7 Proven Ways to Overcome False Expectations

People have expectations. Individuals, teams, or organizations have a strong belief that something is going to happen in the future.

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Project sponsors expect projects to be completed in a timely fashion. Developers expect clear requirements. Testers expect the test region to be stable. Users expect that all of their needs will be met. Vendors expect a statement of work.

Sometimes the expectations are valid; other times the expectations are false. The individual’s expectations are unrealistic or invalid. What causes false expectations and how can we set and maintain the proper expectations?

The Muck and Mire of Expectations

Let’s look at seven common causes of false expectations and what we can do about each. Take note that all of these problems are related to communications.

  1. Things are not discussed adequately. For example: Why do the users of software expect one thing and get something different in projects? One of the top reasons that projects fail is due to a lack of user input. Be sure to involve appropriate stakeholders in your discussions (whether it’s software requirements or anything else). Summarize and document decisions.  
  2. Things are miscommunicated or not communicated at all. Another reason people have false expectations is due to information not being communicated properly. Check your sources and verify information before communicating.
  3. Things are misunderstood. Sometimes the information is correct but is misunderstood. The receiver’s environment, experience, language, and culture may affect the way the receiver interprets the message. Create the message with the audience in mind. You may wish to test the message with a small group before distributing to a larger audience.
  4. Things are over promised. Sometimes, well-meaning people make promises that can’t be kept. The promise maker thinks things can be accomplished but the individual doesn’t understand the requirements, constraints, and required resources and budget. Validate requirements. Get estimates from experienced personnel. Make sure you have adequate budget and resources. Stay focused on delivering the promises.
  5. Things change. In the course of developing new products or services, things may change. It’s easy for a small group to make decisions and fail to communicate the changes to the other affected stakeholders. Define a method for capturing and communicating changes to stakeholders.
  6. Things get lost. One group specifies the requirements. Another group creates a design. Another group may perform the build process…and yet a different group may test and accept something being created. It’s no wonder that things get lost in the process. Consider tracking things/requirements from one process to the next to check off and make sure the things specified early in an endeavor end up in the final product.
  7. Things are constrained. Someone may share a need in a strategic planning session or a requirements session. There seems to be agreement in the room. Later the idea is cut due to resource or budget constraints, but the person who shared the need does not know about the cut. Communicate the final plans to stakeholders. Communicate through different channels – don’t assume everyone will read an email.

Five Ways to Reduce Risk Exposure Early

When do you think risk exposure or the level of risk is greatest in a project – in the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of the project?

Photo courtesy of DollarPhoto.com (edited in Canva)

Photo courtesy of DollarPhoto.com (edited in Canva)

Risk exposure is highest in the beginning of your projects. Why? We have the least amount of information – this is when uncertainty is greatest. We know very little about:

  • Goals of the project
  • Deliverables
  • Requirements
  • Budget
  • Constraints
  • Success criteria
  • Availability of resources
  • Who will bring the donuts to the project meetings? (just kidding)

Here are five activities that you can undertake to reduce the risk exposure early.

10 Surprising Ways to Make Your Project Customers Happy

Have you ever had a customer accept your project work although they were not happy with the project?

According to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, customer is “the person(s) or organization that will pay for the project’s products, service, or result. Customers can be internal or external to the performing organization.”

Group of People Standing Holding Customer

Internal customers have many problems. The problems may include:

  • A product that lacks certain features or functionality
  • Too many defects in a manufacturing process
  • A regulatory requirement
  • Insufficient sales
  • Lack of a building or infrastructure
  • Unhappy external customers due to poor response times
  • Vulnerabilities to a cyber attack
  • Not enough coffee (just kidding)

8 Powerful Ways to Choose & Execute Projects

Your company’s future is at hand. Select and execute the right projects and you will reach your greatest potential. Select the wrong projects and you will fall behind your competition—possibly crash and burn.

I have seen companies wrestle with the project selection process for years. Which projects should we choose? Do we have the right resources to execute the projects?

