“Hunting” for the wrong expectations (Part II)

In Part I we talked about how attitude is the essential starting point for project success. We also talked about how unfortunately these attitudes are not checked at the beginning of the endeavor, leading to surprises, risks, and even failure.
This part focuses on actions project managers and key stakeholders can take to manage these attitudes in a way that leads to project success.

One of the first things that a project manager can do is to observe, not just listen.  It is like hunting down the wrong expectations and attitudes.  Hunting requires attention with all senses.  Listening, watching body language, observing the environment, etc.

For example, at the beginning of the project, everybody is overly optimistic about the outcomes of the project.  So they might say anything and show and promise cooperation that they are not really willing to give.  So, instead of focusing on the optimistic promises spoken, one has to focus on the reality of the situation.  For example, how has this stakeholder, or organization, handled similar projects before? Did they handle them the way they are promising to handle this new project? if not, then this is a point that needs to be carefully addressed.

Another thing to consider is the organization culture at participating organizations.  How is the team synergy? is it fit for this type of project? do they have the experience carrying out similar projects? if not, then the risks are stacking up for the current project.

The staffing requirements can be also unrealistic.  While the resource requirements on paper might seem doable, the market conditions might prove otherwise.  Not all the skills needed might be available.  Are the stakeholders aware of that? if not this is a double risk.  On one side, a stakeholder will not be understanding of staffing challenges, and on the other side, the market is not offering the right resources.

Another area of attitude that needs special attention is the “executive mind.” It is a world of its own and I do not mean this facetiously.  OK maybe a little bit.  Here is a rule that you can take to the bank:  Executives will assume that what they are saying is reality unless you clearly tell them otherwise.  The more passionate an executive is, the more chances this rule applies.  This becomes especially dangerous, when you hear statements undermining the project.  For example: “This should not be that hard.  We have done similar work before.” Now, if upon hearing this from an executive you do not, diplomatically but clearly, explain that this is not the case, they will immediately assume it is.

Statements made early as a matter of fact might lead to wrong expectations.  “Hunt” for these statements and wrong attitudes, explain how things are different, without coming across like a judge or someone who is trying to be uncooperative.  One way to do this is to state things from an independent perspective, meaning without using a lot of “I” or “you”.  For example, if a client says:”We need to ensure that the transaction is fully automated.” If there is a misunderstanding in that statement, a project manager might come back with “The improvement initiatives usually focus on getting the order as fast as possible, which might make a fully automated system. counter productive” This will open discussion from an unbiased perspective that focuses on value, not what is in and what is out of scope.

The important thing is not to assume everybody has the same understanding and expectations as you do.  Go out there, check, observe, and talk with stakeholders and do not ignore any sign that there is a misalignment.

Happy Hunting 🙂

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