Managing Expectations – the Key to Your Success

As leader, a project manager or team co-ordinator you instinctively want to deliver well and please everyone. And everyone on your team wants to do the same thing. We are all trying to please each other. It’s natural. We expect success. Why would anyone start off in a project expecting failure.


We are very good at setting expectations at the front end. This is easy. We will deliver on time, on budget and within the defined scope.


But we can’t always deliver as promised. Things change. Budgets, timing, environments and more. The original expectation of our customers, stakeholder, team and others are no longer valid.


So when the change hits, what do you do? Who do you call first? What do you do to manage the expectations of all of the stakeholders?



Managing expectations is one of the most important keys to our success as project managers and leaders.


Some might say it’s easy. Aim low – deliver high. Perfectly simple. But this approach won’t last long. The smart people out there will begin to realize that they are being fooled. I think setting expectations is all about trust, communications and honesty.


As things change, everything we agreed to, or promised, is at risk. This is the moment the true leaders shine. We need to confront change immediately. We need to communicate to everyone involved. Their expectations must be adjusted immediately. But more importantly we need to get everyone onside so that the changes required are agreed on early and implemented quickly.


I tell anyone I work with, or who works for me, to keep talking to me. Tell me how you are doing. Tell me if you think it will be late, or over budget, or the wrong color or not quite as promised. Set my expectations correctly as soon as you can. And feel free to re-set my expectations as required. I know we aren’t all perfect. I know that we will make mistakes. I know that things will happen above and beyond our control. But I want to know about it as soon as possible – not at the 11th hour. Please. This way, you see, I can help, or get others to help. And at a minimum, I can adjust my own stakeholder’s expectations.


This is the key to project success. If the original plan has to be adjusted this is fine. The earlier the better. And the earlier we get at it, the better chance that the new plan becomes THE plan. The bottom line is that no one wants to be surprised. No one.


Plan the work and work the plan and find a simple, easy way to keep everyone in the project on top of the progress. No surprises.


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