It’s All About ME: Managing Expectations 

by Suanne McGrath Kelly @PlanInMotion

It’s All About ME:  Managing Expectations

My 5 year old lost her first tooth. As per standard tooth fairy protocol, we placed the tooth under her pillow with a note. The next morning when she woke up to find that HER tooth was gone and was replaced by coins, she was devastated. “What do you mean the tooth fairy TOOK my tooth! I wanted to keep my first tooth!”. After the meltdown, we knew immediately where we went wrong. We had performed successfully on all three deliverables – the timing, the letter and a prize, however, we realized we had had not clearly stated that the prize replaces the tooth. As a result, we had not appropriately managed her expectations.

The most critical success factor for any project is setting clear and realistic expectations and managing them throughout the entire process.

The project manager must ensure that the expectations of all stakeholders are clearly identified at the outset of the project, and that they are reflected in the business case and project deliverables. Given that expectations are not static, they must be monitored to confirm the goals of the team have not changed during the project.

People are more effective when they are working towards a specific goal and are more satisfied by the outcome if they perceive their goal has been met. 

Goals must be clearly stated without ambiguity, and all parties involved must be in agreement on the engagement’s expectations. Use a methodology such as the SMART rule of goal setting, Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound, and translate your goals into an action plan. As the project progresses, reference the initial goals to remain focussed on results, and celebrate achievements of goal-related milestones. On a numeric level this can be accomplished via project reporting tools such as GAANT chart, actual to budget and percentage complete; and on a more intrinsic level you can gauge progress via formal interview, survey or even casual conversation.

In order to effectively set, manage or influence expectations, you have to first earn the trust of your client.  

By honestly sharing your knowledge and experiences and showing empathy for their concerns, you can connect with the client and gain the credibility required to execute the change initiative. Second, encourage two way communication throughout the process. Involving stakeholders in goals setting and establishing regular check points will highlight collective small wins and build confidence as the project progresses. Finally, consider both tangible and intangible criteria when managing expectations. Address the obvious project success factors such as functional requirements, realistic budget and a strong team with executive level support; but do not forget the motivations of the affected stakeholders and the importance of their perception of value.

Expectations are deeper and broader than requirements and, in your client’s mind, are the critical measure of the project’s success.  

When you deliver a solution, the key success factor is not the actual outcome in relation to scope, schedule or budget, but how close the client’s perception of received value matched their expectations. Let’s assume a business case was established for a new CRM system which evaluated the software’s capabilities, negotiated a fair price, and identified the implementation team, timeline and budget. Fast forward to the end of the engagement, where you have met all of this criteria on paper, but your client is not happy with the result. “The new system did not increase sales….”. At this point, responding with “That was an unrealistic expectation” or “You did not tell me that’s what you wanted”, are not going to help your cause. Had this been addressed up front you would have explained that while increasing sales is a reasonable business objective, it is an unreasonable project goal because it is extremely difficult to correlate new sales to the implementation of the new system. A more effective goal would have been to reduce order processing time, streamline back office administration or give salespeople mobile access to customer information. These goals are measurable and achieving these objectives with the new system could add value to the selling process (an indirect by-product of which could be increased sales). If expectations had been established up front, with the results being measured against achievable objectives, the system implementation would more likely have been perceived a success.

Setting expectations is a very egocentric exercise.

The stakeholders involved in the project will wonder: What’s going to happen to ME? How is this going to affect my job? Is this money coming from my budget? Who is going to do all this extra work? If you set clear direction in terms of functionality, money, roles and responsibilities, with clear expectations of project results, the other human factors associated with the project such as communication, collaboration and change become easier to manage throughout.  Avoid the meltdown

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Expectation Management is a key success factor for any project. The topic is the #1 spot on Plan in Motion Inc’s Top 10 Software Selection and Deployment Methodology.

The next installment…

At the end of the day, I care about successful outcomes and doing what’s best for my clients. That is another reason why Plan in Motion, Inc. assists customers with software selection. An ERP system, is a long term investment, therefore, a thorough evaluation of your options under the guidance of a process expert is required; (1) a solid business case for the acquisition, (2) an effective business process in place, and (3) a realistic plan of execution established up front. Suanne McGrath Kelly’s upcoming blog reviews the next step in the software selection process.

