A project’s lifecycle sees a lot of issues no matter how well-planned the project is. For instance, missing project deadlines, continuous revisions in the work, not meeting the set expectations, internal conflicts, etc. These are the issues that should not be overlooked when happening frequently. On analyzing the root cause for these problems, you’ll find that the majority of them have a common trace – unclear or misunderstood expectations

setting clear expectations

Setting out clear expectations right from the first step is very crucial because every decision you make as you progress should support your top goals and objectives

For a healthy environment and state of the project, setting expectations clear is very important in all the different segments of work

Being a leader or manager, it’s your responsibility to be clear with your clients

  • about what you will deliver exactly
  • when you will deliver the promised deliverables
  • the level of quality they can expect
  • what it will cost precisely

Not only with the clients, but it is also equally important to set clear expectations within the team as well for their role & responsibilities in the project

  • performance measuring goals
  • efforts required
  • pro-activity and focus
  • professionalism and discipline

Setting these expectations proactively in the team will lead to better relations and maximum performance with clients and your team members

A good question here would be “What do I get by investing so much of my time in setting expectations for everyone? There are tight deadlines already.” To answer this:

  • Firstly, your work life will improve. Clear expectations mean less coordination & clarifications at later stages & more focus on work itself
  • Secondly, being in a position to take decisions with/for others sets some expectations for you in your “translational, analysis and relationship” skills as well

Assuming your approval to invest time in setting clear expectations, let’s delve further to discuss the various ways you can achieve this

#1. Get a clear direction

Be clear in what you want as the outcome (as set in the project milestones). This is an important aspect of setting clear expectations. Communicate the details precisely to your team about:

  • “what” needs to be done – the exact outcome that you want to see in terms of design, testing, coding
  • “when” to be done – deadlines for the task
  • how to “approve” – any review process for the deliverables
  • how todeliver” – email, phone updates, etc

In a similar manner, state clearly to your clients about:

  • “what” you will deliver
  • “when” they will get to do hands-on the deliverables
  • “quality” of the deliverables
  • “known impediments” in the delivered solution
  • “how” they can access the solution – website link, credentials, etc
  • and “what changes” are done from the planned version – due to any technical limitations or time constraints

#2. Be proactive in asking questions

There is nothing to relate to “I being a manager or leader cannot ask questions to the team if they aren’t asking”. In fact, this is a good sign of great leaders to be proactive and ask questions explicitly to the team members as “Do you require more information on the task?”, “Are there any blocking issues where you need my help?”, “Do you have any questions”? This will create a bond between you and team members and will help in mutual growth

When it comes to clients, the same story is applicable. “Ask all the questions until you are clear with all the requirements”, “What value will the feature add to the current business?”, “Who will be benefited from this?” or any other question that is required to get a big and clear picture of the project. This will help both, you and your client, to make better decisions that stay in-line with the set goals and objectives

#3. Find the missing expectations

Of course, the article is about this thing only. But as a leader, you should continuously evaluate the project, team, and client for any gaps or deviations from the set expectations. It could be a gap or deviation if “employees have to stay late at the office for work continuously” or “coming to office on weekends is a trend” or “all the discussions are verbal without any documentation or reference to share with team”

#4. Avoid getting into “how” aspect

Avoid getting into micro-management unless it is very important. The “how” portion is mostly related to your team members. Provide them enough space to apply their skills and knowledge to get do the task and explore all the options. You may never know which experiment can set best practices standard or solve one of the biggest challenges of the project

#5. Assist everyone to be on the same page

Develop a habit in you and your team to write down all the discussions, meeting notes, decisions taken, and then share the references with everyone. This way, everyone knows about the overall happenings in the project. Also, on occasions, share the “Project Status” report with your clients and team members with detailed statistics as “what is done”, “what is pending”, “timeline deviations” etc. This will introduce a positive team spirit where team members can help each other to do work on time

#6. Meetings and/or one-on-one discussions

Have daily standups or group discussions to know about the project status from every team member for any visible delays or blockers. Also, it is a good initiative to do one-on-one meetings once a fortnight or month with your team members. Discuss their expectations, share performance feedback, improvement areas. Assist them for any sort of training or knowledge that can help improve performance

#7. Define your role and responsibilities in the project

It is equally important to set expectations for yourself also being a lead/manager or other senior roles. Try to know what your team expects from you, what the client expects from you so that all the involved members of the project are on the same page. Be true to agree or disagree on the set expectations for you to get into a mutual agreement

No matter what way you follow to achieve the goal as long as you are setting clear expectations

Being a leader or manager always try to find the right balance between the team’s growth, and work environment. This will help your team growth as well as individual growth

Start with clear expectations, clarify them with team and clients, solve all the questions coming in the way, and continue to maintain the cycle every time. Mind mapping is one good technique that can help with these project management aspects

Happy team, satisfied clients, and relaxed you

P.S. Don’t forget to share what situations you have faced in your work without setting clear expectations and what solutions you came up with

This article was originally published by me on Medium

Surbhi Mahnot

Surbhi Mahnot

Surbhi Mahnot is the owner of this blog. She works as a Management Consultant with businesses to set up processes, and coordinate as Project Manager to help develop IT solutions. Travelling, reading, and shopping are her core interest besides work. Surbhi is available for consultant projects full-time, part-time, or remote work

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