The 30 Fundamentals that make up the “ConnectSMART Way” describe how we want to run our business – the way we treat our clients, the way we work with each other, and even the way we relate to our vendors and suppliers. They’re who we are and they’re the foundation of our success. They drive everything we do, every day. Each week we focus on a different fundamental and discuss in depth.[/content_box]
Fundamental #18: Get Clear on Expectations
Create clarity and avoid misunderstandings by discussing expectations upfront. Establish mutually understood objectives and deadlines for all projects, issues, and commitments.
This should be an easy one. My minimum expectation is perfection. That was easy right? I’ve often ‘joked’ about how this is my minimum expectation, but if I am honest with myself it is a little bit true. I think we all have a bit of this expectation – for others. But even as easy as this sounds (as far as clarity anyway), how clear is it in reality? Even the definition of perfection has to be clarified. This goes back to each person’s perspective. Because we all have those different reference points of where we came from or even what certain words mean we have to be very careful. The reason so many expectations result in disappointment is because they are one-sided. I have an expectation that wasn’t met. Most of those expectations are based on assumptions.
We make assumptions about just about everything. These assumptions come from our experiences. One thing that I have learned is how different personality types approach expectations. I think this is most obvious in the world of application development. One of the biggest complaints from developers is usually scope creep. What this means is the a project is initially defined and then that definition keeps changing. Of course I am not guilty of this, but I am sure others are J The problem is usually not that I am changing my mind about what I want, but that the details weren’t laid out correctly at the beginning. The expectations of the user interface, how the user would work with the application, end user configuration, different operating systems that have to be supported, security, etc are all ‘little’ details that we could assume would be obvious, but are not. This becomes the difference between a two day job and a two month job. If the expectations are not clear at the beginning there is a lot of frustrations on the part of development, myself, and the customer.
The key to getting clear on expectations is found in Fundamental #16 – Communication! This fundamental isn’t about setting expectations, but getting clear on them. The subtext is that to get clarity it requires back and forth communication. I believe it also requires documentation. One of the biggest changes that we have made in how we are doing development in ConnectSMART is by switching to a communication platform called Jira and with the California team driving the change in development to a true agile development method. Here is an oversimplified description of Agile. Agile development is taking a reality of programming and systematizing it. You are never really finished with a program. So how do you say when something will really be done? Every feature, bug, and task is put into Jira no matter how trivial, then each week the tasks that will get accomplished for the week are prioritized and discussed and placed into the queue for development. Then each task is completed and moved through the process. Now we have weekly visibility to what is being delivered. Without clear communications and documentation of each task there is no way to have realistic expectations.
The triad of planning, communication, and expectations is not just critical to development. It applies to both our personal and business lives. The Agile methodology works here as well. The first thing you have to do is to clarify what your expectations are by understanding the details. “Perfection” is too broad and too subjective. Break down your big expectations into smaller ones. Then understand the plan of how to accomplish each one. “Know the Goal” (Fundamental #24) and “Get the Facts” (Fundamental #27), “Get Clear on Expectations” with all parties involved then “Honor Commitments” (Fundamental #4). If you or others are failing in your expectations, don’t assume you have to lower expectations. That negative connotation is implying a failure. Don’t set expectations for others – Get clear on expectations.