Project Management Institute

1995- the year of "managing expectations"



Joan Knutson

Wall Street often reacts differently to the economic indicators than does Main Street. Are we in a recession, coming out of a recession, or in a time of prosperity? It depends on what part of the country and/or what industry you are in. Interestingly, Main Street is in some ways more prescient than the financial community. Main Street has continually been positioning itself for a “no frills” environment by paring superfluous staff and unnecessary nice-to-have's. The bywords for the early 1990s were efficiency and productivity; and as we move into the mid- 1990s, they are re-engineering, streamlining, process restructuring.

It is interesting to consider Tom Peters’ and Bob Waterman's viewpoints regarding the image of the successful manager of the future. This new manager will be a combination of a Meriwether Lewis, brave enough to chart unknown grounds; a Martin Luther King, confident in the ability of people to work together; and a John F. Kennedy, challenging each person to “ask not what my company can do for me; but what I can do for my company.”

We would like to present our interpretation of what a manager will need to survive and to succeed in 1995, and a tangible tool that will help you orchestrate your environment in order to be that successful manager.

The manager of 1995 will get work done through other people in a cross-functional team environment (à la Drucker). This manager will be asked to manage job assignments and tasks that have discrete beginnings, discrete ends, and discrete deliverables. With these as the job requirements, each manger will have strict lines of accountability and distinct parameters of success or failure. Either they will deliver the end-product within the time frame established, of the quality committed, keeping everyone informed, or they will not. A nice, clean and simple concept. In essence, every manager in 1995 will be asked to employ the planning and controlling techniques of a project manager.

The title of this article, “Managing Expectations,” has specific meaning. The manager's traditional responsibility has been to try to meet the expectations of the boss, of the management, of the client and the customer. In 1995, “trying” will not be adequate. Managers will be asked to assume accountability for setting those expectations with forethought, for tracking those expectations with diligence, and for managing those expectations with integrity and maturity.

Rather than providing platitudes, we would like to offer tangible, practical advice. Therefore, turn to the worksheet accompanying this article. This is your personal 1995 Managing Expectations Action Item List. This table is a comprehensive list of what needs to be in place for you to respond to the challenge of managing expectations.

Take a look at the topics presented.

  • Awareness – Does everyone understand what project management is and the role that it is going to play within the organization in 1995?
  • Organization - Is there an established project management organization structure and does everyone know the rules?
  • Personnel – Do all the players correctly perceive their position within the project community and the standard of performance upon which they will be measured?
  • Project Selection and Objective Setting Process - Is there a professional method by which projects will be selected, and priorities, goals and objectives set?
  • Planning Process/Control Process/ Change Process/Close-out Process – What are the policies, standards and procedures that express the method by which projects will be planned, monitored and tracked, and changes made?
  • Project Management Software – Does your software meet your organization's needs? If you do not have software and are looking for a program, how do you select the right package?
  • Training – What training program should be in place for you and for the people on-your team(s)?

This is not a piece of paper just to be read. It is your working tool. Here's how to use the tool:

  1. Consider each item. On the right side of the checklist, check one of the following: “Reaffirm,” if the concept already exists within your organization and you merely need to confirm that it is working well; “Generate,” if you will be required to create such a concept; “N/A” if there is no need for this variable within your organization.
  2. For those items which you checked “Reaffirm” or “Generate,” prioritize the order in which you want to address each of these action items.
  3. Write the date upon which you commit to have that concept in place.
  4. Once you have completed the action item, then write the finish date to indicate that action item is complete.

This can be your own private planning tool. Or you may want to share it with your boss and/or your direct reports to gain mutual agreement upon these objectives. In either case, post your “1995– The Year of Managing Expectations Action Item List” on your bulletin board.

Don't merely talk about getting organized. Do something about it. If you lack the expertise to accomplish some of these action items, there is plenty of help available. PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge provides the superstructure upon which to build project management organization, process and community. There are a wide range of books to be read; there are seminars that are offered both as public programs or may be presented in-company. There are also consultants who specialize in implementing planning and controlling techniques. The time and money spent on support will contribute to your success and professional achievements in 1995- The Year of Managing Expectations. img



Joan Knutson is president and founder of Project Management Mentors, a San Francisco-based project management consulting and training firm.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

PM Network ● January 1995



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