The PM Podcast


Project Management Interviews for Beginners and Experts

Episode 178 Premium: The Cure for the Common Project: Expectation Management (Project Leadership Series)

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Rick ValergaLast week we launched our Project Leadership Series and interviewed author Rick Valerga (www.projectleadershipadvisors.com), author of “The Cure For The Common Project”. In this interview, you got introduced to the 5 Core Themes from his book. As a refresher, they are: Expectation management, Ownership, Winning, Narrative, and Eliciting the best.

In today’s interview we want to go ahead and put one of these leadership principles into action. Rick and I decided to focus on “Expectation Management” to show you how a project leader approaches this important task.

Remember...if you would like to win a copy of Rick Valerga’s “The Cure For The Common Project” then you are in luck, because we are giving away 2 copies. One copy (as always) is reserved for our premium listeners and the 2nd copy can be grabbed by anyone. To participate in this giveaway, please go go www.facebook.com/pmpodcast, look for the book giveaway and simply leave a comment.

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Podcast Introduction

Cornelius Fichtner: This is The Project Management Podcast™. We bring project management to beginners and experts. Find us on the web at www.pm‑podcast.com or send your emails to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to this Premium Episode #178. I am Cornelius Fichtner. This is The Project Management Podcast™, nice to have you with us.

You are listening to a Premium Episode. This means, as always, that only you our paying premium subscribers get to hear it. Thank you very much for your financial support of The Project Management Podcast. ™

Last week, we launched our Project Leadership Series and we interviewed Rick Valerga, author of the “The Cure For The Common Project”. In this initial interview, you got introduced to his 5 core themes that he presents in the book. As a refresher, they are expectation management, ownership, winning, narrative and eliciting the best.

In today’s interview, we want to go ahead and put one of those leadership principles into action. Rick and I decided to focus on expectation management to show you how a project leader approaches this important task in his or her daily dealings.

Don’t forget that we continue to give away Rick’s book and that we will draw a winner towards the end of April 2011. Because you are a premium subscriber, you are automatically entered into the drawing for one of these 2 copies. If you want to double your changes then please go to www.facebook.com/pmpodcast, look for the giveaway announcement and simply leave a comment.

And now, it’s not what you expect. It’s what they expect. Enjoy the interview.

Podcast Interview

Female voice: The Project Management Podcast’s feature Interview: Today with Rick Valerga, author of the book “The Cure for the Common Project”.

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello Rick and thank you very much for coming back on to the Podcast™.

Rick Valerga: Thanks, Cornelius. It’s great to be back with you.

Cornelius Fichtner: In this interview, we want to delve slightly deeper into your book: “The Cure for the Common Project”. We already learned about your 5 core themes and going backwards, they are eliciting the best, narrative, winning, ownership, and in this interview, we want to talk about the first one a little bit more in detail: Expectation Management. Why are we focusing on expectation management today?

Rick Valerga: Well, I like to call expectation management the compass of project management. Why? Because it’s where we can always look when we’re lost. And I’m not the only one who thinks it’s important.

As I mentioned in the previous podcast, when I deliver presentations about my book to other project managers, I end with a 10-minute exercise for people to discuss the biggest challenge that they face as a leader today and which of the 5 core themes could best address it. Expectation management is usually what they choose as their most frequently identified theme.

Cornelius Fichtner: Oh, so people actually feel that this is almost the important one that we have to address as project leaders, is that it?

Rick Valerga: Yes! It’s not surprising to see half a room raise their hands when I asked how many people identified expectation management as they thing they need to focus on the most.

Cornelius Fichtner: Wow! Let’s compare this to the PMBOK Guide because in the PMBOK Guide when we open it up, we find that it has 42 processes in there. And one of these processes is called Manage Stakeholder Expectations. How closely related is your core theme to this particular process here from the PMBOK Guide?

Rick Valerga: That’s a great question, Cornelius. When I’m talking about this core theme of project leadership, I’m talking about adapting expectation management as a personal daily mantra. What am I doing to manage expectations today? It drives you to make better plans, generate more thorough financial models, perform more due diligence, seek more buy-in, turn over more rocks, work harder to align interest and have the courage to deliver bad news objectively and constructively.

In this manner, expectation management crosses the main knowledge areas of the PMBOK like schedule management, scope management, cost management, risk management and the like. In fact if we drew all these PMBO knowledge areas on a sheet of paper, you’d see expectation management run perpendicular to all of them.

Cornelius Fichtner: Okay. So let’s look at expectation management in detail then here, your type of expectation management. First of all, whose expectations are we talking about?

Rick Valerga: Well, there are 3 major constituencies for our projects: The customers, the sponsor and the team members. We need to make sure that we are managing the expectations of each of these groups. If we are not being a responsible steward for any one of these groups, then we are undermining our project in some way.

For example, if the project plan gambles on heavy team overtime, then the team has a right to know. Or when we learn that a product will fall flat in the marketplace, the sponsor has a right to redeploy the resources.

Cornelius Fichtner: Okay. And who is actually managing these expectations? I mean is it just the project leader?

Rick Valerga: Great question. The project leader starts by leading the process of expectation management making realistic responsible commitments and then never undermining the importance of a commitment and team members eventually become influenced to do the same.

Cornelius Fichtner: Among the 3 constituents that you mentioned, out of which all 3 have their own expectations, who is the most important for me as a project leader?

Rick Valerga: Definitely, the customer. A negative shock to a customer is the worst possible outcome. It has a non-linear impact. How do we financially model the impact of a broken promise in the marketplace? I’m not saying that we need to do everything for our customers. We need to follow our own optimal strategies for ROI and sometimes, that means politely declining a customer opportunity. But for those expectations that we do set with customers, we must uphold them.

Cornelius Fichtner: And how does accountability flow into all of these?

Rick Valerga: It’s absolutely integral. Through the process of expectation management, the project leader helps the team understand that it’s critical to make and stick to responsible commitments. Now that commitment is the starting point for buy-in.

One great way to sustain this buy-in is to avoid micromanagement. So the project leader extends trust and empowerment to the team encouraging decision making at the lowest level possible but then ensures that progress is judiciously tracked for all to see. And the cycle of buy-in. empowerment, and transparent reporting is the essence of accountability.

Cornelius Fichtner: Okay! To me, that seems almost like it is demanding new skills from the project manager/project leader. So what skills then do I need in order to be a project leader, in order to manage the expectations well?

Rick Valerga: Well for expectation management, I think it boils down to discipline and hard work, courage, tact, and openness.

Here’s why: The discipline and hard work are required to engrain expectation management as a regular habit. It’s somewhat contrary to human nature since most PMs don’t want to rock the boat and don’t want to deliver bad news. Courage is required because expectation management matters the most only when you are under duress. Tact is required because under duress, we risk trampling on others’ emotions and the consequences can be severe. And openness is required because in the process of expectation management, we are very likely to run into some very strong opinions. We need to have the capacity to listen to these opinions and turn good, constructive ideas into changes that matter.

Cornelius Fichtner: Okay! All of that sounds extremely touchy, feely and that takes us into the realm of soft skills here, right? So let’s take a right-hand turn here and let’s move out of the soft skills quickly and see what hard tools that you can recommend that could help us in this area?

 

Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. Please subscribe to our Premium Podcast to receive a PDF transcript.

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