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Techniques to Manage Expectations


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How do you ensure success and not risk damaging your good reputation when dealing with requests with unrealistic expectations for the amount of time and work involved? The answer is to manage customer expectations. One of the best ways to have happy customers is to be sure they know what to expect.

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Techniques to Manage Expectations

  1. 1. T E C H N I Q U E S T O M A N A G E E X P E C TAT I O N S
  2. 2. T ECH NIQU ES TO M AN AGE E X PECTATIO NS Michaels & Associates Docntrain, Ltd. dba Michaels & Associates 11639 E. Wethersfield Road, Scottsdale, AZ 85259 USA Phone: 480-614-8440 Toll-free: 877-614-8440 Fax: 480-614-2775 Copyright © 2008 Michaels & Associates Docntrain, Ltd. dba Michaels & Associates. All rights reserved.2Page
  3. 3. T ECH NIQUES TO M ANAGE E XPECTATIO NSM A N A G I N G E X P E C TAT I O N S : 7 T E C H N I Q U E SIf you work on documentation and training projects, you’re very familiar with requests todevelop new materials in unrealistically short timeframes. This is especially common whenthe requestor (your customer) doesn’t have well-grounded expectations about the amountof work involved in delivering quality materials that align with critical business objectives.Since perception of your performance equals reality to your customer, a request made withunrealistic expectations for the amount of time and work involved can be a real challengefor you. The danger of misunderstandings, missed deadlines, frustrations and ultimatelypoor perceptions of your ability are real.So, how do you ensure success and not risk damaging your good reputation when dealingwith this type of request? The answer is to manage customer expectations. One of the bestways to have happy customers is to be sure they know what to expect.Techniques to Manage ExpectationsThe good news is that, no matter what your role is, managing expectations enables you topositively influence project outcomes. Practice these techniques and manage expectationswith favorable results. 3 Page
  4. 4. T ECH NIQU ES TO M AN AGE E X PECTATIO NS 1. Know What You Can Deliver Before committing to a project, know what you’re capable of delivering. The only way to know this is to define the project and build a plan that addresses the specific needs for the project. After gaining a clear definition for the project you, should be able to accurately gauge the amount of effort involved, if you have the right resources and tools available and if the work you already have on your plate will conflict with milestones or deadlines. It’s much better to openly discuss challenges that may prevent you from delivering and propose viable solutions up front than to disappoint a customer. 2. Educate Your Customer Educating your customer is a very powerful tool in managing expectations because once you’re both on the same page, you have a partner to your cause. Take the time to openly communicate, explaining what it takes to develop the product within the timeframe and to the agreed upon standard. You don’t need to bore your customer with all the minutiae of your development processes, but the customer should understand that you use processes to ensure a quality product and avoid surprises. Also communicate any risks you foresee that may impact the project, such as dependencies, scope creep, unrealistic deadlines and the like. Communicating these things openly and honestly lets you prepare your client and discuss alternate options.4Page
  5. 5. T ECH NIQUES TO M ANAGE E XPECTATIO NS3. Negotiate Realistic Project TimelinesThroughout any project, the one thing you can count on is that there will bechallenges, unresponsive contacts and unforeseen circumstances. Expect it andproactively plan for these types of exceptions in the project timeline you negotiate.Consider and account for past experiences when estimating how long you think it willtake to deliver your product. You can always deliver early and exceed the expectation.Being late, however, is not easily forgotten.When negotiating a realistic project timeline, you should find out and understand thepriority for each deliverable. Many times, certain deliverables are more important thanothers. Your customer might find it more advantageous from a business perspectiveto receive materials for one topic over another. Understanding the priority allows youto offer development for each of the deliverables based on a prioritized approach. 5 Page
  6. 6. T ECH NIQU ES TO M AN AGE E X PECTATIO NS 4. Communicate Project Risks Project risks such as system or network unavailability, unresponsiveness, slow turnaround times for reviews or other unforeseen circumstances are common. Solicit feedback from the project stakeholders as a preventive measure to manage risk. Discussing fears, doubts and uncertainties about the project during the project kickoff may allow you devise a plan to resolve some risks before they occur. 5. Communicate Often Frequent communication about the status of each deliverable and your progress at every step along the way to key project team players is crucial to managing expectations. Create a communication plan and environment where sharing ideas and discussing project details are routine. There are many online collaboration and project management tools that can assist in housing the project’s history and providing access for all project participants. Many can be found here: • • •
  7. 7. T ECH NIQUES TO M ANAGE E XPECTATIO NS6. Continuously Monitor ExpectationsAs projects progress, expectations can change due to any number of reasons—some of which include scope creep and loss of focus. Continuouslymonitor the project for changes in expectations and work to manage those expectations. Keep team members focused, and ensure they have a clearunderstanding of the objectives and project plan.Try to anticipate problems or issues, and work to resolve them quickly. It’s important to develop and communicate a risk management plan beforeissues occur. This provides project stakeholders with trust and comfort and allows everyone to know what steps to take when a problem arises. Whena problem does come up, bring together all key personnel to determine the necessary resources to solve the problem, and swiftly execute thedetermined solution.7. Deliver on PromisesFailure to deliver on promises will damage your customer’s perception of your performance—it is as simple as that. Avoid the grief of not living up tocustomer expectations by developing and maintaining a reputation for making realistic commitments and standing by them.Disclose all the details about a project throughout its lifecycle. This kind of transparency removes surprises from the equation and ensures you meetexpectations because everyone understands the situation and knows what to expect. 7Page
  8. 8. T ECH NIQU ES TO M AN AGE E X PECTATIO NS Exceed Expectations Want to read more on this topic? No matter what your role is, you have more influence to impact customer expectations than you might think. Access these links for some Remember, you know best. Your customers are relying on your expertise, and it’s up to you to help them interesting insights on managing understand what you need to create great results. Practicing these techniques to manage expectations gives you expectations. the power to develop documentation and training materials with praiseworthy results that exceed customer  expectations. erules/2008/12/06/avoiding- deadline-dangers/  esnewz-23- 20040217ClientDemandsThatAre ToughorImpossibletoMeet.html  uide/techmanagement/0,390449 02,39353961,00.htm  http://project- management.alltop.com8Page
  9. 9. T ECH NIQUES TO M ANAGE E XPECTATIO NSWe hope this document helps you meet and exceed expectations on your future documentation and training projects.Not sure where to start? Drop us a line and well be glad to get you started. Michaels & Associates — learning without the mess. toll-free: 877-614-8440 9Page