3 Ways to Align Expectations Within Your Team If everyone on your team has a different vision for achieving a goal, you may be setting yourself up for failure.
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Start a project with a happy ending in mind, and it quickly becomes a disappointing cliffhanger. Anyone leading a team has felt this feeling before. Is this unexpected twist just an anomaly in your efforts to make things happen, or is it something more? Is it something preventable?
Often, when we focus too much on the projects we manage and the outcomes we expect to see, we neglect the people and impact of our projects. Projects can be as reliable as a plot twist unless everyone is aligned around outcome expectations. To ensure your results align with a project's expected outcome, you must manage outcomes by aligning expectations.
1. Figure out your goal
To align expectations with a project's goals, establish a clear picture of the expected outcome. When everyone understands a project's outcome, it becomes much more likely that everyone will drive the project forward with the exact expectations. If some people involved are out of alignment, results may vary. Of course, it also helps to have everyone in agreement on the processes and protocols for navigating the project. Still, if the anticipated outcome is unclear, it may be too late when you discover that not everyone is pleased with it.
The first step to aligning expectations is to set clear project goals. Make your goals SMART — specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. Be as straightforward as possible and cover everything. Identity the "5W's" — the Who, What, When, Where and Why of the project's aims.
Assign metrics that will measure progress and determine the goal's achievement. Know the tools and skills needed to accomplish your intended outcome. The project should make sense for your larger company goals and any other company involved. Then, schedule timely milestones and what should be accomplished at each step.
2. Set expectations
Having a goal is a great start, but to increase your chances of carrying that outcome to success, get everyone involved in alignment. Everyone should know the expectations and individual responsibilities of carrying out the project. Discuss potential scenarios and determine backup plans for navigating unexpected turns. Then, make sure those plans are communicated to everyone. You can still aim for the stars as long as the sky makes your project worthwhile and successful for you. Communicate the requirements and nuances so they can be applied.
Consider everyone the project impacts outside your company and how their involvement might impact your outcome. Ensure other parties are aware and aligned with your project's aims. Wear the other party's shoes and brainstorm potential obstacles and how the results could impact them. Some of these are within your control, and some are not, but when something is within your control, have a clear plan on what you are willing and able to do to resolve it. With everyone enrolled in achieving the outcome you have in mind, they can easily manage the elements within their control.
3. Stay involved every step of the way
So many different factors can send a project off course. There is usually a range of potential outcomes for any given situation, but that range gets more significant and unexpected without proper alignment. Each individual works, thinks and speaks differently and will likely view the task, goal and motive differently. Open and transparent communication is vital from beginning to end to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Leaders should stay involved with everyone involved with the project. This is not to micromanage but to ensure that communication and collaboration are fluid. Without clear communication, some people can impact an outcome through inaction without even realizing it. Many people think they only need to collaborate on their part and do not contribute further. Ensure everyone involved stays focused on the task at hand every step, even when not in charge.
Contributors to a project are just as crucial to the outcome as the people managing it. When you stitch all of the contributors to a project together, you assemble an effect that looks more like what you expected. With everyone aligned around project expectations and products, it becomes easier to carry them to success.