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11 project management tips for setting and managing expectations

Jennifer Lonoff Schiff | Feb. 18, 2014
Project management experts discuss the best ways to set, manage and adjust expectations to ensure that projects don't veer off course -- and they suggest what steps project managers should take if they do.

In addition, "ensure that all projects and enhancements are assigned an LOE, ROI and priority level," says Samira Mahjoub Tapia, cofounder and head of product at Chippmunk, a savings search engine. And make sure all members of the team understand the priorities.

"Having the team review this list weekly forces us to keep our focus and ensures that precious development time isn't spent on projects that don't move [us] forward towards our goals," Mahjoub Tapia says. "It also allows the dev team to see upcoming projects and feel like empowered members of the team."

Be realistic.
"From the very early days of a project, it is critical to set realistic completion dates [to] ensure accurate forecasting," says Hernan Clarke, CEO, 4Sight Technologies, a company that specializes in developing and supporting software for project management.

"Meeting deadlines and keeping projects on time and on budget requires commitment from all parties involved. This means a representative from the client, management and project team should always be involved in the process of setting expectations and target completion dates to ensure agreement and buy-in from every perspective," Clarke says.

Make sure everyone (including senior management) understands his or her role and responsibilities.
"Set realistic expectations with everyone from the very beginning about what their roles and jobs are for the project," says McCauley. "Make sure each team member has a clear vision of how they fit in the overall success of the project, so that they understand how all the many aspects tie together."

"PMs must be clear about the time and activity they will require of team members and executives," says Robert Kelly, managing partner, Kelly Projects Solutions. "This may be even more important with respect to executives as their calendars often fill up weeks in advance. Everyone must know exactly what meetings will be held, when and the purpose of those meetings."

Above all, make sure everyone has a good "understanding [of] goals, timelines, KPI's, etc.," says Eugene Slobodetsky, project manager, Lyons Consulting Group. "Managing expectations is important, and in order to do that, there needs to be agreement across all parties on what the expectations are." Ask yourself, "What are the goals of the engagement, the expected (and realistic) timelines and measures for success? Many times, the mistake is in not communicating these clearly, and having both sides 'singing to a different tune,'" he says.

Make sure team members communicate with each other.
"Assumptions can kill your team, work and deadlines," says Jim Shulkin, vice president of marketing at Daptiv, which develops project portfolio management (PPM) software.

"Developing a communication plan that errs on the side of over-communication [is] critical to the success of projects and work objectives," Shulkin says. A successful communications plan "usually outlines scope of work, owners of each task, deadline against each task and status updates," and who to notify when issues arise.


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