Managing expectations or reducing conflict?

I have been experiencing some issues and challenges lately and i have realised that they are due to a perception of something. This was driven by assumptions and expectations on all sides.

Recently i have been involved in personal situation where i have assumed that family/friends have let me down, because i had expected them to behave in a particular way. But the reality is that it was only my perception of the situation.

  • Assumptions: Assumption is defined in the dictionary as “a thing that is assumed to be true”
  • Expectations: Defined in the dictionary as “belief that something will happen or be the case”
  • Perceptions: Perception is defined in the dictionary as “a way of regarding, understanding or interpreting something”. Perception is fundamentally individual to each person.

Our expectations are based on our own experiences and when our expectations are not met there is a sense of “all is not right in the world”.

For the most part, my perception is that this is an area of work that project/programme managers deal with everyday, which got me thinking – Are project managers managing expectations or reducing potential conflict?

What i have learned and what i now need to reflect on, is when i communicate with colleagues, family, friends and peers, all parties need to be clear about what is expected and what assumptions are being applied as we move forward.

The issue of assumptions came up in a book i was reading by John Seddon – System Thinking in the Public Sector. All business processes have assumptions associated with them, whether valid or not. For example:

A simple process of making a payment to the council via debit/credit card via a face to face contact point

Example Assumptions (this is not a comprehensive list and i’m sure you can think of some more yourself

  • face to face is a preferred channel for customers
  • customers have access to transport to get to the face to face contact point
  • customers have debit/credit cards
  • all information is available to customer in advance of making payment
  • customers work/life pattern coincides with council opening times.
  • etc etc….

As you can tell, we all live with assumptions and expectations and perceptions of how things are, the challenge for us all is to try and communicate these so that we can deal with them in the open and either remove or validate them.

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2 Replies to “Managing expectations or reducing conflict?”

  1. I think managing expectations is a key skill that every project manager should have. Whether or not all PMs out there have it is another thing. If you promise low, the delivering low or high will both work.

  2. I think you are spot on. If you can manage the expectation low then you can only fail by delivering nothing.

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