Suanne McGrath-Kelly is President of Plan in Motion Inc. and currently resides in Toronto, Canada, where she is actively engaged in the business and social community. She loves design, writing, cooking, pilates, and playing golf. Suanne can be contacted via suanne@planinmotion.ca and LinkedIn® www.linkedin.com/in/suannemkelly; or you can follow her via Facebook® www.facebook.com/planinmotion and Twitter® @planinmotion

Are You Ready For Change? 

by Suanne McGrath Kelly @PlanInMotion

Are You Ready For Change? 

We are surrounded by change. Songs have been written. Books and articles published. Seminars presented. Clichés ingrained in our brains. We are faced with change at every point in our lives. We all know that change is necessary. Well then, why is it so hard?

I read an HBR article about taking big risks and making changes in order to achieve big rewards: http://lnkd.in/AT8VSF. They suggested personal risk invokes vulnerability, but this temporary vulnerability is a positive catalyst for change. I liked it, and it got me thinking. Taking a calculated risk makes us do something we normally would not. Making a change takes us out of our proverbial comfort zone and exposes new perspective.

Not so fast! All is not fair in change management.

There have been many discussions surrounding “change for the sake of change” or “if it ain’t broke, break it”. This is risky ground, not to be undertaken by the amateur or faint of heart. The only reason to change something that is not broken today is because the environment in which you are in will be changing or you are looking for bigger and better things that cannot be achieved under the current model. Being the messenger of change to those that do not realize immediate gains, though the intention is for the greater good, is not an easy undertaking. Dealing with people, particularly those who are vulnerable and risk-averse, requires careful handling.

“There is nothing more difficult to execute, more dubious of success, nor more dangerous to administer than to introduce a new system of things; for he who introduces it has all those who profit from the old system as his enemies, and he has only lukewarm allies in those who might profit from the new system.” Machiavelli “The Prince” 1513

Manage! Maintain! Move! When change is involved, there will be a small group within the organization that may never come on board. The job of the change agent is to manage these people throughout the process so as to not adversely influence the rest of the group. The second small group are the early adopters. Though, they are initially on board, we need to maintain their support throughout the process. The project cannot afford the risk of losing them. The largest opportunity lies with the generally neutral individuals that, with some work, we can move to change. Depending on the peripheral influences, this group can move collectively, individually, dramatically or gradually. The bottom line is in order for the project to be successful we need to win over this group.

Without group acceptance, a project is doomed. Even though we know change management is the single most important factor in a project’s success, generally the least amount of time in any initiative is spent managing it. 

In any change management initiative, there must be a definitive beginning, middle and end. At the beginning of a well planned project, goals and expectations are set to ensure people clearly understand the objective. The beginning of any adventure is the fun part; there is excitement and hope. The end of the project is obviously rewarding; there is closure and the satisfaction of having completed the endeavour. The middle is always the hard bit. The change agent should expect obstacles and challenges throughout, and be flexible enough to adapt to changing needs while staying true to the initial goals. They must constantly check in and communicate with stakeholders. The most successful deployments will recognize that there will be struggles in the middle and will take steps to manage change accordingly.

Change is a process, not a static event or an ever-ongoing initiative. Like any project, we first identify a need for a change. Once we have done our consultants’ due diligence, we take the necessary steps to systematically implement the initiative while remaining focussed on the goals and culture of the organization. When the initiative is completed we embed the new principles and facilitate the adoption of the new normal within the organization. Then, and only then, will your project be fully successful.

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Change Management is the single best thing you can do for your team when embarking on any major transformation. The topic is in the #2 spot on Plan in Motion Inc’s Top 10 Software Selection and Deployment Methodology.

The next installment…

I understand the importance of managing change. That is why Plan in Motion, Inc. follows a software selection methodology but tailors the implementation to each client’s needs. Deployment of an ERP system is an ongoing endeavour, therefore, a thorough evaluation of your options under the guidance of a process expert is required; (1) a solid business case for the acquisition, (2) an effective business process in place, and (3) a realistic plan of execution established up front. Suanne McGrath Kelly’s upcoming blog reviews the next step in the software selection process.

Suanne McGrath-Kelly is President of Plan in Motion Inc. and currently resides in Toronto, Canada, where she is actively engaged in the business and social community. She loves design, writing, cooking, pilates, and playing golf. Suanne can be contacted via suanne@planinmotion.ca and LinkedIn® www.linkedin.com/in/suannemkelly; or you can follow her via Facebook® www.facebook.com/planinmotion and Twitter® @planinmotion