Photo courtesy of DollarPhoto.com

Photo courtesy of DollarPhoto.com

A Sad But Common Story

Here’s a common scenario. Senior management has grand ideas on enhancing an existing product and leaping past the competition. The project sponsor has declared a six month project deadline.

The project manager expresses concern: there is insufficient information to determine whether the project can be delivered within six months. The project sponsor says we have no choice. Do the best you can.

The What, Why, and How of Projects

3 Powerful Questions for Fast Tracking Your Projects

I recently wrote a post entitled Ask the Right Questions at the Right Time. Project managers don’t have to possess all the answers. However, they must know the right questions.

In this article, I will cover three simple and powerful questions that project managers should ask in every project. Getting answers to these questions will greatly reduce risks to your projects and position you and your teams for success.

Picture of man thinking about the what, why, and how questions

Photo courtesy of DollarPhoto.com

3 Key Project Questions

1. The What Question

The center point of every project is the goal or goals. The key question is: What is the project team trying to achieve? Are we creating a new product or service? Are we modifying existing products or services? When we implement the project, how will the organization be in a better position to meet the strategic objectives?

Ask the Right Questions at the Right Time

The success of a project manager largely lies in the individual’s ability to communicate. Some project managers have great oratory skills but don’t ask the right questions at the right time.

Here are some key questions for each of the project management process groups (PMBOK). This is not meant to be a comprehensive list; just some questions to get you thinking. Neither will you need to ask all of these questions for every project.

Keep in mind, the project process groups are seldom sequential, one-time events; they are overlapping activities that occur throughout the project.

Photo courtesy of iStock.com.

Photo courtesy of iStock.com.

Initiating Process Group

  1. Why are we doing this project?
  2. Is your project sponsor fully engaged and on board?
  3. What is the authority level of the project manager?
  4. What do we wish to accomplish?
  5. What are the products and services we wish to deliver?
  6. What are the budget constraints?
  7. What are the schedule constraints?
  8. What assumptions are being made?
  9. Who will be impacted? Which stakeholders have the greatest interest and power?
  10. Who will comprise the project team?
  11. What are the most significant risks?

Planning Process Group

  1. Who do we need to communicate with? When? How? Why?
  2. What needs to be done? When?
  3. Will we take a traditional approach or an agile approach?
  4. Who will do each task? Is each person’s supervisor/manager in agreement (matrix environment)?
  5. What is the skill level of the project resources?
  6. How long will each task take (i.e., effort and duration)?
  7. What are the requirements?
  8. How will we ensure the quality will be managed properly?
  9. How will we identify, evaluate, respond, and monitor risks?
  10. What procurement documents are needed?

Executing Process Group

  1. Are team members focused?
  2. Are we managing the stakeholder’s expectations?
  3. Do team members have the resources required to complete their tasks?
  4. What are the roadblocks?
  5. Is the team maturing in working with one another (forming, norming, storming, performing)?
  6. Are we tracking risks, action items, issues, and decisions?

Monitoring and Controlling Process Group

  1. Are we on track? If not, what can we do to get back on track?
  2. Are we managing changes appropriately? If not, how can we improve the change management process?
  3. What are the new risks? What has changed for risks previously identified? Do we need additional risk response plans?
  4. Are we planning and executing in an efficient and effective manner?
  5. Have we provided appropriate support to the team members? If problems persist, have we dealt with the problems appropriately including removal of team members.

Closing Process Group

  1. Have all the requirements been met?
  2. What went well in the project?
  3. What did not go well?
  4. If we had to do the project again, what would we do differently?
  5. Have we made the final payments and recorded final accounting transactions?
  6. Have we recorded the lessons learned?
  7. Have we delivered everything promised in the contract(s)?
  8. Have we closed out all risks in the risk register with final notations of what occurred for each risk?
  9. Have we archived the project documentation?
  10. How will we celebrate?

Question: What other key questions would you ask?

12 Good Reasons You Are Struggling With Small Projects

“Why am I still having problems with small projects?

This plaintive question is one I’m asked from time to time. I’d like to give a few brief reasons why project managers struggle with small projects.

