On Managing Expectations

My apologies to my faithful readers who expected a post yesterday. Somehow that whole week starting on Tuesday thing really threw me off, and I’m swamped this week, with something due for the BU course for which I’m adjunct faculty and the Simmons course I’m taking right now.

Being late for this post got me thinking about how I manage expectations whenever I lead geek projects (and, having no PMO at any of my last organizations, I managed projects for a HUGE percentage of my time).

Here are my top five ways to manage customer and team expectations:

  1. As I mentioned in my post On Scheduling, first build as accurate a time line and due date as possible. Build in all known issues and be up-front about warnings or traded priorities (this last very important for internal customers).
  2. Communicate!!! Your geeks MUST know relevant due dates in order to prioritize and schedule themselves. Your customers MUST know if you’re likely going to miss the agreed-upon date, and they should know as soon as possible in order to plan. Likewise, geeks and customers must know and agree on specifications, requirements, and deliverables.
  3. Make nice with your geeks. If a geek has to give up weekends or family time in order to hit the deadline and specifications, do something nice in return. I mention in my post On Trading that I once traded a bottle of vodka for a sacrificed vacation day during a crisis.
  4. Make nice with your customers. When I was a customer and a vendor had to miss a scheduled due date, I’d occasionally get taken out to lunch or receive a box of cookies for my staff as a thanks for my patience. Obviously, follow your company’s rules and regulations for things like this.
  5. One of my favorite things to do while managing deadline expectations was to estimate a new deadline and then beat it. It’s all about managing perception–if I haven’t communicated with you and we come in a week late, you’re really annoyed. If I tell you we’ll be two weeks late, send you a bottle of wine in thanks for your patience, and then come in only one week late, you’re pleasantly surprised.

Perception counts. Manage it well by communicating and playing nice.