If you are going to attempt to influence something, you first need to know what makes up that "something." For expectations, there is one key concept and four critical components that need to be understood for effective management.
Balancing Reality and Perception
The key concept is that expectations are shaped by both reality and perception. In an ideal project, both the reality and perception of project objectives, performance, targeted results, and expected impact are aligned up-front among all stakeholders during project definition and planning, and then remain this way throughout the project. However, this ideal situation generally eludes us. Even when expectations are aligned during planning, there are many influences and factors that can alter expectations during the course of the project. This relationship is depicted in Figure 18.1. As a project manager, your challenge is to guide the actual "real" performance of the project, while simultaneously aligning and balancing the perception of each stakeholder. This work is a dynamic, ongoing venture that is only complete when the project is closed.
Figure 18.1. The expectation balance.
Not Just Scope Management
There is more to managing expectations than just managing scope. Now, don't get me wrong; managing scope is a very important part of managing expectations, but it's not everything. There are four critical components of expectations. Each expectation element is important to the success of the project and is subject to the natural push and pull between project reality and stakeholder perceptions. This relationship is portrayed in Figure 18.2.
Figure 18.2. Aspects of expectations management.
Let's review each expectation component in greater detail, explain the specific elements included in each group, and discuss some of the tools and techniques that we can use to help us manage each part.
The expectation component classifications are academic in nature and there to serve our discussion and review. Many expectation elements could be placed in more than of these categories.
A common mistake made in expectation management is to sell or commit to requirements that cannot be met given the project constraints. This is often done in efforts to get business, make the customer happy, or instill confidence in the team's abilities. The "under-promise, over-deliver" principle is one that reminds us that it is much better in regard to expectation management to promise less and deliver more.
While we have broken down expectations into various components (and have summarized in Table 18.1), it's important to remember: Effective expectation management is not complicated. The success formula for each aspect of expectation management is relatively straightforward:
Key Tools and Techniques
Critical Success Factors
Performance versus cost versus time;
Agreement on what defines success
Project definition document;
Ensure right people are informed of changes;
Forecast missed deadlines
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs);
Individual work task changes;
Business process flow changes;
Organizational change impact
Future workflow models;
May need separate deployment project;
Organizational change management plan needed
Prototypes, scenarios, simulations;
Product reviews and signoffs
Get something tangible early;
Heavy customer involvement;
Use internal team QA reviews
Decision making process;
Roles and responsibilities;
Team interactions with stakeholders;
Walkthrough schedule, processes;
Coaching team members;
Take other perspective;
Don't assume understanding/clarity;
Be aware of "busy" team members;
Use gentle touch to proactively remind team of key tasks, responsibilities, dates;
Always set context to improve understanding;
Educate along the way
Part i. Project Management Jumpstart
Project Management Overview
The Project Manager
Essential Elements for any Successful Project
Part ii. Project Planning
Defining a Project
Planning a Project
Developing the Work Breakdown Structure
Estimating the Work
Developing the Project Schedule
Determining the Project Budget
Part iii. Project Control
Controlling a Project
Managing Project Changes
Managing Project Deliverables
Managing Project Issues
Managing Project Risks
Managing Project Quality
Part iv. Project Execution
Leading a Project
Managing Project Communications
Keys to Better Project Team Performance
Ending a Project