Photo courtesy of iStock.com.

Photo courtesy of iStock.com.

1. You think small projects are simple. In general, smaller projects have less risk. However, some small projects touch a complex set of variables.

Be sure to analyze the complexity of the project. For example, you may engage your team to draw a context diagram and/or a data flow diagrams early in the project. This exercise allows the team to understand the context of the project.

How to Develop a Project Charter

So, your projects are running like an old dilapidated jalopy, eh?

I’ve been there and well…it’s no fun!

a picture of an old jalopy

And what’s worse, we don’t always know why it’s happening.

It’s not like you plan for things to go wrong. You genuinely care about the project and your project team.

You’re probably working long hours. You feel an increasing sense of anxiety.

What are you doing wrong?

Nobody has the power to correct all the issues we face in our projects, but I can at least offer a tool that will help you build a better foundation for your projects.

How to Develop a Project Charter. Would you like to have a copy of this information plus step-by-step guidance to getting everyone on the same page early in your projects? Click here to grab your copy of my eBook–How to Develop a Project Charter.

How to Write SMART Project Goals

What is the role of the project manager? The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) says, “The project manager is the person assigned by the performing organization to lead the team that is responsible for achieving the project objectives (my italics).”

Defining clear goals is the foundation of the project. Project managers and teams who start with SMART goals are positioned for success.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.com.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.com.

People with clear, written goals, accomplish far more in a shorter period of time than people without them could ever imagine.” -Brian Tracy

What are SMART goals? SMART is an acronym that stands for:

Do You Make These 3 Goal Mistakes?

In his book What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School, Mark McCormack shared a Harvard study concerning MBA students who set goals. Harvard asked the graduating students, “Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?”

It turned out that only 3 percent had written goals.

Ten years later, the researchers interviewed the students with written goals. These students were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97 percent altogether.

If you want to make greater strides in life, write your goals and make them clear. Goals can help in every facet of life including financial, spiritual, physical, and relationships, to name a few. Let’s look at three goal mistakes that dilute the potency and potential results.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.com

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.com

1. Fuzzy goals. Great leaders and achievers are absolutely clear about what they wish to accomplish. Underachievers lack clarity about where they want to go and how they will get there. Fuzzy goals are safe but vague and ambiguous.

Here are some fuzzy goals:

  • Improve our customer service.

  • Become a better project manager.

  • Increase sales by end of 4th quarter.

  • Increase our membership.

These goals need specificity. When writing goals, consider these 4 questions:

  1. What action (e.g., increase, decrease, or maintain) will you take?

  2. What is the focal point (e.g., membership growth)?

  3. What is the target (e.g., 10,000 new members)?

  4. What is the deadline?

Using these questions, let’s refine the goals mentioned previously. The revised goals below are clear, engaging, and motivating.

  • Increase customer service rating from 85% to 92% by 6/30/x5.

  • Pass the Project Management Professional (PMP) exam by 9/30/x5.

  • Increase private passenger auto insurance sales by 5% by 12/31/X6.

  • Add 10,000 new members between 1/1/x5 and 12/31/x5.

2. Competing goals. Another problem is conflicts between goals. A family may have a goal to save money for their next vehicle and a goal to send two children to an expensive college.

An executive may require two different projects be completed at the same time with the same resources and a limited budget.

How can we address competing goals? Analyze and recognize the conflicts. Prioritize the deliverables and associated tasks. Break the goals into manageable tasks. See if the lower priority items may be delivered at a later date.

3. Stretch goals. Stretch goals challenge people to reach beyond their normal capacity. If done properly, stretch goals can be helpful. However, when management sets unreasonable expectations, people feel manipulated, used, and abused.

Team members burn the candle at both ends. Some individuals may take unethical actions. Others take excessive risk.

How can we set goals in a manner that challenges team members but makes the goal achievable? First, engage the team members in the goal process. Ask for their input. Second, find ways to enhance the team’s efficiency with appropriate tools and resources. Third, recognize and reward results. Say thank you.

Questions: What other mistakes do people make with goals? Please provide your insights in the comments section below.