Manage Impossible

One of the major issues today in the workplace is expectation management.  I have read a lot of books on leadership and project management but still have had personal challenges in sorting out how to manage what seems to be unrealistic expectations.

How do you manage unrealistic expectations?  I don’t have a secret formula or even a template to share with you but I do have some ideas that may be helpful.

Baby, it’s not you, it’s me.   Well, that is kinda true..

People that have unreasonable expectations don’t know that they do and further don’t think that they do.   I have tried many times on multiple occasions to explain to the manager that what he or she is thinking is not in the realm of realistic.    I have worked with managers who have extensive technical experience (which you would think is a good thing) but that experience is old and stale.    They feel confident that they know the answer to the problems or they know how to technically employ a solution.  They think of the time it would take to perform the project relative to the way they would approach the problem.  Of course, the concern here is that the experience that they have and the expertise that they are employing is not consistent with the current environment.

The real problem is something that Stephen M.R. Covey talks about TRUST.  Even if your lead trusts you they really don’t trust you more that they trust their own experience.

I think there are a few things we can do.   This has worked for me in some cases 🙂

1)If the manager wants to be involved, get them involved… really.  Full immersion really gives them a 360 degree perspective.   Once they start to see all of the issues and the complexity of the problem they may consider a change in expected outcome.

2)Plan and show the expected outcome with the resources and time given.  It will take some time away from the actual work itself but you are showing what it would actually take to accomplish the goals.   If and when you fall short, you can prove that you have thought it out.

3) Have faith.  There are times that you say “ok” and just do it.  Even if the project outcome wasn’t what the manager expressed as the expectation, they may be happy with what they get anyway.

The bottom line is that you need to be flexible.  That is where the “Baby, it’s not you it’s me” part is.   If you are flexible and understand that you cannot control what the manager is thinking or doing, then you will make the project successful regardless of the manager.   You will find ways to include them and even tap into their old technical skills or not.   It doesn’t hurt to try though.

There is also the possibility that the project can fail.  If it does chances are that you will be around that the manager won’t.. heh that happens 🙂

Good luck..