Setting Expectations

Setting appropriate expectations during the holidays is important. It’s a skill that’s crucial to successful project management, too. Only when end users, stakeholders, and others on your Project Team team know what to expect (and what’s expected of them) can everyone work toward the same objectives. We’ve brought together some of the fundamentals behind setting expectations, and why they’re important all year long.


Be candid. Anyone who’s heard the never ending “But why?” from a young relative knows that offering additional information can sometimes make unpopular expectations more palatable. Budget limitations are a good example—if they’re the reason for setting expectations lower than stakeholders would like, let them know. On the personal side, it gives families reasonable guidelines for gift-giving activities. In project management, it allows end users to understand why they aren’t getting everything they asked for. Remember, though, to be mindful of protecting confidential information.


Be consistent. If Mom says that presents will be opened before dinner but Dad says it won’t happen until after dinner, someone is sure to be upset. The same holds true in project management, where few things confuse (and annoy) stakeholders faster than getting mixed signals. The first step is to ensure that everyone on your team understands the plan. They can then relay consistent information during interactions with users and collaborators.


Be clear about what’s negotiable. Are you willing to host a holiday party only if it’s a potluck? Then you know exactly what negotiable expectations are all about. If there’s wiggle room within the criteria your Project Team has used to establish project expectations, let folks know. You may find that end users are more flexible than you anticipated. They might be willing to trade conveniences if it means that  unspent dollars are put toward something they see as a higher priority.

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