

In the end, managing expectations is basically communications and preconceptions

Everyone has their unique experiences there for also different preconceptions. Those are the ones you can’t necessarily find out or know. And just to mention, at times people don’t judge fairly. Dark chocolate is not compared with dark chocolate but white chocolate.

  • Understand that expectations are based on what has happened before. 
  • Articulate the risks and fallback plan
  • Don’t assume everyone knows what is going to happen next. 
  • Keep your stakeholders informed
  • Ask for feedback. It is incredibly valuable because it challenges your assumptions and highlights your weaknesses.