Team Expectation Management

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting Inc., an Ontario, Canada-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at andy.jordan@roffensian.com. Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

Sometimes work just stinks! Anyone who has worked on a project can think of situations where it seemed as though everything was going wrong. The project was experiencing problems, solutions weren’t working, people were unavailable, pressure was mounting from all sides and the light at the end of the tunnel was just confirmed as a train full of more problems heading straight for you.

We’ve been there, we’ve lived it, we carry the scars. And at some point, we have all thought to ourselves, “It’s not supposed to be like this.” And that’s the real problem—these situations are so difficult to deal with because they are so very different from our expectations of what things should be like. And the bigger the gap between expectations and reality, the harder it is to deal with.

We recognize this with our stakeholders—all project managers are familiar with the concept of managing stakeholder expectations to ensure they aren’t disappointed by what is ultimately delivered or communicated to them. But how often do we think about expectation management in our project teams? Generally nowhere near as much, but it’s just as important—and it’s something I want to explore in this article.

I’m not suggesting we paint a picture for our teams of inevitable total disaster “coming soon to a project …

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